Eighteen-year-old rapper KayLa Starks earned quite a few fans when she dropped her project To Be Honest this spring.

“In this era where there is a lack of female MCs, KayLa stands out like a sore thumb,” God Over Money artist Datin said. “She is not only a dope emcee that can actually spit, but her delivery is A-plus. Her flow is near flawless. Then to add on to that, she can also sing and has really good song structure. KayLa will do really well in [Christian hip hop] if she continues to keep her motives in check and puts the Lord first.”

A sacrifice that Starks, who started rapping at age nine, made a couple years ago has helped her reach this stage of her career. As a junior in high school, she struggled to balance music and school work.

“I would sometimes get my priorities mixed up,” the Evans, Georgia-based artist said. “You have this mindset of, ‘Music is life.’”

Starks’s solution: homeschool herself. The decision wasn’t easy, as she had to make sacrifices. Starks started point guard for her high school basketball team and had to give that up.

Though difficult, the choice paid off. When Starks became homeschooled, it allowed her to more focus on her studies. It also freed up her schedule, which gave her the flexibility to tour and pursue music.

One of the doors that opened up for Starks was to perform on The Extreme Tour. While touring for six weeks, she didn’t have much free time. Her schooling lasted five days a week like any other high school. The only difference was that her work needed to be completed online, and it was her responsibility to keep up with it.

Starks learned to prioritize. She would get up early in the morning and work on her school assignments, even after shows that ended at 2 a.m. the previous night.

“It was just a lot of sacrificing and maturing in knowing that you’re doing this for a reason,” she said. “Your hard work is going to pay off.”

And it did. Since her junior year, she has hopped on multiple tours, including The Breakout Tour, which featured Young Noah.

“She opened up for a tour I did last year, and honestly, she’s the best female [Christian hip-hop] artist out,” Young Noah said. “And she was like 16 at the time. Her live show is insane. She’s like Nicki Minaj on steroids.”

“I’m grateful for the experience,” Starks said. “I’ve learned as a Christian, I’ve learned as a person, as a daughter, as a sister. I’ve probably grown as a person by this experience from being away from those temptations and things. You know, high school is a crazy, crazy world.”

Starks released her mixtape To Be Honest on May 30, two days after graduating high school. The entire mixtape took three months to complete. On the project between songs, listeners will hear a few artists shout out Starks: Young Noah, Datin, Black Knight and others have reached out to show support.

“Those are my mentors,” she said. “Those are people who not only inspire me but teach me.”

Download KayLa Starks’s free album To Be Honest on Rapzilla.com.