Latto’s love for Clayton County is as deep as it is ubiquitous. The vigor with which she mentions her hometown in almost all of her lyrics prompts further research into the area for those unfamiliar with it (”Back to back the Lamb and the Rolls/ All that back to Clayco,” she rhymes on “Soufside”).

And for those who are, it evokes immense pride.

Such was the case at her second annual “Christmas in Clayco” holiday event, where she also received a key to Clayton County and an official day in her honor for her efforts in the community. Dec. 18 will now be known as “Latto Day” in the county. The Grammy-nominated artist turns 24 on Dec. 22.

“I owe a lot of my success to Clayton County, so it feels really good to be here,” Latto said. “My old school Rex Mill (Middle School) is literally two minutes down the street and (as) we were driving past it, I was like, ‘Oh my God. Everything is coming full circle.’ I’m so blessed and happy to share my blessing.”

Sponsored by the rapper’s Win Some Give Some Foundation, the event provided a toy drive, dinner and essential needs for families in Clayton County. The rapper launched the foundation last year, and it’s designed to provide at-risk youth with resources to build their self-esteem and ensure their success.

Sunday’s “Christmas in Clayco” was held at Carl Rhodenizer Recreation Center in Rex. Dozens of families filled the center’s gym as they played games, waited to see Latto and receive gifts from her foundation.

Rapper Latto visits with Reny Broussard, 4, and Santa at her foundation's Win Some Give Some event at the Carl Rhodenizer Recreation Center in Rex on Sunday, Dec. 18, 2022. The county proclaimed "Latto Day," and the artist gave away about 3,000 gifts, free food and entertainment to children in the community. (Photo: Jenni Girtman for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Jenni Girtman

icon to expand image

Credit: Jenni Girtman

Former gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams attended the celebration. The Clayton County Board of Education also congratulated Latto, who attended Lovejoy High School, for her achievements during the event. Alieka Anderson, District 1 commissioner for Clayton County, said Latto’s presence in helping the community is important for youth to see.

“Latto is the epitome of greatness here in Clayton County,” Anderson said. “Our kids love her, the commissioners love her, and this is a collaboration that has been great for the community and for the children in Clayton County Public Schools. I want them to see the spirit of giving. When you give, it reciprocates back to you. What we tell our kids in Clayton County is that you can go and be anything you want to be, and Latto is a great example of that.”

Deria Young brought her family to Sunday’s event. She said she recently moved to Clayton County.

“(My daughters) have always been a fan of Latto’s, so it was a great time for them to be able to come out and see her,” Young said. “For her to be able to do this, we’re really thankful.”

Latto, born Alyssa Stephens, rose to fame in 2016 after winning season one of the Lifetime reality competition series “The Rap Game.” The show was hosted by legendary Atlanta-based producer Jermaine Dupri.

In 2019, she released her breakthrough hit “Bitch From Da Souf” under the moniker Mulatto (she changed her stage name to Latto last year after receiving social media backlash for the former name, which seemed to glorify her being biracial though Latto claimed that wasn’t her intention). The single, boasting a remix from Trina and Saweetie, marked her first entry on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. She later signed with RCA records and her debut album “Queen of Da Souf” dropped in 2020.

Her path to superstardom continued last year with the release of her chart-topping single “Big Energy,” which sampled Tom Tom Club’s classic 1981 single “Genius of Love” (a song that was also famously sampled in Mariah Carey’s 1995 hit “Fantasy”). The single, which peaked at no. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100, garnered a boost with a remix from Carey and DJ Khaled earlier this year. “Big Energy” helped the 23-year-old make history as the first solo female rapper with a no. 1 record at pop, rhythm and urban radio.

De’Janea Anderson, who attended Sunday’s ceremony and toy drive, said “Big Energy” was her favorite Latto song. She attended Mundy’s Mill High School in Jonesboro, which she said was a rival to Latto’s alma mater.

“(Her success) is amazing to see because she gives us hope that it’s possible,” said Anderson, 23. “You believe in your dreams, and you keep pushing to get to where you want to go. Some of my friends are good friends with her, so I’ve heard good things about her. She’s nice, humble, caring and she’s a real friend outside of her rap image.”

Her sophomore album “777″ was released in March and featured stellar tracks like the gospel-layered anthem “Sunshine” and the social-media friendly single “It’s Givin.” She’s nominated for Best New Artist and Best Melodic Rap Performance (for “Big Energy”) at next year’s Grammy Awards.

Last week, the rapper dropped her highly-anticipated sexually empowering track “Another Nasty Song,” which samples Lil Ru’s “The Nasty Song.”