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Views From The Studio With... Songwriter Bibi Bourelly

Singer/songwriter Bibi Bourelly, the pen behind Rihanna's "Bitch Better Have My Money," describes how she got her start in the industry and working with Kanye West.

Bibi Bourelly describes her master pen game in the latest installment of our semi-monthly series on songwriters and producers called “Views From The Studio"

In times of crisis, life usually offers two options: run with it or from it. For 20-year-old singer/songwriter Bibi Bourelly, controversy has already tried to knock her work (see: Rihanna's latest "Bitch Better Have My Money") but her ability to turn a negative into a positive has only made her success stronger.

The Berlin native, whose father is guitarist Jean-Paul Bourelly, sees music as a second language. Regardless of the picture she wants to paint on wax, Bibi has a knack for connecting with listeners and has zero problems getting deep.

"I think that I can’t help but put my personal pain in my music because there’s a lot of it. That's my therapy," she tells VIBE. "My pain is such a huge part of who I am, like my mom passing, [growing up in] Berlin, and all the struggles that I went through as a young artist and a young creator."

Here, Bibi details her creative process, meeting Rih and Kanye West, and why she thinks a revolution is underway.

VIBE: Describe the first song you wrote.
Bibi Bourelly: Oh God, that’s a really hard question. My dad is a professional musician so I was born into making music. I must’ve been probably three or four years old but the first song I recall making, like actually making words rhyme and feeling like it had actual structure, was when I was probably six years old. I thought I was Beyoncé or the best writer in the world. I remember it went something like, “Yes it’s me/ I’m so proud you even recognized,” some real weird stuff but you know what, I don’t write out my songs. I kind of freestyle them.

Did you grow up in a musical family?
My dad is Jean-Paul Bourelly, a really prestige guitar player in Europe, and he toured with Miles Davis. I was always surrounded by the most prestige kind of musicians from Senegal, Trinidad, Poland, Nigeria and all around the world. Whether or not I wanted to listen to it or not, I would go to concerts at three and four years old, and went on tour with my dad at 11. Growing up, I inherited a really good understanding for [music] because I’ve heard African music from Africa, and I’ve heard country music when I came here. My dad raised me on everything from his music to Stevie Wonder to A Tribe Called Quest. I learned the Midnight Marauders album in-and-out.

How did you get your start in the industry?
I was in high school at the time and I was really bad at school, but I was still in communication with a producer called Paperboy Fabe, who met me online. I went to summer school to graduate in 2013 and was like 'Fuck it, I’m going to L.A.' But it ended up working well.

What inspires your songwriting?
People inspire me. The world inspires me, just the whole concept of life. I think that at an early age, I lost a lot of people to certain elements and I just began to have a real appreciation of how the dynamic of life works. That’s basically what a song is. It’s really unpredictable, it’s rocky, and it moves you.

Are there any other songwriters you turn to?
There’s a bunch of songwriters that I think are super inspiring from James Fauntleroy to Sia to Stevie Wonder. He was really one of the biggest inspirations to me growing up. I remember hearing Stevie Wonder sing at like six or seven years old and being like, 'Okay, that’s how it’s supposed to sound. That’s what I’m supposed to evoke. That’s how it’s supposed to be.' As far as songwriting, I’m not sure if they wrote all of their own stuff, but I love the Dixie Chicks. A lot of country [music] writers are dope.

How do you remedy writer's block?
The first idea is usually the best idea. When I feel like I can’t come up with anything, I just say, 'Let’s move on.' I don’t think a song should take longer than two or three hours to write. I think that if it takes longer than that, it’s too thought out, too generic and too technical. It’s not coming from the soul and you’re not saying exactly what you want to say, from my experience.

Walk us through the process of writing “Higher” and “Bitch Better Have My Money” for Rihanna because those two tracks are total opposites in terms of content and production.
I’ve been in the industry in L.A. for a year-and-a-half. When I first came out here, I didn’t really know a lot of people. I have songwriting experience because I’ve been freestyling my whole life but I didn’t know specifically how to write. I never laid down a completely urban record. My stuff is more like "Higher," more soulful. But “Bitch Better Have My Money” came when we were vibing in the studio with the producer [Deputy] and he pulled up a beat. [The song] came about in like two or three hours. We [were] trying to get that record to Rihanna for a year because it was just an urban record. I wasn’t going to keep it. When she finally heard it, it happened. “Higher” was a little bit of a different process because I went into the studio with Kanye [West], who introduced me to Rihanna. He said he had something that he wanted me to write to and he played the beat for “Higher” that No I.D. did. The first time around, I didn’t really nail it because I was nervous. It was my first time being in the studio with Rih and 'Ye. I was like, 'Oh crap.' I hadn’t known anyone prior to that but then when I locked myself in a room on my own and decided to just be free and be myself, I finished “Higher” in 30 minutes. I sent it back and was like, 'They're either going to hate it or love it.' They loved it and that record opened up a lot of doors for me.

When you found out that “Bitch Better Have My Money” was the next single from Rihanna’s album, what were your initial thoughts?
I’ve been working with Rihanna for a little bit so I knew that was going to be the first single. When she posted it and it became official, I was like, 'Okay!' It’s hard because I’ve heard that song for over a year and it’s been in my email for over a year. You get all these people telling you your life is about to change and you’re just like 'What are you talking about? It’s just a song that I wrote,' you know what I mean? I can’t really tell you what my thoughts were. My thoughts were scattered. When it dropped, my phone started going off and people were going crazy on Twitter. I was just so grateful. I feel so honored to work for somebody as great as her.

What was it like working with Kanye West?
At first I was really, really nervous because you have to remember, stuff really did happen overnight for me. I went from graduating high school to coming out here and working with Kanye. I was super nervous but when I went in there, he was super cool. It was a cool vibe. After you calm yourself down, you realize he’s cool as hell.

When you listen to other singer-songwriters, do you pick apart their songs? Do you ever sit back and think maybe they could’ve put this word here, change this hook, or use a different melody?
Writing songs is such a personal, spiritual thing that I think it’s not my place to pick apart anyone else’s words or records. What I feel like I want to say may not be perfect for them to say. That might not be the message they’re trying to relay. You often realize when you’re writing a song, especially with other writers, that there’s several equally good options for phrases or melodies, and it just comes down to personal opinion and what you decide or what message you want to relay.

What do you think makes a lyrically good song?
That conversation. I think that it’s important not to just say things. There’s a lot of different styles of writing but for me, it's saying things the way you would say them to a person. I think there’s truth in that and it relates to everybody. Instead of making up a metaphor for 'I love you,' just say 'I love you' in a song. I think that grasps a lot of the attention.

You really rep Berlin. How has your hometown influenced your artistry?
Berlin is everything about my artistry. We used to fucking run from police, chill on rooftops, paint the city and do crazy shit—it’s such a huge part of my personality. In Berlin, I went through a lot of pain because my mother passed away there, and I was terrible with school there. I was fighting to be understood, but I also went through so much victory and I met so many incredible people. A lot of these people were worn people, but they were such sweet people. It’s everything, it’s my heart. I love Berlin.

What are five fun facts about yourself?
I play Sims 4 a lot. It’s like the only other thing I’m good at other than music. I can speak fluent German. My mother is Moroccan. I lived in D.C. for like 10 years, back and forth, and when I was in the fifth grade, I was in a group called the Leopard Girls. It was like a rip-off from the Cheetah Girls. We totally copied them. (Laughs)

What’s next for you?
We’re putting out music very soon. I don’t want to give specific dates, but it’s super soon. I’m going to really focus and hone in on myself as an individual, as a person just expressing myself. Hopefully, the world likes it. Would be cool if they did. (Laughs) I’m focused on developing myself, and I have so much music, dude. I have 400 songs that I’ve just worked on for the past year. I’ve been creating every day, like two or three sessions for one year and I’m ready to put it out for the world to see.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I pray and hope that I’m at a high enough level in order for me to really move humanity forward. I think we’re really close to a revolution and at the height of my career as an artist, I think I’m going to be a voice of a revolution in my generation. I hope that at that point in my life, I have enough sense and strength within me to lead a lot of people.

Photo Credit: Instagram/bibibourelly

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Interview: Suave House Founder Tony Draper Links With Celebs Like 2 Chainz, G Herbo and Nick Cannon To Feed Their Cities

The harrowing COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately disrupted Black communities across the United States with cities like Chicago being among the hardest hit. Throughout the year, artists from the city have stepped up and held socially distanced food drives and PPE donations across the city’s South and West sides. With his deep ties to Chicago since the early 90s, Suave House Records founder/entrepreneur Tony Draper, alongside NBA veteran Ricky Davis, made the Chi’ their next stop as part of the nationwide Feed Your City Challenge this past October 17th at the Pullman Park Community Center.

The chilly, yet bright and sunny Saturday saw hundreds of people drive through the parking lot of the complex, receiving groceries from the many volunteers, gathered from across the city. Masked up with PPE in the trenches with the civilians were local natives and celebrity supporters like Chitown’s Grammy winning producer/music executive No ID, rap star G-Herbo, new rapper Queen Key, NBA star Jabari Parker to media/music entertainer Nick Cannon. Draper and Davis were handing off items and loading boxes of farm-fresh produce and meats in the trunk of cars, and offloading the 95,000 pounds of food to feed 7,000 residents. While they were not in attendance, Common with Jhene Aiko and Social Justice Collective donated funds for the free groceries.

“You can’t lead the people until you feed the people. We’re out here in the community in a real way. People always talk about what’s going on in Chicago and these are the things going on in Chicago. Positive things for the community during a time like this. People coming together and it’s a wonderful event,” said Cannon.

For Draper, bringing the Feed Your City Challenge to Chicago and being able to pull it off successfully was crucial because October 17th, marks the 24th anniversary of the death of one of Chi’s most influential DJs, Rapmaster Pinkhouse, who passed away in 1996. “It feels like myself and my partner [Ricky] Davis coming to Chicago and partnering with Common, No ID, Jhene Aiko, Nick Cannon, G-Herbo, Jay Allen, [local FM radio] Power 92 and Pat Edwards was a sign from God that it’s meant to happen on this day. Even though Pinkhouse is gone, he’s still influencing the south side of Chicago and he’s still sending us blessings. We had to pull it off, we had to,” Draper said with conviction. 

Meanwhile, Power 92.3’s DJ Pharris, DJ Nehpets, DJ Commando, DJ Amaris and Hot Rod were on the 1s and 2s while Parker, Hot Rod, G-Herbo, and community activists Joey G and Nico Naismith played basketball with the kids. A nonprofit Hoop Bus was set up with a small hoop with Black Lives Matter symbols and the names of victims who were killed by police officers. 

G-Herbo, who has been volunteering his time to the kids of Chicago throughout 2020 says that events like this are important to build and strengthen Black unity across the city. “It’s beyond just being able to feed and provide, it’s allowing people to feel unity in the city. This is the city coming together and a lot of important and powerful people coming from the city, all walks of life coming together for a positive reason and that’s what it’s all about.” When asked if this event defied the stigma of Chicagoans not being unified, Herbo exclaimed, “Absolutely! We unified right now and it’s only gon’ get better, so we’re just trying to lead by example and make this normal. This is not just an event, this gotta be the normal for guys like myself and for the city.”

And the people who showed up to receive their free groceries were more than appreciative. Takara, a mother from the Southside of Chicago says that while she found out about the food drive at the last minute,“It’s a lot of food out here, a lot of good people out here and it’s something that we need. Events like this are very necessary and it’s filling the need for families who can’t feed their children during these times. I wish I could have volunteered and done something more, but we need this.”

In a one-on-one with VIBE, the legendary Tony Draper talks about his connections to Chicago, the importance and impact of the Feed Your City Challenge, the role celebrities play in activism, and more. 

VIBE: Earlier you shared that Oct. 17th was also the day that Rapmaster Pinkhouse passed away. For the younger readers who might not know who Rapmaster Pinkhouse is, could you share who he was and why he was so important to Chicago?

Draper: For young people that don't understand how music was heard back then, there was no social media [in the early 90s], there was no Instagram, so you had to get your record to the hottest person in the city. That person had to make a decision about whether it was good or not. And if that person touched your record in Chicago, that person would spread, it was automatic. That’s what happened to a young Tony Draper with 8Ball & MJG’s first albums. He put his hands around it and he exposed it to the Chicago market. Every time I think about Chicago, I always think about Pinkhouse. Pinkhouse was the main reason why I even came to Chicago.

Talk about that. What was Chicago like for you when you first came here?

Coming to Chicago was a very interesting moment for me because when I came, I had my hat cocked a certain type of way and I didn’t know the rules and regulations. And he told me, “Tony, man you gotta keep that hat straight (laughs). And I kept it straight ever since. So, for me, doing my journey as a young Black man from the inner city, raised by a single parent, establishing Suave House at 16 years old, seeing what I went through to establish [the company], and make it a force to be reckoned with. That was an accomplishment, but also I wanted to touch people I knew understood the music and understood where I was coming from and the importance of a young Black man that was a true, independent CEO and giving me the avenue to get my music heard. I’m from Memphis, raised in Houston, but Chicago is Suave House’s biggest market to this date. They supported everything Suave House did and I wanted to bless them [with the Feed Your City Challenge], the same way they blessed me.

With the conversation within the music business revolving around Black Lives Matter and supporting Black communities, what do you think it’ll take to get many of these CEO and executives from the major labels to support these communities like what you and many of the artists have been doing across the country?

I think they have to be involved with people they’re not comfortable with. Stop giving money to these organizations you think is giving the money to Black people, because they’re not. Nobody is holding these organizations accountable. Do business with somebody that has their finger on the pulse. A person that you know is in the music business that has been very successful in the business. Like right now, the Feed Your City Challenge, we’re in our ninth city. We’ve had eight of the top music artists host these cities without funding from the parent companies. [The artists] are giving the money themselves. Jhene Aiko gave money herself. Nick Cannon, himself. Rick Ross, 2 Chainz…Pee from Quality Control. 

Pee was on vacation in Mexico and he took a private jet back to Atlanta just to attend Feed Your City in Atlanta. He didn’t have to do that, but he did because he cares about where he’s from. He cares about the area. He wants to take [talent] from the area, but he also wants to give back to that community. See, white people want to come and exploit your community, but don’t want to build a library over there, never build a basketball court, never build anything. When an artist is dead, they say ahhh aahh ummm. If you wanted to demonstrate good character, you would have said, ‘I made a lot of money off that artist. Let me do something for that community as a token of appreciation for birthing that particular artist.’

I don’t think we’ve ever seen that before.

And you’ll never see it unless I do it and I am going to do it. That’s why I’m in Chicago. I’m going to every city that has blessed me and fed my family because every time I feed myself, I feed my family, my loved ones, it comes from my fans. My fans gave me the opportunity by buying my records. I had a dream, I had a drive, but without the opportunity, you might not have heard of Tony Draper. So, I’m always appreciative of people that have helped me, that’s why I want to help them. I’m in the best place I could ever be in my life. I’m 49 years old, I’m successful, I’m good. Bro, you want to know what makes me happy? Giving to somebody else. There’s another star out there that’s hoping and praying that they could get an opportunity and if I could give them that opportunity, I’ll give it to them. I don’t relish in the attention; I relish in the accomplishment. Let me help somebody. And if I help them and they become successful, they don’t owe me a quarter. I won’t sign them to a management deal or nothing. I just want you to acknowledge it and pass it on. See, we got to learn how to pass it on.

With the timing of this event brought on by the pandemic, how do you feel about it all?

I think it was God’s mission. With COVID that’s really unfortunate, a lot of people lost their lives during this pandemic. A lot of people have lost their jobs, their homes, their properties. My heart goes out to them. But if me and Ricky Davis can put a smile on a mother’s face, a father’s face and feed their children, that’s all I need. I remember me and my mother going to churches and food banks, walking with free government cheese, powdered eggs and we was happy. We were so happy, smiling and grateful. I think without that, I don’t think we would have made it to the following week. So, I’m always thankful for everything God blessed me with. I don’t think I’m special. I think that I had a plan and I stuck to my plan and made it happen.

Suave House has had a lot of artists who have always been outspoken about social and political issues, [similar to like an] Ice Cube recently. Considering that, and what you’re doing with these artists for the Feed Your City Challenge, do you think that the role of the celebrity today is to get in front of these issues or to fall back and support the people who're already doing the work?

I think it’s a choice. For me, I’m not a city official, I’m not a politician. I’m more comfortable with doing and getting my hands dirty on the ground. If I was in Chicago building houses for people, I would actually be there. I wouldn’t [just] send no money or send a crew there. I would be there. That’s how I feel blessed. I feel blessed by actually talking to the people and them seeing me out there distributing groceries. I feel good when a person drives up in their car and they pop their trunk and say ‘Draper?! You putting groceries in my car?!’ And they may be happy about ‘Space Age Pimpin’’ or ‘I’m So Tired of Ballin’’ or whatever, but just the mere fact that they were happy about me putting groceries in their car meant more to me than anything else. I think it’s a choice you make as an individual.

For a lot of people, some celebrities end up causing harm because their celebrity and actions might overshadow the actual issue.

You know what though? Without you being a celebrity, you might not be heard. So why not use that platform to be heard? I think LeBron James is phenomenal. I think Ice Cube is phenomenal. You don’t have to agree with him, but you have to respect him for speaking his mind and trying to get something for Black people. Nobody else did it! Nobody else took the initiative to write a Black America contract and present it to both [Biden and Trump] camps. So, I think that was a phenomenal move, whether I agree with it or not, it was still a phenomenal move. We got to stop with all this goddamn talking and do some action.

Draper and Davis’s Feed Your City Challenge will be arriving in Compton, California as their next stop on November 21.

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Interview: T.I. Talks Activism, Verzuz Battle, And His Desire To Produce A Biopic On His Life Before Fame

Although Tip "T.I." Harris has earned some very respectable stripes as an emcee for his successful rap career, the self-proclaimed “King of the South” moniker really began to take true form once he stepped into his community activism calling. He’s acted in blockbuster films opposite Denzel Washington, Paul Rudd and Kevin Hart, but his willingness to speak truth to power has shown an unwavering commitment to being on the good side of history, as opposed to choosing silence to secure a spot on the good side of Hollywood.

During this recent conversation, Tip talks about his upcoming Verzuz battle with Jeezy, politics, the Trap Music Museum, and his desire to make his TV/film directorial debut.

Be sure to check out his newest album, L.I.B.R.A available on all streaming platforms.

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Ziggy Marley's First Time Voting In America

No more long talking from politicians. Today, the people have their say at the ballot box. Judging by the number of voters who showed up early this year, the 2020 election is going to smash all records for voter participation. With a deadly pandemic, wildfires, floods, economic pressure, and a struggle for survival playing out from the tweets to the streets, the stakes have never been higher.

If you're reading this right now and you haven't voted yet, it's not too late. Get up get out and let your voice be heard. As Samantha Smith recently discussed on her IG Live, this year's election is too important to sit out.

Snoop Dogg will be voting for the first time this year—and he's not the only one. Ziggy Marley voted for the first time this year also and documented the process on social media. "I decided to vote and I wondered to myself why," Ziggy wrote on his IG. "Then I thought about those who came before, the price they paid. In part, I am voting in honor of them and to honor them, to not belittle their many sacrifices and struggles with my high jaded righteousness and indifference. Many brothers and sisters from numerous backgrounds and origins marched, bled, and died to give people like me basic rights in 🇺🇸 , the right to be treated like a human being, the right to vote."

As the eldest son of the Robert Nesta Marley aka the King of Reggae, Ziggy is part of a mighty musical legacy, but his father is more than a musical legend.  The new film Freedom Fighter—part of the 75th anniversary series "Bob Marley Legacy"—examines Marley as a symbol of human rights with a voice more powerful than any politician.

Ziggy has continued his father's musical mission as a solo artist and part of the Grammy-winning family group Melody Makers. His 2018 album, Rebellion Rises opens with a song entitled "See Them Fake Leaders," leaving no doubt about his views on the institutions of government. Still, Ziggy remains engaged in the political process, doing his part and encouraging others to do the same.

"Imagine if Martin Luther King Jr, John Lewis, and others thought, 'Voting rights? Civil rights? Who cares? What difference will it make?'" Ziggy wrote on IG. "Just imagine what the world would have looked like now if not for their sacrifices. Go ahead, imagine it. Can you see it? Well, what do you think?"

"To be clear voting is not the end-all," Ziggy Marley added. "It is a small piece of a puzzle and just one of the tools in our toolbox that we must use as part of a larger effort to bring positive beneficial changes for all people. The work must continue at maximum effort after elections regardless of the outcome." Ziggy emphasized that he was not voting for a party or a person for an idea. "Even though we have differences we can be better human beings, more united human beings, more loving human beings, equal human beings, just human beings. The politics will come and go left right and center but still through it all the humanity that we must show to each other is not negotiable."

Ziggy voted by mail this year, but for those of you standing in line today to exercise your right and let your voices be heard, Ziggy curated a special playlist for Tidal's "Hold The Line" campaign. Music to vote by—from Ziggy and Bob to Fela and James Brown, not to mention Public Enemy and Rage Against The Machine.

Ziggy Marley’s new album, More Family Time, is out now on all music streaming platforms.

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