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Meet Pia Mia, The Singer Who's Already Impressed Babyface, Kanye and Drake

Meet the girl who sang for Drake and Kanye over a Kardashian dinner

Emerging singer Pia Mia didn’t always think about doing music as a career. “I never sang before, I never thought about it,” she tells VIBE about her early childhood. “I was always really shy. So when I told my parents I wanted to start singing, everyone was a little shocked.”

Since then, the 18 year-old songstress has come a long way from her introverted ways and is beginning to take the music world by storm. Hailing from the small island of Guam, she moved to Los Angeles about four years ago just before an extremely serendipitous encounter landed her a year-long production deal with Babyface. You might have even spotted a video of Pia singing Drake’s “Hold On, We’re Going Home” at the dinner table to Drizzy Drake himself and Kanye West alongside the Kardashian-Jenner clan.

Fast forward two years later, and she now has a major single and music video with Chris Brown and Tyga called “Do It Again," gaining spins on the radio. On a recent trip to VIBE HQ, Pia Mia dished on how she collaborated with Breezy and Tyga, her relationship with producer, Nic Nac, and her musical inspirations.—Richy Rosario

VIBE: How did you first start getting interested in music?
Pia Mia: I started singing in school plays when I was eight years old. Cinderella was really the musical that showed me how much I loved music, and gave me this sense of how much I love the stage. So I started traveling with my school, doing musicals, and raising money for humanitarian tours. We were raising money for kids with cleft palates. Then, I started singing at government events and Japanese weddings. That was my first job back home in Guam.

You were also signed to Babyface before. How did you ink a deal with him?
I basically worked really hard every day of my life, after I realized that music was what I wanted to do. I ended up coming out to L.A. from Guam when I was about 13 or 14. I was meant to stay there for three months because it was part of my educational experience. My parents were like, ‘You can go for the summer.’ But when I was in L.A., I ended up walking to this place called Urth Caffe, and one of Babyface's producers' wives came up to me and asked if I happened to be a singer. Honestly, it was really random and crazy but I ended up signing to Babyface for a year in a production deal, and that’s where I learned how to record and write songs—everything that basically came with making music.

the doll life

A photo posted by Princess Pia Mia (@princesspiamia) on

After that, Sophia Amoruso, the founder of Nasty Gal, found me on Instagram and she liked my music but also, my look so she asked me to model for that. Following that campaign, I modeled for Neima, who owns Pink Dolphin, and he manages Nic Nac, who is a huge producer. I’ve been working with Nic ever since. We’ve been working on the album for the last two years. It really all just kind of came together.

Speaking of Nic Nac, how did you guys become a couple?
It was kind of just a surprise. it never was something that I expected, I guess. Nic and I were always best friends and we spent everyday together, working in the studio. I think we just have a lot in common.

SEE ALSO: Pia Mia, Chris Brown And Tyga Hit A Beach Party In ‘Do It Again’ Video

Switching gears, how did you get Chris Brown and Tyga on “Do It Again?”
Growing up in Guam, there are not a lot of artists that come to perform live, so I didn’t go to a concert until I was about 16. J Boog [of B2K] came to Guam to perform, and he really inspired me. I’ll never forget his concert. I always wanted to make a record called “Do It Again” from then on. I pitched the idea to Nic and to Marc Griffin and we created the record. [We] had it for two years and always knew there was something special about it. Then one day, Nic was in a session with Chris and Tyga, and I know all three guys well. So I went by to say what’s up and “Do It Again” got played. Chris and Tyga loved it and the rest is history.

Circling back to when you sang for Drake and Kanye West, how did that feel?
Singing for Drake definitely was a bit nerve-racking because I totally changed his song. I basically just kept his lyrics. But it was a great experience getting to hear Kanye say that he likes my style, and thinks that I’m an amazing singer. It was crazy. And getting to hear Drake say those same things was very special. I love both those artists.

Who are some of your musical inspirations?
I would always study Michael Jackson, Celine Dion and Beyoncé on YouTube. I would just sit on the computer and watch them over and over again. Those three are huge inspirations for me. Also, Ludovico Einaudi is a classical pianist that I’m really obsessed with.

SEE ALSO: Vixen Boombox: Pia Mia feat. Austin Mahone 'Fill Me In'

How does it feel gaining success when you come from a small island like Guam? 
I feel like I’m very out of place, like I don’t really belong. My whole family is still back in Guam. They come back and forth to L.A. and I try to get back there with my mom as often as I can. A lot of times I feel lost but I know that all the hard work that I’ve been putting in is worth it, and I’m finally starting to see it pay off. That just kind of motivates me to keep going, and my whole family is very supportive. They keep me going.

What do you do when you feel lost?
I really think journaling is a great way to handle that. I have a journal and that’s where a lot of my songs come from. Any time I’m feeling some type of way, I just write it out then that way, you can see what you’re feeling and you’re able to make sense of it better. It helps me clear my mind and figure it out.

What advice do you have for young girls trying to break into the entertainment industry?
Number one rule: Be yourself. You have to fight for what you want and don’t let anyone take you down. When people see something good, they sometimes don’t know how to handle it and try to make that good thing not good anymore. So you have to stay positive, keep your head up, and stay focused. If you believe in yourself then other people will believe in you. And just fight for your dreams.

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These pillars and many more have allowed the next generation of emcees to be unapologetically brash, truthful and confident in their music. Cardi B's Invasion of Privacy and Nicki Minaj's Queen might've been the most mainstream albums by womxn in rap this year, but there was a long list of creatives who brought the noise like Rico Nasty, Tierra Whack, Noname and Bbymutha. Blame laziness or the heavy onslaught of music hitting streaming sites this year, but many of the artists on this list have hibernated under the radar for far too long.

VIBE decided to switch things up but also highlighting rap albums by womxn who came strong in their respectively debut albums, mixtapes, EPs. We also had to give props to those who dropped standout singles, leaving us wanting more.

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10 Most Important Hip-Hop Artists Of 2018

We’ve reached another end to an eventful year in hip-hop. From rap beefs to new music releases and milestones, 2018 has been forged in the history books as a year to remember. But more important than the events that happened over the span of 12 months are the people who made them happen.

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NEXT: Intent On Impact, Kiana Lede Is Ready To Leave Her Mark

After learning The Alphabet Song as a little girl, Kiana Lede would always “get in trouble” for singing during class. “My mom was like, ‘why can't you focus?’” she laughs while reminiscing on her career’s formative years. “I was like, ‘I don’t know! Songs are just playing in my head all the time!’”

Whilst sitting in a shoebox-sized room at Midtown Manhattan’s Moxy Hotel on a humid September day, the now- 21-year-old Arizona-bred R&B songbird, actress and pianist speculates that she “may have had ADD.” However, she settles down after taking off her white cowboy boots and flops down on the ivory-clothed bed, demonstrating that her fiery Aries energy can be contained. Cool as a cucumber, Lede shuffles between chewing on banana candies and blowing smoke rings after taking drags from a pen, all while musing about her journey to becoming a Republic Records signee.

“I just grew up singing and doing musical theater, and reading a lot of books, and playing piano way too much in my room by myself,” she says, pushing her big, curly brown hair out of her face. Her expressive green eyes widen as she grins. “It was my thing. Nobody in my family does music, just me.”

After winning Kidz Bop’s 2011 KIDZ Star USA talent contest at 14 (which her mother secretly entered her into), Lede was signed to RCA Records. She was released from her contract and dropped from the label three years later. However, thanks to guidance and friendship from the Grammy-winning production duo Rice N’ Peas, (who’ve worked with G-Eazy, Trevor Jackson, and Bazzi), she released covers of songs such as Drake’s “Hotline Bling” while working to get her groove back. The latter rendition resulted in Republic Record’s Chairman and CEO Monte Lipman flying her out and signing her to his label.

“I got a second chance, which a lot of people don't get,” she reveals. “So I'm really happy that that all happened. I wouldn't be here right now in this room if that didn't happen.”

Thanks to the new opportunity she was given, Lede’s sound has evolved into something she’s proud of—equal parts soul, R&B and bohemian. As evidenced by the aforementioned ensemble, glimmers of each aesthetic can be found when observing her personal style as well. She released her seven-song EP Selfless in July, which features the bedroom-ready “Show Love” and “Fairplay,” which manages to fit in the mainstream R&B vein while also showcasing her goosebump-inducing vocals. The remix of the latter features MC A$AP Ferg. What pleases her most is that it not only garnered a favorable response from fans, but that those listeners found it so relatable.

“As an artist, it's really nerve-wracking for someone who writes about such personal things all the time,” she says. “Just the fact that it is my story… It's good to know that other people know that there's somebody on their side, and they're not the only ones going through it. A lot of people obviously feel this way, and have been through this same thing that I've been through. So I think that's cool.”

Although she moved to various places as a Navy serviceman’s daughter, Lede claims Phoenix as home. This means she hails from the same stomping grounds as rockers Alice Cooper, Stevie Nicks and the late Chester Bennington of Linkin Park. However, growing up in a mixed race household gave way to tons of sonic exploration outside of the rock-heavy scene.

“My dad's black, and both of my parents are from the East Coast,” she says of her musical and ethnic upbringing (she’s black, Latina and Native American). “[My parents] listened to a lot of R&B. My mom listened to a lot of SWV, TLC, Boyz II Men. I didn't realize I knew the songs until I got older. I played a charity show with T-Boz, and I was like 'why do I know these songs?'” Lede also says her father was a fan of neo-soul and gangsta rap, but she personally believes the early-2000s was the best time for music.

“[That era] influences a lot of my music subconsciously, and also, singer-songwriter stuff,” she continues. “I listen to a lot of early-2000s music because I played piano most of my life. I listened to Sara Bareilles, John Mayer.”

An open book, Lede details some of her struggles with anxiety and depression with the utmost candor. After being dropped from RCA, her trust in people diminished, and she experienced long bouts of depression after being sexually assaulted by someone in the industry. The track that she feels most deeply about is “One Of Them Days,” which tackles these issues head-on.

“When I'm anxious and depressed, it's really hard to be happy,” Lede says. “Most of the time, I can do it, but there are just some days where I literally can't separate the anxiety, and I can't tell anybody why, because I don't really know why myself… I was feeling very odd that day, didn't even know if I could write a song. Hue [Strother], the guy who I wrote the song with, he was like 'I totally get you. Lots of people go through this.’’’

As we’ve observed in headlines recently, mental health and being honest about life’s trickier situations can help someone going through the same thing, and Lede hopes her music provides encouragement to those who are struggling. As for how she’s learning to push through her mental health roadblocks, she meditates, runs, and is an advocate for therapy, especially in Trump’s America, where harrowing news reports dominate the cycle.

Another hallmark of Kiana Lede’s personality is her bleeding heart for others. She cites women of color, sexual assault victims and the homeless youth specifically as individuals she feels most responsible to help, since she is personally connected to all three. While she’s aiming to create a project that helps homeless youth specifically, she’s working hard this holiday season to ensure that they have a place to stay “at least for the night” after horrific wildfires displaced many individuals in California.

“My passion is really people. Music is just a way that I can get to helping people,” she says with a grin. “Helping people emotionally and physically are both very important. I never want to stop helping people. I feel if other people can respect me, and I can respect myself, then I'll be happy. Happiness is all that we strive for.”

Recently, Lede played her first headlining solo show, a one-night event at The Mint in Los Angeles. While she was thrilled to see that the show sold-out, she was even happier to see the faces of her audience members, who she said ‘looked like [her].’ “Mixed girls, brown girls, black girls, gay boys,” she explains over-the-phone. Even though she wasn’t in person to discuss her latest huge accomplishment, you could hear the pride and joy through her voice.

As for the future of her career, she’s looking forward to more acting roles. You may recognize her from the first season of MTV’s Scream, and after her recent Netflix series All About The Washingtons with legendary MC Rev Run was cancelled, she has been “reading for auditions” and is “negotiating” for a role in a film set to shoot in NYC. While her time with the Run-DMC frontman was brief, she says he taught her about the importance of “not compromising your art for money.”

What Kiana Lede is most excited about, of course, is making music. She hopes to work on a new EP and then release an album after that. The ultimate goal is to fully realize the dreams in her personal and professional life, and she assures she’s just getting started.

“I want to be able to look back on my career and think 'man, I really poured my heart into this music, and made music that mattered, and made music that made people feel a certain way, whether it's bad, good, sad, anxious, whatever it may be.’”

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