Interview: Bibi Bourelly Talks The Language Of Music And Her Biggest Fears

There’s no other way to put it. Bibi Bourelly’s Feel the Real Pt. 1 and Feel the Real Pt. #2 projects play like intimate conversations with her closest friends. The multi-talented threat is just getting warmed up, though, her actual greatness has yet to be fully understood by music critics

Haling from Berlin, the 22-year-old Def Jam signee isn’t afraid to throw the F-word at her fraud ex-boyfriend, warm up to a handsome guy that she’s crushing on, or think out loud about not succumbing to the deceptiveness of fraudulence on her songs. From her music, listeners oft get the idea that Bourelly’s tunes were created while she was lounging on her couch with no makeup on, sweatpants, an oversized t-shirt and her hair tied in a bun.

READ: Bibi Bourelly Goes Through Everyday Struggles In Her “Ballin” Video

The D.C. raised songwriter will be the first to admit that she’s far from perfect, too. She smokes weed (who doesn’t? Me.). She tosses around explicit words reminiscent of a Richard Pryor stand-up. And she drastically missed the summa cum laude mark as a high school student. But none of the former can speak for the knowledge of life that Bourelly picked up along her eye-opening journey.

“I got really bad grades in high school,” Bourelly tells VIBE. “Whether I didn’t apply myself or not, I not sure, but my grades were horrible. I just always knew that I wanted to sing.”

READ: Ears To The Streets: 10 Artists To Watch In 2017

In Bourelly’s defense, reports that 29.9 percent of billionaires do not have a bachelors degree. Furthermore, good grades are not required to sign a lucrative record deal with Def Jam. Not to mention there’s no degree required to write songs for Rihanna (“Higher,” “BBHMM,” “Yeah, I Said It”), Usher (“Hard II Love”), and Selena Gomez (“Camouflage”). All of these placements happened not long after a then-19-year-old Bourelly left the comfort of her D.C. home for L.A. to chase her dreams.

“We’re constantly inspired by the growing community of artists, YouTube creators and music fans connecting at YouTube Space NY, and we designed our monthly live concert series to celebrate and support this group,” says Vivien Lewit, Global Head of Artist Relations at YouTube. On this evening, The Breakfast Club, Wyclef Jean and Bibi Bourelly were all on the lineup for a special Black History Month event. It’s just after dinner time at YouTube’s New York City studios inside Manhattan’s Chelsea Market for their #MusicMonday series — and the show is about to begin.

Bourelly, who is set to perform for before Wyclef Jean is sitting outside of the green room on the floor. With a welcoming demeanor, the “Ballin” singer invites VIBE to perch on the floor beside her. We oblige, and immeditaly we get Bourelly to discuss the language of music, her fears, as well as the ingredients she needs to write a love song.

VIBE: Who is Bibi Bourelly?
Bibi Bourelly: I’m from Berlin, Germany. I am an artist. An artist of all forms, not just a recording artist, literally, just a creative person. I think that it’s [because of] God. I can’t explain certain events that I just happened to land in. I left for Los Angeles at 19-years-old to follow my dreams.

What caught my attention about you is the ease in which your music comes out. It’s like you naturally speak the language of music.
I was born into music. My father is a professional musician. He’s from Chicago, but he’s Haitian. He grew up in Chicago. My mother was the head of the arts department at the House of the Cultures of the World in Berlin. I was born into it. I grew up with musicians playing in my kitchen. People from Senegal. People from all over places in Africa. Europe even. All across the globe. They would just be playing in my house. I think I was listening to music before I even knew what music was.

So would you say that music comes naturally for you?
I learned the language of music the same way a child picks up on English. Or whatever their mother’s language is. It was around me. And when a child randomly says, ‘momma or dada?’ That’s what happened to me. I just started doing it. It was just in me, and I started speaking that language.

What’s your creative process like? Your way with words make it sound as if you are having a conversation as opposed to writing lyrics. I know I’m sounding like a Stan now, but I’m dead serious.
[Laughs] Thank you. I appreciate that. Whenever I collaborate with people who don’t work with me a lot, one thing I always tell them is that I want this song to sound like a thought. Just like something that you’re thinking about. Very natural. I don’t want it to sound like I’m trying to write a song. Because that’s how I learned to express music — it’s just inside of me, and I’m just relaying whatever is inside of me. Even in production and stuff, I like my records really simple. But I’m very free when I write. I don’t really care as long as it sounds good. I just want to do my thing.


You seem to have an understanding about life that’s rooted in a beautiful struggle. Where does that come from?
When I was younger my mother passed away. I was 6-years-old.

If you don’t mind me asking, how?

I’m sorry.
But when I was younger I was exposed to a lot of death. And I learned how to interpret life as what it is. I don’t care about nothing else, [but] real life.

If that’s the case, what do you fear?
One of my biggest fears is that when I get to a certain level I will forget how to write about real life. I think that’s what makes me an artist, the fact that I talk about the things that I experience. Music for me is an outlet.

I feel things very intensely. Before I had the diction, the articulation to express what I felt I would create my music. The moment I begin to get a real understanding of diction and articulation, I begin to write about the things that were happening around me. It wasn’t until people pointed it out to me that I was writing about the things that were happening around me that I realized it.

Yo, think about JAY Z, Beyonce, Outkast, Nas, Kendrick. J. Cole. I can keep going. The great artists always find a way to keep it real despite their bank accounts. 
Maybe there’s a formula also to be relatable. My whole thing is I don’t ever want to feel like I’m writing a song to relate to people. I just always want to write, and if it happens to relate, then it does. And if it doesn’t, it doesn’t.

I never want to consciously create a body of work that connects to people. I believe that the truth connects to people regardless. The kind of people that it connects to might be different. When I get rich and start having rich b**ch problems, them my music might connect to rich people all of a sudden. But I never want anything to be calculated.

Music, to me, is the most purest thing in the world. The industry is very calculated, and money is very calculated. To me, it’s just what I do. It’s a language. It’s the way I communicate with people. And the moment it becomes a commodity, things that people generate money off of, [it] gets difficult to talk freely.

I have similar fear about my passion. I’m tell you what a mentor told me: ‘Just pray that you don’t become jaded.’
Right. Because everything {good} about life and love is the magic. In order to write a heartfelt song, you need three things: You need skill… to some degree. Sometimes you don’t even need it. You need the ability to count, be on rhythm, and hit the right note. You need experience, inspiration.

And that’s all around us. Then the third thing you need is magic — that sounds so corny, but that magic is called love. The passion and the willingness to deliver something. You can’t control that. You can’t turn that on and off. So, I always want to have that. That spark… that magic thing that makes me want to sing. That’s what carried me here. Skill is a percentage. Skill is a result of that passion. This passion is the root and skill is the result of it.