In November, Rihanna went on Instagram and shared a slow-motion video that shows her sauntering around in a bathing suit to “Best On Earth,” a track by Russ and BIA. that she declared her “fav new song.” Rihanna had already direct-messaged the artist about how much she liked the collaboration, which includes a lyric that mentions the mega-star and beauty mogul by name, but the public co-sign galvanized her 77.5 million followers and helped “Best On Earth” shoot up the Apple, Genius, and Billboard Emerging Artists charts. It also landed on Jay-Z’s Top 40 Singles of the Year list. The moment has been huge for BIA, and it’s given her a wave of momentum as she starts a brand new chapter in her career.
BIA has felt a steady presence in the music industry since she signed to RCA Records and Pharrell’s i Am Other record label in 2014. She’s made songs with J Balvin, Kali Uchis, and Vince Staples, and she opened during Ariana Grande’s Dangerous Woman tour back in 2017. But while she’s been working pretty much non-stop, she made a massive decision this year: She left her label and chose to go independent. BIA spoke to VIBE VIVA and shared why it was important for her to go her own way—and opened up about what’s next for her.
2019 has been the start of a lot of major things for you. Tell us about what you’ve been working on.
I was doing a lot of writing sessions at the beginning of the year. I feel like I was just sharpening my pen the whole time, creating a whole bunch of music, and working on projects that I thought were going to come out but didn’t end up making deadlines. So I just found myself with a lot of music and I just had to figure out, ‘Okay, what am I doing?’ And being newly independent, I had to figure out a new strategy. The past year has really just been, “What do I want to sound like and what do I want to give to the world in a new way?’ It’s been a creative process for me and now it’s all coming together.
Why was it important for you to go in your own direction?
I think every artist goes through phases in [his or her] career, like seasons. I’m super thankful for RCA and Pharrell’s people giving me a chance way early on. Even when people didn’t think I was that good or didn’t believe in me, they always did. I feel like I knew it was my time a long time ago, but I just had to watch other people. I had to see other people’s success to be okay with it and that made me, I feel like, a way better person, not just an artist.
I think with artists like me who come from no music background, no music knowledge whatsoever, everything is self-taught. You get into this business and you’re teaching yourself as you go along. Some people learn quicker than others. For other people, it takes a little bit longer. A lot of new artists think when you sign, it’s like, ‘Okay, I made it.’ But that’s really just the beginning. You really just have to show up every time, even times that you feel like, ‘Damn, I just showed up 10 times in a row and still, it didn’t do anything for me.’ It’s going to be like that. It might be that 11th time that you showed up that changes your life. So I’ve had to stick with that mantra and believe in it my whole career.
Now that you’re independent, we’re already seeing the creative side of you this year. You had this song that’s now-massive and a co-sign from Rihanna. How did the song come together?
Russ invited me to the studio. I was always a fan of Russ and he always liked my work as well. He was like, ‘I’m going to be in LA recording. Hope you can pull up.’ He played a couple of beats and that wasn’t the first beat that he played, but that was the one that I was like, ‘Oh, can we do this one?’ And he’s like, ‘Yeah, I like this beat too. Let’s put it up.’ We knew it was a fire song, but we didn’t know it was going to be like what it was.
How did it feel once Rihanna is talking about it and you’re seeing it have this huge effect on the Apple charts?
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I was waiting for it because she DMed me when I put our snippets of the song, and she was like, ‘Oh, b***h, send this. It’s fire.’ So I was like, ‘Girl. Don’t play, I’ll send it early.’ Like, I was about to send her the song early before it even came out. Luckily, Russ just ended up dropping the song like an hour later because he’s really spontaneous. He just drops visuals and songs out of nowhere and he’ll put it up in five minutes. Literally, the video put it up in five minutes. I didn’t expect it to be up, and then as soon as it went up, I sent it to her and she was just like, ‘Yes, I love it.’ Then the next day, she posted it. I couldn’t even believe it. Well, I could believe it because I just … I love her and I f**k with her. She’s so genuine. I’ve never met her, but we’ve had conversations in the DM. But I’ve been following her my whole life.
We’ve seen so many musical sides of you—hip hop, Latin. Sonically, do you think you’ll stay in this “Best On Earth” vibe or will you experiment with other things you’ve done before?
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I’m so glad you asked. I love questions like that because I feel like sonically, you’re supposed to change. Nobody’s supposed to sound the same forever. You’re supposed to experiment and try new things. So I feel like I like to think of myself as multi-faceted. I like to go into so many different genres. But I love “Best on Earth” so much because it feels so authentic, it feels so me right now. As you said, I do the hip hop and I can go in different directions, but this just feels like it’s just true to self. So definitely more music in the hip hop space, in the rap space and, yeah, just the way I want to do it. Not too rappy, not too like … my style is all over the place so I change it quite often.
Now that you’re in this space where you’re independent and enjoying new success, what do you want your next chapter to look like?
There’s a lot of things that I want to do that I’m not even close to doing yet. I’m not like in a race for time to leave a legacy on the earth because I know that that takes time, but I just want to have a higher purpose.