You may recognize the face, but for the very few that aren’t glued to the screen every Wednesday for FOX’s Empire, meet Bre-Z, the new leading lady of Empire Entertainment. Empire has showcased a number of rising talent including Serayah and Jussie Smollet, and Bre-Z has definitely got next, especially with her debut single, “Why Go”.
The Philly-raised rapper plays Freda Gatz, the daughter of the late Frank Gathers, whose character was played by Chris Rock. She landed a spot on Empire through a referral, which she described as “chance.” But what came after landing the gig was more than mere coincidence. On set, she catches Luscious Lyon’s attention with her quick rhymes and hard flow. But just like her character, Bre-Z is pretty familiar with the hip-hop game and jumping in a freestyle battle every now and then.
Her debut single, produced by Honorable C.N.O.T.E., “Why Go” speaks about the death of her on-screen father, Frank Gathers. The song is almost an open letter to her dad and her frustrations with him leaving. With lyrics like “God bless your soul, ’cause you’re gone now/ All is forgiven, ’cause I’m grown now Gotta make it out here on my own now. I picked the pen up, and put the guns down,” the track shows her determination to pick up the pieces and channel her energy into making it in the biz.
Though the track is showcasing the female rapper’s grit and hardcore flow, its content sends a softer and relatable message. “I think there’s a large percentage of the world who may have grown up in single households or may have had both parents and may have lost one. I think it’s very relatable,” she tells VIBE. “Most of what will come across is my true feelings, and not even as an actor or as Freda, but as Bre-Z, the individual.”
After giving her new record a spin, get more familiar with Bre-Z as she breaks down her humble beginnings, finding a family with the Empire cast, and her bright future ahead.
VIBE: How did you get into the hip hop and the entertainment world?
Bre-Z: Growing up, music was definitely a big part of everybody’s life. Growing up [in] Philly and Delaware, it was something people did, just rapping, whether it was freestyling or performing at live places. My brother used to do it, and after watching him do it with his friends, I was like, I want to do it too. He used to write his raps and then I started writing my own.
You were a celebrity barber at one point, and a successful one at that. What made you transition into focusing solely on music?
I’ve been cutting hair since I was about eleven and it was kind of something that was just in me. I come from a family of barbers. I didn’t have to be taught how to do it. Growing up, I cut through high school, and after college, I moved to Atlanta and that’s where the celebrity clientele grew. I was in Atlanta for about eight years. I was doing the music always but it came secondary. So basically two years ago, I decided to put it first and give it a hundred percent of my time and energy. I felt like that was the only way I was going to see a good result from it. I was always caught in between the studio and the barber shop. I really couldn’t give either one of them a hundred percent of my time, but I had to cut hair because I had to pay bills. Really, it was just me stepping out on faith and doing what my heart was telling me to do.
How did you land a spot on Season 2 of Empire?
I auditioned like everybody else. I was referred to audition, so I went in there and did it. I feel like the role was tailor-made for me. Me and the character are such similar people. The roads travelled are somewhat identical. When it happened, I wasn’t surprised because that’s how connected I was with the character. It turned out to be an amazing thing.
What is it like working with the cast?
Taraji is amazing, Terrence as well. I think they’re just beautiful people who love what they do. As a younger individual, just being new to the scene and new to this whole atmosphere, they’re very embracing. [They’re] giving me the game as they know it, giving me wisdom through their experience. They didn’t make me feel like I was beneath them or anything like that, but they definitely let me know how real this is and what comes with it. But most importantly, that it takes hard work and dedication, and to focus on the bigger picture, focus on what you’re doing. Chris Rock was hilarious without even trying. There were a few moments where I had to not laugh hysterically because I just think he’s so funny. He’s one of the funniest men in the world, and has been for a long time. I love that whole cast. I couldn’t have been put in a better situation.
Who are your musical influences?
I love Queen Latifah, and love her as an all-around woman, as a business woman, and not to mention her career in music and acting. She did it so perfect. And I don’t know what went on behind the scenes but as far as my eyes go, everything looked good. I love Jay Z and I love Drake. I don’t care what he raps about—he always has a purpose. You’re going to catch a jam somewhere in his records. And I’m really a ’90s R&B listener. When I listen to music, I’m listening to Whitney Houston, Anita Baker, and it may be weird with me being a rapper, but I’m influenced by those type of artists.
What’s next for Bre-Z?
I hopefully plan to put out an EP and let the people know, as far as Freda is concerned, and just build an overall fanbase for myself and give people a little bit more of what I’m doing, so they can have something to put in their iTunes. I think the things that I have to say, I would love the world to hear. I’m thinking [of releasing new music] within the next few months. The sooner, the better. I definitely want to get out here on the road and make appearances and meet people. There’s a lot more to come. [I’m] just getting started.