BIA exploded on to the music scene and most people’s radar when she was featured on Russ’ Billboard Hot 100 hit, “Best On Earth” released in 2019. The song was everywhere in every Hip Hop and pop medium and quickly rose to become a commercial hit. Though the Puerto Rican-Italian rapper has been grinding in the music industry since 2014, initially being signed to Pharrell’s i am OTHER record label in a joint venture with RCA Records.
She’s been on tour with Ariana Grande, Pusha T and J Balvin. Also, she’s performed at Coachella, SXSW, AC3 and the REVOLT Summit. BIA’s career came to an abrupt halt with i am OTHER/RCA Records. The Boston-bred rapper was shelved and unable to release a project for over four years due to RCA and an A&R within the company, according to her. She was able to get out of her record contract and sign with Epic Records.
BIA dropped her new single at the end of March called “FREE BIA (1ST DAY OUT)” with a music video to accompany it. The audiovisual aligns with her industry plights and newfound freedom. The track will be featured on her new EP Rich Tiers.
During an exclusive interview with HipHopDX, BIA discusses what separates her from other female rappers, Rihanna’s post of “Best on Earth” and how she felt she was losing her sanity while being shelved for years. She exuded confidence and a genuine vibe throughout and it was clear she was completely sure of who she is as an artist and person.
HipHopDX: Can you talk about “FREE BIA (1ST DAY OUT)” and the concept behind it? It came across as a fuck-the-industry type record. What was your thought process in making it?
BIA: So I was in a deal, my last situation for a long time, about maybe four or five years, and I got shelved. So that was my first experience. Most people think when you think you’re going to be an artist, you’re like, “Okay, I’m going to put out this music.” When most artists get signed they think, “Okay, I made it. I got signed.” That was unfortunately how I was at the time and I thought, “Oh I’m signed now. I made it.” And it was quite the opposite. So going through that experience and that learning curve, it kind of grew me into a businesswoman. And that was a song that I recorded when I noticed four years down the line like, “Damn this is what they really do to artists.” Anytime you think you hear of artists and then they just disappear off the face of the earth, it’s not the artist that disappears off the face of the earth, chances are it’s a bad situation. So that was my ventilation before I got out and I wasn’t able to release the song until I got out.
HipHopDX: Wow. That’s a long time to go without being able to release a project. You were with, i am Other. Right? Pharrell’s label?
BIA: It was actually with RCA. So like it was a joint venture between i am OTHER and RCA, I don’t want to say it was more i am OTHER. i am OTHER was actually like, they’re good people. They’re friends of mine. So it’s like, it wasn’t more so them as much as I felt like it was RCA and the A&R at the time.
HipHopDX: I know that had to be frustrating, how was that to go that long without making music? You’re an artist and you weren’t able to put out art.
BIA: To be honest bro, it felt like prison. It felt like in a cell. It felt like I was going crazy. Towards the end of it I really felt I was losing my handle on my life. And I felt like, this is my life and I have no control over it. So that’s what it felt like. Yeah, that’s exactly what it felt like. I felt like I was going crazy. That’s why in “FREE BIA (1ST DAY OUT)” you’ll see in the beginning I’m in a mental institution because that’s basically what it felt like.
HipHopDX: I know Fam-Lay brought you over to Pharrell, is he still managing you?
BIA: Nope, he’s not managing me no more, but we are still really good friends.
HipHopDX: That’s cool. So, I like the play on words for your EP Rich Tiers. It’s dope. What’s the meaning behind it?
BIA: Rich Tiers was finding beauty in the sadness for me. That was probably the hardest time of my career, but it made me into the artist that I am now. Rich Tiers is a play on words. So, it means two things. It means the beauty in the sadness, like beauty in the tears. But also, I felt like me being a female in this industry, there’s a lot of females that don’t write their music. And I do take pride in being somebody that writes pretty much 97 percent of my music. I take a couple, a little line or a hook every once in a blue moon.
But for the most part, I mean you can even look up the credits. If you look up my credit all my music, most of it, especially everything that’s on Rich Tiers, it’s 100 percent written by me. So I really wanted to show like levels and I felt like with rap right now I’m in my own level. So it’s like there’s a lot of tiers when it comes to female rap. I just feel mine is a little bit higher. My caliber [is higher], even the stuff that I think is good. I’m not here to say nobody else’s music is good or bad, but I’m just here to say their shit is not like mine.
HipHopDX: And that’s how you should feel. I think it’s great that you take pride in writing your music because people do this [music] for different reasons. I definitely respect that. So how many songs are going to be on Rich Tiers?
BIA: About seven.
HipHopDX: Is this a setup for an album later this year or are you playing it by ear?
BIA: I’m working on an album currently as we speak, but yeah, I’m in the business right now of just giving music to the fans and just growing as an artist. I feel like me being signed for so long and not being allowed to drop projects or drop music consistently, that puts me in a place where people didn’t take me seriously as an artist. So, I’m really just here to stay consistent and to just keep creating, keep adding to the culture, you know?
HipHopDX: Yeah, definitely. Can you take me through the process of just how you got on “Best On Earth?”
BIA: So I was following Russ for a while. I’ve been a fan of Russ and he follows me back. He usually records at home. He has his home studio, but he was in L.A. for about a week, just recording and linking up with people. So, when he came he was like, “Hey, I got a session out here. I would love for you to stop by. I got some beats for you.” I was like, “Oh, this is fire of course.” So I pull up and he has some beats originally that he produced that he wanted to get to me. And then we were like, okay, well we were going to collab that day. He played a couple of beats and then we heard the “Best on Earth” beat, the Boi-1da beat. And I was like, “Oh, this is fire, can we get on this one?” And he’s like, “Yeah, sure, let’s get on this.”
He went in later, laid part of the hook. I went in right after him, laid part of the hook. He went in and laid his verse and then I went in and laid my part of the verse. So it was very organic. It was very like, “Alright, you go, I go.” It was just a vibe like two friends, two homies in the studio, all of our friends, all of his friends and just feeding off each other’s energy.
HipHopDX: That’s dope. I know you knew it was a hot record, but did you have any idea it was going to turn into what it did. I mean it blew up everywhere.
BIA: Yeah. It’s crazy. I didn’t know it was going to be that. I already knew that Russ posting numbers crazy on his own. Russ has an incredible fan base, it’s unreal. So, I had a feeling it was going to do something, but I just didn’t know it was going to do that.
HipHopDX: Definitely a great record. Russ, like you said, he has a huge fan base that you’re introduced to and then when Rihanna posted the song and Rihanna is Rihanna, how was that moment to see all of that come together?
BIA: Oh man. I would say that was one of the best days for me of my career. Because Rihanna, she is one of my favorite people in the world. And to have a co-sign like that from a peer, it already means a lot. But to have co-sign, like that from your favorite person. Like one of the people that you look to for inspiration or one of the people that you feel like set the bar. It was overwhelming for me. It just hit different.
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I Just want to say thank you to @russ and @badgalriri for introducing me to millions of new people. I’m still in awe of this.. not only bc she’s GOAT and my favorite person but there’s a level of taste in everything she does. From the music, to businesses, to the way she carries it all, it’s powerful. That’s the one thing I’ve always admired and wanted to make people feel: powerful. Esp women. I always hear girls say they don’t get enough support from other women, I’ve tried to be an example and give that. As a person who believes in humility & letting the music talk, I never cared about validation from other people…But this was different for me. This was genuineness, and love ??? for that I am forever grateful. love you rih? #bestonearth
HipHopDX: Yeah. Did it confirm you were doing exactly what you were meant to be doing?
BIA: Yeah, well I always felt like this was my calling, but I felt I was missing something. I never looked for other people to validate me, especially me, I got signed to Pharrell out the gate. So I never really felt like, “Oh I need somebody to validate me.” I always knew who I was, but I feel like when it comes to the people sometimes, sometimes they need that, they need that extra to believe like, “No, this is really what it is.” And to me she gave me that. And I’m forever grateful to her. I forever feel grateful [and] indebted to her because she was that missing piece that I needed for the people to really be like, “Oh no, this is really real. Like this is what it is.” It was almost like, “Oh, Rih said it, it got to be true.” You know?
HipHopDX: I agree with that wholeheartedly. Sometimes I don’t know what it is, but until you stand with somebody, then they’re (fans) like, “Oh, this is dope.” When it was there the whole time. But it’s just how the industry works. So, who else were you inspired by musically? It doesn’t have to be rap just in general.
BIA: So growing up, style-wise, I was always inspired by Aaliyah. People used to tell me like, “Oh, your style reminds me of a lot like Aaliyah.” That was what I grew up on and I try to implement that, but I loved Aaliyah. When it comes to rap and flow, I’ve always been heavy on rap. I’m a flow type of person. I love Big Sean’s flow. I love Nicki Minaj. She influenced me a lot. I love Bankroll Fresh. Bankroll Fresh to this day is one of my favorite rappers of all time. People ask me, “Who was my biggest inspiration?” They always think it was Big Sean and I always tell people it was Bankroll Fresh. I’m a real student of rap. I just love rap. I love music. I’m onto shit at least a year or two before it pops.
HipHopDX: I like that you preach unity, especially in rap. It’s not always unified. Why was that important to you?
BIA: I feel like the generation that we’re in right now, it’s really fucking up the youth, and I’m not here to fuck up the youth. I’m here to be honest with the youth. I’m here to be honest with people about … I stand for something. And that’s why I feel like what makes me a lot different than a lot of other artists. I’m not here to sell a gimmick. I’m not here to sell an image or to sell something that I’m not. I’ve been through things, so I feel like if it’s one thing I got to do, I got to be honest with myself. And I got to be honest with the fans and the people about what am I really doing here. And what do I look to accomplish? And if it don’t carry a message for me, it doesn’t inspire me because I’ve seen it all. For me, it has to hit on a higher purpose and it has to carry a message. Everything I do has to have a deeper purpose. So that’s where the unity comes from. It needs to carry something more meaningful.
HipHopDX: Agreed, when the music is like that, it always lasts longer, when you have something that can touch people. As you were saying you’ve been through things, I know you were a part of that unfortunate show in Manchester and that was at a time, which I’m assuming, you can correct me if I’m wrong, where it was a great time of in your career, to be opening for Ariana Grande and it was supposed to be a highlight and then this tragic event happens. How difficult was it to go through that?
BIA: It was difficult more for me to see the pain that it caused on other people, like to see that was what was going on in the world. And that it hits so close to home. I think we hear about stuff like that on the news, but you never ever think that that’s going to happen to you or it’s going to be so close to home. That was definitely an eye-opener for me in terms of I don’t want to add to the negativity in the world. I really understand how short life is and I really understand that you could be here today and gone tomorrow. So try to move with a little bit more compassion and try to move like you mean something, try to add more positivity than negativity because the world is already fucked up.
HipHopDX: Absolutely. Do you have any features coming up on Rich Tiers or any producers that you want to mention yet?
BIA: A lot of my features are people that I’m friends with in real life. I’m not really one of those people that’s like, “Oh I got to get a feature on this.” Because I feel like my music is hard enough with me on it alone. So that’s really how I feel. But I love an organic feature. I love how me and Russ came about, most of my features, they come about like that. If you hear me on a song with somebody, chances are we either linked up or we really cool in real life. And it wasn’t just a play. But as far as producers, I got a lot of my in-houses on my album and I’m really, really excited and proud about that. My boy Aziz (the Shake) and my boy, Lil Rich they are really two of my best friends and from my hometown. They both from Boston and they’re incredible. I’m just happy that I’m in a position to shine light on them too because they’re so incredible.
HipHopDX: What’s the best advice you can give to up and coming artists, whether it’s personal or business?
BIA: My best advice, I say this every time is know the business because so many artists, they want to get famous, they want to make money. If you want to make money, you got to know the business. So that’s my biggest advice. It’s like before you even think about making the music, think about learning the business so that you know what you’re getting yourself into. Then your probability of making something happen is doubled. But if you don’t know the business, and it sounds like common sense, but you’d be surprised how many artists don’t know the business. And that’s why so many of us end up in bad contracts.
Follow BIA on Instagram @bia for more updates on her upcoming projects.