STASHED Chats: i am OTHER Artist Bia on “Knock on Wood,” Pharrell’s Influence, and More

BIA

Bia once lived a comfortable life in her hometown of Boston, but as soon as she took a real shot at success, that all changed. After meeting her current manager, Fam-Lay, through a mutual friend, it didn’t take long for the rapper’s career to take flight—literally. Within a short while, she was on a plane to meet Pharrell Williams, who later signed her to his i am OTHER imprint.

While Bia’s story might translate to every up and coming artist’s dream, she’ll be the first to assure you that her journey was just as  daunting as the next. “My first apartment didn’t come through. I faced sleeping on couches and floors—mattresses on the floor. You probably wouldn’t think I would be gritty enough to go do that, but I did,” she told STASHED. “I took the move from Boston to Miami just to learn as much as I could under Pharrell, Shae (co-manager), and Fam.”

It’s not every day that a person is willing to risk it all for the unknown. Back home, Bia was in a relationship, working a decent job, and living in a condo. But when the right opportunity arrived, she didn’t hesitate to pack and relocate. “They put me in a position where I could focus, but in order to focus like that, I had to make those sacrifices,”she insisted. Luckily, it all worked out.

Bia unleashed a mixtape titled #CHOLASEASON in 2014. It takes just one listen for this debut effort’s diversity to impress. She glides over the Pharrell-assisted “Chain Swang,” crushes the R&B-influenced “Weekend in Vegas,” and completely plays it cool on “Class of 2112,” never once compromising on her lyrical prowess. With just 15 tracks, she shows her ability to flex over complex production from the likes of Pharrell, Crystal Caines, ILLA and more.

Photo Credit: @PericoPrincess

Photo Credit: @PericoPrincess

“I can see the growth. I look back and I’m like ‘Oh, I can do this a little bit better,’” she admitted. But when it comes to her progress, Bia isn’t the only one paying attention. While she takes what she’s learned from past songs and applies it to new ones, it’s Pharrell who’s helping her evolve into a multifaceted artist. “I didn’t know I could sing until he threw auto-tune on. That was something so new for me,” she recalled.

His direction, and her overall artist development, are clear as day on Bia’s upcoming project, Knock on Wood. She uses the space to give listeners a better look at who she is a person, and really hone in on her sound.

To build anticipation, Bia led her rollout with one of her hardest tracks to date, “Bobby Brown.” While Christian Rich’s enticing production, which includes a sample of Future’s “Sh!t,” houses some of Bia’s coldest rhymes, its style wasn’t the easiest for her to tackle head on. “I sat on it for a little while, and I ended up getting inspired. One day, I went right back to it and it was high energy. I was in that type of mood,” she said.

As someone who prides herself on diversity, she makes sure her songs include something for everyone. “The feeling will just take you there, but you really have to listen to catch the bars,” she warned. It’s a style reminiscent to  Pharrell who is also one of Bia’s biggest inspirations. “Often I hear people go to him and say, ‘Make another “Grindin’,” make another this or make another that.’ But what they don’t understand is that he made that tons of years ago. He was so ahead of his time.” And that’s a pace she’s familiar with.

With Knock on Wood due out in late March, fans will be glad to know that her follow-up project is already in the works. “[It’s] a free tape that’s primarily samples, all types of samples,” Bia revealed. “There are new samples, old samples—like we took an old, old Omarion song from his first album and chopped the heck out of it [laughs].”

Despite constant studio sessions, Bia’s affinity for music doesn’t stop at her own. She eagerly discussed her thoughts on today’s hottest arists—Fetty Wap, Drake, and Kendrick Lamar—and had no problem letting STASHED in on her current playlist. “I listen to Bankroll Fresh. He’s probably my favorite rapper right now,” she revealed. “His wordplay is really kind of sick, and he doesn’t sound like your average rapper from Atlanta.”

If Bia’s past work has taught us anything, her reasons for being drawn to a unique sound isn’t surprising. It’s her own that’s helped launch her towards success. “I just want to bring looks back home always to show people that it’s not always what you think,” she said. “I thank God so much because I don’t have to be here.”

Stayed tuned for Bia’s “Whip It.” Fans can catch exclusive photos from the video shoot here.


Photo Credit: Greene Films

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Danitha Jones

Danitha Jones is a former online editor at The Source. Over the years, she's penned stories covering everything from news and music to lifestyle and beauty. You’re likely to spot this Brooklyn native enjoying one of her favorite things—a good book, ratchet music, Netflix—or clapping for the latest tastemakers who are taking the industry by storm.