PHOTOGRAPHED BY GABE GARZA
PHOTOGRAPHED BY GABE GARZA
“I’m in the middle of nowhere,” says BIA (@bia) while on tour with Don Toliver, at a stop somewhere near Houston. “This month, it’s been so crazy, back-to-back dates—it’s definitely been the craziest tour I’ve ever been on, but so much fun at the same time.”
The artist has been on quite the ride. Her single “Whole Lotta Money” just got certified platinum and she released a new deluxe version of her debut EP, For Certain, with six new tracks.
But don’t call BIA a newcomer: She’s been rapping for nearly a decade. The hit-maker has collaborated with rapper Russ on their single, “Best on Earth,” but first made her big leap into the limelight by joining forces with Pharrell Williams and Latin superstar J Balvin on the chart-topping single “Safari.”
“I went to the studio one day and [Pharrell] was recording with J Balvin, and he’s like, ‘Put a verse on this,’ and I tried, and it stayed— that was such an amazing milestone in my career,” she says.
The Spanglish song was the perfect track for BIA—who is half Italian and half Puerto Rican—to turn heads. “I came from different cultures. I was one of those kids that always stayed at my family’s house, my cousin’s house, my friend’s house, so I was always immersed in so many different cultures. I feel like that really reads through my music,” she says. “For me, growing up I didn’t really always understand the difference between race and ethnicity. That was something that I learned later in life.” She says one of the difficult things about being mixed race is figuring out what she identifies with.
"Don't feel like you have to fit into one box ore one thing. It's OK to embrace all the different sides of you."
“Everybody’s story is a little different, so everyone learns their own culture differently and learns other cultures differently,” she says. The Boston native who also grew up in New York says she’s one of those people who soaks up her culture. Her authenticity is one of the many factors that have drawn her massive fan base, which spans an audience who likes rap and Latin music. “I found a way to put [Spanish] into my music, organically, in a way that felt authentic to me,” she adds. “I wanted to speak to the people that felt like me.”
And her advice to the mixed kids who may be looking up to her is just that: “Stay true to yourself and stay authentic,” she says. “Don’t feel like you have to fit into one box or one thing. It’s OK to embrace all the different sides of you—just acknowledge where you come from.”
The rapper, whose lyrics are inspired by her own life, also says her goal is to find a way to “bridge people together” through music. “It might be Spanish,” she says of her Spanglish songs such as her latest single, “Besito” featuring G Herbo. “But everybody knows what I’m saying. I found a way to be clever with words, and wherever I can throw Spanish in the mix, and be clever, it’s exciting to me.”
Styled by Grace Butler Hair by Kieanna McBeth Makeup by Amber Perry. PHOTOGRAPHED BY GABE GARZA
Her desire to bring people together includes her fans. Being unable to perform during the pandemic didn’t stop BIA, who is a millennial. She turned to social media, specifically, TikTok, as a creative outlet and to connect with her fans. “Social media is forever changing,” she says. “TikTok is a safe space where people can go to express themselves, and I love that because that’s where people can go to be creative, and if they happen to stumble upon my music at the same time, that’s a win for both of us.”
Though what makes her stand out from other female rappers is her Spanglish flow; it’s her message of female empowerment that sits at the center of her career. She’s toured with Ariana Grande and collaborated with Nicki Minaj, one of the female artists she’s looked up to, on “Whole Lotta Money.” This year, she also opened Rihanna’s Savage X Fenty Show, Vol. 3. When asked about these friendships she’s foraged with such powerhouse women in the industry, she says, “They’re so important to me, for real. They open the doors for us and they set the bar, and to have them just embrace me and open more doors and support [me], it’s just unreal. It’s like a dream come true.”
The common bond between these three women she’s had the pleasure of working alongside was very simple for BIA to explain. “I’ve noticed one thing about all of them. They’re extremely self-sufficient and boss women, like the epitome of boss. They are the boss bitch,” she adds. “One thing I’ve learned from all of them is that it’s OK to be a boss and don’t feel bad about that—go in and take what’s yours.”
As if writing music and performing weren’t keeping her busy enough, BIA, who is a big fan of doing her own intricate nail art, plans to take a page out of Rihanna’s entrepreneurial book and launch a beauty line as well as take a “dip into the fashion world.”
With so much going on, being a boss can be overwhelming. To stay grounded the artist turns to her spiritual side. “I pray a lot,” she says. “You have to when you’re constantly mixing energies with so many different people and giving so much of your energy. That’s how I stay grounded, [in addition to] keeping good people around me.”
See BIA perform Dec. 10 at the Rolling Loud festival (rollingloud.com) in her newly adopted hometown of L.A.