'Love & Hip Hop Hollywood' Star La'Britney Talks Bringing Back Detroit R&B, Premieres New Video 'Never Fold'

LaBritney - Never Fold
Courtesy Photo

LaBritney, "Never Fold"

Sitting at the end of a large conference table at the Billboard offices, up-and-coming R&B singer La'Britney texts away, while her team of publicists follow suit. She’s in New York for a press run for her recently released EP Never Fold but she’s keeping an eye on her many ventures in Los Angeles and Detroit. The Detroit-bred recording artist is also a dancer, activist, and business partner.

You may have seen La'Britney on social media through her “LaMix” videos or, more recently, chasing her music dreams on season five of Mona Scott-Young’s Love & Hip Hop Hollywood edition. Music and entertainment have been long-time passions for the singer, as artists like Aaliyah and Beyoncé have been major inspirations. To further her career in both fields, La'Britney moved to Los Angeles telling Billboard, “I knew this is where I wanted to be. Just being in California and going out there, I feel different.”

The move required her to leave her biggest motivations back home in Detroit. La'Britney’s two sons, 11-year-old Russell and 15-year-old Alontae, push the “Actin’ Funny” singer to follow her dreams. “They are my biggest inspiration,” La'Britney says of her family. “When they're not around me I have to find inspiration in other things because they aren't there with me.”

The inspiration from her family and the hustler's mindset she developed as a teenager, when she made money braiding hair and sewing clothes, has earned La'Britney another notch in her belt in the form of her recent EP, Never Fold. The seven-track project continues to the story La'Britney first began on her debut EP LaVintage. "Where I come from," she says, "it's easy to quit and give up. But you can’t fold, regardless of the roadblocks. They're just detours."

Billboard spoke to La'Britney about her EP Never Fold, finding inspiration in the City of Angels, starring in Love & Hip Hop Hollywood, and inspiring young women to be entrepreneurs.

With your hands on so many projects, where did you develop your hustle?

Where I come from. In Detroit, we have to really make our own little world and get ours. I became a mother when I was 14 years old and I've been hustling since I was kid. I wasn't old enough to get a job so I would braid everybody's hair in my hood to make money and pay for my son's daycare so I could go to high school. From there on, I been hustling ever since. I'm a hustler by nature.

What made you want to go out to L.A. and not another music hub, like New York or Atlanta?

My first time in California was when I was in a girl group and we did a showcase at CenterStaging in Burbank. I met Michael Jackson, since he was preparing and rehearsing for his This Is It Tour at the same place. I love New York and the hustle here, but it's something about Cali that I love. I love the sun, blue skies -- my selfies look different out there. I like it.

You’ve mentioned in previous interviews that you felt you were pigeonholed as a social media girl because of La'Mixes. Do you feel the same with Love & Hip Hop, due to that show's reputation?

The good thing about me is that I already had my fanbase, La'Nation, way before Love & Hip Hop. So when they found out I was doing the show, even they were like 'No, La'Britney what are you doing? This isn't you.' But what I had to show La’Nation and all my people who watch me is that no matter what I'm doing or where I go, I'm going to always be myself.

I'm a woman with self-respect. My mother instilled morals that my sister and I live by every day. Music is my first passion, so if you watch Love & Hip Hop you'll see in my first season my storyline was literally my real life. I'm from Detroit and moved to Hollywood to pursue music. I was getting to know the Hollywood streets, trying to get people to hear my music. I was able to bring my family on to the show and talk about that transition.

Were there any fears joining the roster for L.A. given how many people thirst for the drama on the show?

Yeah, a couple of my fears were them putting me in a crazy position where I have to act crazy, because I'm a really nice person and I don't start any shit, but I will finish it. We don't play around in Detroit. I didn't want to be in a situation where I had to do something that was crazy and out of my character for survival because that's what that TV show is. They'll put you in positions where it's like survival mode. So every day I would go on set and be kind of nervous because you really don't know what to expect.

Do you feel the drama that fuels the show will affect your career?

I think people were looking at that. People in the industry who were already looking at me before I got on the show were looking to see how I maneuvered. They see me on the show and it's like now they can't attach themselves to me because they don't know what's going to happen. The music industry looks at Love & Hip Hop like it's a joke. Most of the people on the show are considered has-beens or they're not really doing music. But as I said, I had an amazing season.

I performed like four times on the show. I had like four or five of my songs placed on the show. I appreciate Mona Scott-Young and the production company for allowing me to be able to use that platform and showcase my music and my talent. Yeah, I did have to get a little ra ra, but at the same, people were like, ‘It’s La'Britney, the music artist who did the ra ra ra’ [Laughs].

What does it mean to be one of the women to come out of Detroit as an R&B artist?

It's really an amazing feeling. The city supports me and roots for me so much. I did Sway in the Morning and people from Detroit called into the show because that's how much they ride for me. I'm the only artist like me out of Detroit. There's no other artist like me since Aaliyah. I can't wait to be able to just like bring home Grammys and the BET Awards for the city. We deserve it. We need another woman of R&B and pop out of Detroit. We haven't had it. We have a lot of rappers, a lot of female rappers, but when it comes to popular R&B artists, I'm that for Detroit. I want to take it all the way for us.

What’s the story behind the driver’s licenses on the cover of the EP?

It’s my favorite part about the project. Since I was like 16 years old I always struggled with keeping my license. My license has been suspended damn near my whole life. So the ID picture where I'm smiling, that's when I was finally able to get my license. The other picture where I was pissed, it was me taking another ID picture. When I finally got it I was so happy. I didn't fold or let the system keep me down. Where I'm from almost everyone has a suspended license. I'm legally driving now, I never folded.

What did you do differently with this EP?

On La'Vintage there are a lot of commercial, pop-type records. On Never Fold, I got more into a trap, hip-hop-type bag. What I'm talking about on those songs are personal things, like my family, not having a home, not knowing what was next for me, and almost giving up on this music thing because it gets tough. I wrote those songs during a time of my life where I was just lost and had nothing to turn to but music. I locked myself in the studio and really wrote my feelings.

What made the trap soundscape the perfect one for those thoughts?

The music scene in Detroit is mostly urban rap and one of my biggest struggles being in Detroit was finding a way to be successful as a singer who likes to sing R&B-pop records without having a major label pushing and putting the money behind me. There wasn't really a lane for me in Detroit. I felt stuck. So I decided to conform to what the sound is in Detroit musically. It's still who I am. I still love this kind of music. It allowed me to send my music to the urban DJs and they could play my songs after Sada Baby and before Peezy's, you know what I'm saying?

What inspired the visuals for “Never Fold?”

Being that the song is so blunt and straight forward, I wanted to create a balance in the visual by showing a very feminine, sensual yet raw performance. Real hair, minimal makeup, simple style, raw emotions, and dancing. This is everyday La’Britney showcasing natural performance ability.

Watching the video, there were some Janet Jackson, Beyoncé, and Rihanna dance-number vibes. How important is it to you to channel those artists that came before you?

I grew up literally studying and mimicking all three of those artists: my idols. The performance aspect of their visuals is what attracts me to them. So to be able to translate what I’ve learned from them into my own visuals makes it even better.

What is the When Beauty Meets Brain movement, and what's the lipstick line that you have out?

When Beauty Meets Brain pretty much consists of everything that women love, from fashion to beauty tips to just motivation and inspiration. The brand is like Oprah's O platform, where I feel it's everything women look to. I remember learning how to do my own makeup, doing hair, and sewing clothes. I’ve always loved that, so I put all of those things into When Beauty Meets Brain.

As for the lipstick, it's called Ooh La La. I partnered with another independent black woman, Moor Rich, and we dropped a matte, mocha, nude, liquid lipstick. It's beautiful and the ladies are loving it. I look forward to dropping more beauty products, pushing La'Nation, my clothing line for men and women, and I look forward to building up my foundation that caters to teenage mothers. I'm a woman and I do things that women love and I love to make other women feel good and look good. It makes me feel good to know another woman feels good.