Bebe Rexha Talks Hosting MTV European Music Awards, Bonding With Nicki Minaj & Forthcoming 'A.Y.F.' Album

Olivia Malone
Bebe Rexha photographed in 2016.

After penning tracks for Selena Gomez, Eminem and Iggy Azalea, as well as collaborating with G-Eazy on the Billboard Hot 100 Top 10 hit "Me, Myself, and I," singer-songwriter Bebe Rexha is making waves on her own. Beyond dropping her Nicki Minaj collaboration "No Broken Hearts," the 27-year-old singer-songwriter of Albanian roots will host the MTV European Music Awards (EMA), taking place in Rotterdam, Netherlands on Nov. 6. 

To celebrate her forthcoming role as master of ceremonies, Billboard spoke with Rexha about her first-ever hosting gig, her friendship with EDM crossover gold-spinners The Chainsmokers, and her debut album A.Y.F., finally due at the top of next year. 

When you last spoke with Billboard, you were presenting at the MTV VMAs, and now you’re hosting the MTV EMAs. Congrats! What does this new experience mean to you?

It’s an honor, and it’s exciting, because I grew up watching MTV all my life. Anytime there was an award show, it was a ritual where me and my mom would sit around and watch with my friends. We would make desserts and buy chips and popcorn, and see what our favorite performances of the night were. It was always my dream to be part of MTV and make history.

Along with hosting the show, you’re also nominated for two awards. 

It is kinda surreal and I hope I win. If not, someone is going to get fired. I’m kidding.

It brings a lot of memories, because my friends The Chainsmokers and I grew up together. A lot of people don’t know that we knew each other before we were in the music business, so I’m rooting for them, and hopefully they’re rooting for me. I’m going to enjoy the night and see what happens.

How did you and The Chainsmokers first meet?

We met in the studio. I remember working with Drew [Taggart] for the first time. I had a song I wrote called "I'm Gonna Show You Crazy" that Drew from The Chainsmokers was absolutely in love with. He was originally working on the first production of it. I ended up going with a different producer, but it was a very cool experience. We talked about our futures and what we think will happen, and it’s awesome to see where we're at now.

What are you most looking forward to as host?

What I like about the EMAs is that you will never know what happens. I love the collaborations and the performances, and I just can’t wait to see all of the celebrities, music artists, and my peers having a good time. We also have a couple of fun things up our sleeves.

Whose performance are you most looking forward to?

They announced Shawn Mendes already, and my vocal coach works with Shawn. I just performed at the BBC1 Radio Lounge in London with Martin Garrix, and my vocal coach left me a message with Shawn Mendes. Shawn took over his phone and said, "Bebe, it’s Shawn Mendes, you f--king killed that Live Lounge at BBC 1 London." I ended up FaceTiming them and Shawn was awesome, so I can’t wait to see his performance.

What was it like collaborating with Nicki Minaj? 

Nicki Minaj is a very strong woman who knows exactly what she wants. As an artist, I understand her, and I could see how she could be misunderstood by a lot of people, but she is really passionate about her art and that’s something I really admire about her. When we were on set, there was a scene where she said, "How can we make this scene more epic? Work the camera and the lights differently," and I was like, "Wow, this is a bad bitch."

Anything specific she said that stands out and stays with you?

I saw this video of Nicki Minaj giving little speech backstage about how if women say something in the music business they’re a bitch, and if a guy says something, they’re a boss. I told her that it stood out to me, and she said, "That’s the truth, and you have a very long way ahead of you. If you do it for the art, say things the right way, and stick to your guns, then you’ll be good to go."

Have you planned out what you want to wear to the EMAs?

I’m definitely going to do me, but it’s going to be Bebe 2.0, where I’m definitely going to elevate the fashion and just have fun. I’m going to do some crazy things.

Monday was Eminem’s birthday, and I know you co-wrote his song "Monster." What does Eminem’s music mean to you? Would you like to collaborate with him again?

One thing I really like about Eminem and his music is that he’s always been very real, which is something I want to embody as a female. As a female, sometimes it’s hard when you come off as too tough, where people tell me I need to be more feminine.

When I look at somebody like Eminem, he says what he wants, and you can’t get any more real than his lyrics, where he talks about his mom, his drug problem, his fame, and his daughter. I love that about him and I think that every artist should strive to be that real and raw, so happy birthday to you Eminem, for being a f---ing badass. I would absolutely love to collaborate with him, although I never met him.

What can you tease about your debut album A.Y.F.?

I can’t tell you what A.Y.F. stands for yet, but the album is rhythmic, pop, and electronic-influenced. Ty Dolla $ign, G-Eazy, and Nicki Minaj are on the album. When the [full] album title is released, I think it’ll make a lot more sense, but it comes from a place of heartbreak, victimizing myself and being so angry with my ex-boyfriend for breaking my heart with a text message. And then it kind of transitions into this lighter world where I can run my world and make myself happy, and I refuse to be this bitter person. There’s this song called "Bad Bitch," and I become a strong woman.