Starrah, the Hitmaker Behind Songs From Drake, Rihanna and Nicki Minaj, Is Ready For the Spotlight

Joachim Jonhson
Starrah

Unlike many people who stumble into work on Mondays after a fun-filled weekend, for 26-year-old Brittany Hazzard -- professionally known as Starrah -- those days include working with some of the hottest super-producers and artists of today. Shy and humble, Starrah has emerged over the last year-plus as one of the most sought-after songwriters in pop music; as of early February 2017, songs she's co-written have exceeded 10 million in sales, including Rihanna's "Needed Me," Travi$ Scott & Young Thug's "Pick Up the Phone," The Weeknd's Starboy album cut "True Colors," Drake's recent single "Fake Love" and Nicki Minaj's latest joints "No Frauds" and "Regret in Your Tears."

And Starrah isn’t slowing down anytime soon. On March 28, when Calvin Harris announced his new single featuring Pharrell, Ariana Grande and Young Thug titled "Heatstroke," Starrah was listed in the credits as a writer and background vocalist. On April 4, Halsey released the lead single "Now or Never" off of her new upcoming album hopeless fountain kingdom, which was also co-written by Starrah. Simply put, the hits just keep coming.

So how does one go from being an introverted, unknown writer to one of the most consistent hitmakers in music today?

Years before being one of the most in-demand pens in the game, Starrah grew up as Brittany Hazzard in Delaware, the youngest of eight brothers and sisters, each vibing to their own musical preferences. "I was just listening to whatever they were listening to," she says, referencing the Ruff RydersNelly, the hits on BET and MTV during the late 90s and early 2000s, and eventually gravitating towards The-Dream. Her early interest in music started out casually. "At 14, I just used to write raps with my brother," she notes, adding that she also played the clarinet as a teenager. ("I totally sucked at it.") However, the singer's creativity would blossom in another way. "I used to write poetry and short stories," she explains. "That's kind of what made me want to write and got me into writing." 

While attending Delaware State University in the late 2000s, Hazzard continued writing music in her spare time, and upon graduation moved out to L.A. to work full-time and write on the side. "At that time I was just mainly focusing on writing," she says. "I didn't want to be a rapper. I liked R&B music, personally; rap wasn't the genre I liked at the time." With no previous vocal training or background in music, she initially started singing out of necessity, while creating demos of her songs. "I always sang the songs that I wrote; I didn't know anyone else who could sing," she says. Eventually, she would develop her singing voice on accident. "I thought I was using auto-tune right, but I was actually using it wrong; I never had it turned on. So the whole time I thought I was singing auto-tune for like three years, there was no auto-tune. It was actually just my voice getting better."

On June 17, 2014, Nick Jarjour, a manager at Maverick who had previously worked with Cirkut, reached out to Hazzard via Soundcloud to ask if she wrote a particular song on her page titled “Drank Up.” Around the same time, Hazzard was selling hooks on Instagram for $100. "I used to tell people, 'You should go buy a song from that writer,'" Jarjour remembers. "Her song's going to be worth millions someday." Fascinated by Hazzard’s talent, work ethic and personality, Jarjour offered to manage her.

One of Jarjour’s key connections would lead to Starrah’s first big song placement. “I was working closely with this kid JGramm and he was on the come up at the time,” he says. Starrah and JGramm connected and shortly after started working together. Starrah says of their budding friendship and musical chemistry, “We were both at the same point of our careers. The twilight, I guess, where stuff could go either way. But we knew it was going to be in our favor, and that we would actually do this for real. So we were very creative and just having fun."

The duo eventually came up with the breakout track “Be Real” which would ultimately become a hit for rappers Kid Ink & DeJ Loaf and would find a home on Ink's 2015 album Full Speed. "That was a natural thing," Jarjour says. "[DJ] Mustard heard it, someone else heard it and it was just gone." “Be Real” ended up going platinum, peaking at No. 43 on the Billboard Hot 100. "That was really cool, because it was real," Starrah remembers. "You can say you're going to be a writer, but to me, until I had something that was out, it didn't mean anything." Not long after the success of “Be Real," Starrah would have even bigger hits, as a co-writer on Kevin Gates' "2 Phones" (No. 17 on the Hot 100) and Rihanna’s "Needed Me," which peaked at No. 7 on the Hot 100 chart and received a Grammy nomination for Best R&B Performance.

With all that Starrah has accomplished in such a short time, Jarjour remembers the work. "To write 'Needed Me,' she wrote countless songs for Rihanna," he says. "She’s really working 24/7, writing songs all day, every day." The mutual respect goes both ways; when asked if she has any songwriters or mentors she looks up to, Starrah responds, "I haven't had any mentors, but my manager [Jarjour] has influenced a lot of my views and helped me gain a greater understanding of everything... He's inspirational to me."

 

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Now, Starrah is stepping out from behind the scenes to become an artist in her own right as well. "When you're writing for an artist, you have a set playing field,” she explains. “You know what that artist is going to do. If they do branch out, it's just a small branching out from what they already have going on... With me as an artist, I can do whatever I want to do, which gives me the freedom to create however I want."

That creativity is already readily apparent with her new single and video for "Rush," her most confident stride out into the public eye to date. "I feel like I'm living my dreams," she says about the trajectory of her career. "I don't think I've ever been in a place where I could say that. But honestly, truly I'm probably working with the best people right now. They're so talented and inspiring, it's just beautiful."