If you take a peek at BIA’s Instagram page and stroll over to her bio section, you’ll see “Psalm 23” sitting in plain sight. At the start of our interview, she doesn’t hesitate to unpack its significance and explains why she’s so deeply rooted in spirituality.
“‘The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want,'” she says. “To sum it up in my own words, it’s like whatever God wants me to have, I’ll have. I try not to be greedy or anything like that. I don’t want anything that God doesn’t want for me. So I try not to put no expectations on what I want out of life — I just do my best.”
BIA’s best has allowed her to have a breakout year in 2021. After earning her first Hot 100 entry in 2020 with Russ’ “Best on Earth,” BIA somersaulted her way into the top 20 this year with her Nicki Minaj-assisted remix “Whole Lotta Money.” The braggadocious record is more than just a modest flex about wearing jewelry while on a store run to the bodega. For BIA, having her rap idol by her side made her newest feat that much more fruitful.
“I always say to people, when you speak of Nicki, you got to speak on her like how you speak on Jay-Z and the greats that laid out the foundation for the people that’s after them,” says BIA. “She broke amazing records and she’s made it easier for people like me to come through and do what we do. I’m always going to give her that credit and that respect because she helped me hit another milestone in my career.”
That achievement has opened up the floodgates for BIA, who is currently touring with Don Toliver and performed for Rihanna’s Savage X Fenty Show Vol. 3 last month. While on the road, BIA spoke to Billboard about her latest success, releasing her For Certain Deluxe project, accepting constructive criticism and her feelings on doing reality TV.
With you being in the industry, how have you managed to stay grounded and rooted in your faith as you continue to gain more popularity?
It’s exactly that. I just pray a lot. I pray all the time even like even four, five times a day and that’s to say thank you or just to bring my mood back to where it should be ’cause I feel like as an artist you give so much of yourself in the music, you give so much of yourself to the fans and the shows, that you gotta always be on your A-game. That can sometimes drain you emotionally or take from you spiritually if you’re not aligned or in-tune with your message. I just always try to remember what I’m doing it for and who I’m doing it for.
You’ve been able to tap in and go viral on social media with some of your records like “Cover Girl,” “Whole Lotta Money,” and Russ’ “Best on Earth.” Why do you think you’ve been able to succeed in that realm?
I think when it comes to social media, I try to maintain a healthy balance between giving myself [away] and not giving too much. I think my fans that know me, they’ll follow me, they’ll see a lot from me and they’ll see what I want them to see. Sometimes, I’ll get more personal with them on different apps and outlets, but for the most part, they gotta really know me to know what’s going on. I feel like it forces them [to see what I’m doing.] You can’t just go on my stories every day and see what’s going on with BIA. That’s important because I don’t want it to be that.
I’m not trying to go viral every day, I’m just trying to be my best version of me and aid society the best way I can. I can’t really do that if I’m just doing foolishness online all day.
Talk about that full-circle moment when Rihanna first shouted out the “Best on Earth” record to you performing “Cover Girl” at her Savage X Fenty show last month.
This is like one of my favorite moments of my whole career and my whole life. It’s absolutely a full-circle moment. I love Russ. He’s such a great friend of mine and I love Rihanna so much. She’s so top-tier of absolute taste level. For her to embrace my music and to also shine light on me as an artist, it’s just the biggest dream. I just love her, I’m so grateful.
I remember watching you on Sisterhood of Hip-Hop, bobbing and weaving your way through the industry as a young artist. Do you have any regrets doing the show or is there anything you would do differently looking back?
Hmmm. That’s a great question. I don’t think I would have done anything differently because I was really learning and going. I was really living my career in front of the world. I learned everything in front of the world. So I think that’s why it’s making my come-up story so beautiful to so many people because they saw me really navigate through that tough time. A lot of people relate to that moment where you’re just trying to figure it out. I don’t think I’d really change anything. I think it made me a lot of who I am in terms of humility and work ethic. I’m grateful for that.
Do you get weirded out when people try to identify you as a rookie or rising artist knowing that you’ve been doing music for some time now?
I don’t think it makes me feel weird. I think some people are really finding out about me for the first time and I’m still learning that even though I’ve been doing this for so many years, there’s still people that are just finding out who is BIA today. I’m meeting them along the way and educating people by letting them know like, “Hey guys, I got other songs you might like too. Some older songs, some newer songs that’s coming out.” I think it’s all going according to schedule.
You’ve always been able to show off your Latin side by doing records with J Balvin on “Safari” and even your own song “Besito” with G Herbo. Do you feel that you have a responsibility to the Latin community to rep your Puerto Rican side as much as you rep your Black side on the hip-hop front?
I feel like with me, just in general, I’m just big on culture. I love culture. I love my culture, I love different cultures, [and] I love being able to bring different people together through music, you know? I don’t look at it as only a responsibility, I just look at it as who I am. I’m also just going to find a cool way to do that where it feels organic and authentic to not only me, but to people that are like me, who are bilingual, but still struggle with Spanish. It’s OK, you can keep learning.
I’m expecting more records like that where you flip it and rap in different languages.
I like to flip it. It’s fun to just experiment with languages and different things with music. I’m finding a new sound in it that I’m not hearing a lot of people do, so it’s fun.
Do you remember the first time you tried rapping Spanish on a record? How did it sound on wax versus when you’re having a regular conversation with a friend or family member?
What makes it easier for me with the music is I don’t have to create a sentence that makes perfect Spanish sense. Like speaking in a conversation, it has to sound eloquent, but if you’re rapping on a verse, I can speak half in Spanish and the other half in English and that’ll still be fly. When you’re in conversation, though, that might not be cool to do.
You have a lot of been getting a lot of attention from your male peers like a Drake or Meek Mill just off the strength of your beauty. How are you able to stay so focus and not distracted by men shooting their shots at you, especially with you being in a relationship?
I don’t look at it like that, man. I look at it like I’m just having a moment and people are showing me love or praising me for this moment. I look at it like I’m grateful for it. I don’t think nothing of it. I got a mission and I’m on it. Nobody else really has nothing to do with it. [Laughs]
Your BET Hip-Hop Awards wasn’t your best because you lacked the energy level fans were looking for, but later, you went on social media and embraced the constructive criticism dished your way. How have you been able to accept criticism without taking things personally?
I think when you wanna be great, you have to accept criticism. Nobody really sees the behind-the-scenes of awards shows or rehearsals or all the things that make up those beautiful events that we love to watch on TV. So I don’t blame anybody for their criticism. I take it with a grain of salt and I say, “OK cool. Catch me next time at my live show,” then you make your decision, but I don’t take anything too personal in this [game]. I feel like I’m just trying to grow and be better. I think that’s how you should be.
One thing about me…
I’m always gonna stay grateful, and perfect my craft. Thanks for the constructive criticism! I take it all in and come back harder next time
— BIA (@BIABIA) October 6, 2021
It’s crazy because I saw you touring with Don Toliver in your hometown of Boston and you had a whole mosh-pit going on [Laughs].
I love a good live show. One of my favorite performers is Travis [Scott], so I love to just give crazy, high-energy shows. I feel like award shows are different from tour shows. If you like an artist, definitely buy their ticket, and go see them live because it’s a different feel.
What has touring been like with you raging with Don?
Tour has been so fun. It’s so amazing. I love Don’s music, so it’s double the fun being able to tour with somebody where you’re a fan of their music, but also get to test out my new music because I have the For Certain Deluxe [out]. I’ve been playing certain songs and seeing what people been going crazy over, playing “Besito” and having so much fun.”
What are you most excited about with the For Certain Deluxe?
Oh my God. I’m so, so excited. There’s so many different colors of me on the deluxe. I say colors because I’m touching different stuff on the spectrum. I got this song called “Motionless” and it’s so different from anything I’ve ever put out. It’s kind of like a diary kind of a song. It’s so emotional. I feel like so many people never seen that rap side of me. I’m excited for this song, “Can’t Touch This.” Oh my God. So good!
Before we go, finish off this sentence for me, “For certain, in five years, BIA will be…?
For certain, in five years, BIA will be world touring, [and] an iconic legend.