One night in 2021, Muni Long was washing the dishes and helped pass the time by searching “R&B-type beat” on YouTube. She stumbled upon a swoon-worthy, bass-thumping production made by Dylan Graham and Ralph Tiller that was ripe for an R&B ballad — and she decided on a whim to deliver one.
“The first verse came really quick,” Long recalls. “I wiped my hands and started typing out the lyrics. It took maybe 20 minutes.” The next day, she headed to the studio with songwriter Kuk Harrell (Beyoncé, Rihanna) and cut what would become her breakout hit, “Hrs and Hrs.”
A sumptuous, scrupulous ode to a love that stands the test of time, “Hrs and Hrs” was released in November as a last-minute addition to Public Displays of Affection, the final of three dreamy R&B EPs Long independently released on her Supergiant Records label over the course of a year. (Supergiant is led by co-founder/co-manager Rashad Tyler, co-manager Chris Anokute, co-founder/CFO and Long’s husband Raysean Hairston, publicist Austin Thach, and JR McKee and Drew de Leon of distribution firm MPR Global Distribution, LLC.) By the beginning of 2022, the song had entered multiple Billboard charts thanks to an unintentional TikTok boost.
At the end of last year, Long’s friend Bre-Z (who plays Coop on The CW’s All American) and Bre-Z’s fiancé Chris Amore (who did Long’s makeup for the PDA album art) shared a romantic video documenting their relationship online, soundtracked by “Hrs and Hrs,” which Long posted on her TikTok weeks later. It quickly ignited the #HrsandHrsChallenge within the LGBTQ+ community, and has since garnered over four million views. “Lesbian TikTok took and owned it because they thought it said ‘Hers and Hers,’” Long remembers. “It turned into a thing where a lot of lesbian and nonbinary couples were making their videos and sending them to me, so I started posting those. It turned into cis[gender] couples, then it turned into a dance challenge, and then it became #HrsandHrsKaraoke. I was like, ‘OK, this isn’t going to stop.’”
She says her team “capitalized on the momentum,” with Anokute noting how TikTok has leveled the playing field for the “biggest stars in the planet and independent artists” like Long. But she underlines that her only strategy was staying active with fans on social media, and creating a level of intimacy that was reciprocated. In January, Long earned her first Hot 100-charting song as a lead artist when “Hrs and Hrs” debuted at No. 83. She eventually topped Billboard’s Emerging Artists chart thanks to the song, which has collected 54.5 million U.S. streams to date, according to MRC Data. “Hrs and Hrs” has since vaulted to No. 16 on the Hot 100, and stayed atop R&B Streaming Songs for a third week on charts dated Jan. 29.
It wasn’t Muni Long’s first taste of virality. The singer-songwriter, who previously performed under her real name Priscilla Renea, first went viral on YouTube in the late 2000s by singing words from the dictionary over Fergie’s “Glamorous,” and again with an acoustic cover of Drake’s “Best I Ever Had.” In 2008, she landed her first record deal with Virgin Records, which released her 2009 debut album Jukebox, led by the Benny Blanco-produced “Dollhouse.” But Anokute, who signed the singer while also launching Katy Perry, says the album “was not well-received” because “Black artists didn’t go to top 40 radio out the gate.” Anokute left the label in 2011, and three years later, Capitol dropped Long — forcing her to pivot to a career as a songwriter.
Despite having to put her solo career on pause, the Vero Beach, Fla. native had been songwriting since she was eight. “I was just making up songs or I’d be in the car, changing the lyrics to the songs on the radio,” she says. Two decades later, Long was co-writing some of the biggest songs on the radio, including Pitbull and Kesha’s three-week Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 “Timber,” Fifth Harmony and Kid Ink’s “Worth It” and Chris Brown’s “Don’t Wake Me Up.” All the while, she worked on reinventing herself, though her own pop and country albums failed to take off and didn’t fully showcase her range.
She says the spoken-word intro of “Hrs and Hrs” — “I don’t usually do this but, can I sing to you?” — was her way of being “silly,” but it thoroughly captures her fight to reenter, and be heard, in the business. Tyler believes the song isn’t just R&B — a genre Long hesitated to start in, “because she felt like it would keep her in a box,” he explains. “Her pop sensibilities show up in that record. Her understanding of how to construct songs from her own hit catalog is at play. That’s the reason it’s resonated across so many different boundaries.”
As she finishes her next project and has an eye on award show performances, she’s sifting through numerous collaboration requests — including some from artists she’s written for. Long keeps mum about their names, but she doesn’t conceal her appreciation for their support all these decades in an industry that rarely showed her some.
“I felt like I was driving Uber in a Lamborghini — I could never go fast or in any direction that I wanted to go, so I felt like I wasn’t being used at my full capacity,” Long reflects. “Now, it’s all about freedom for me. No limitations.”