First Look Friday: You Can't Stop The Indomitable Will Of Bri Steves
Bri Steves photographed by Kenneth St. George (Visuals by KSG) for Okayplayer.
Philadelphia is a legendary hub for hip-hop luminaries such as Beanie Siegel, Schoolly D and Ms. Jade to name a few. Building upon that legacy is the one, the only Bri Steves, who has declared for all to hear that she is on a mission. Born Brianna Stevenson, this Temple University alumna has captivated the City of Brotherly Love with her sincere vocals, strong songwriting and her “in-the-trenches” persona in pushing another black renaissance. Why, you ask? Well, it is part of the mission to be a force of confidence and beauty for young black-and-brown girls who see Bri Steves as an example of greatness.
Personified by her drive, her creativity and her hustle, Bri Steves will not let anything or anyone stop her from expressing herself to the masses. Add to the mix that she’s all about putting on for the people and Bri Steves, a co-founder of Black Diamonds Union and a member of the National Council for Negro Women, is a stellar example to have in one’s life whether she’s on or off the mic. Fresh from head to toe, there isn’t anywhere you could go in Philly that doesn’t have Bri Steves’ name ringing out. She’s more than the next big thing out of the area, she an important figure in helping to develop the voices of the future generations of female MCs and creatives.
A self-made, empowered force to be reckoned with — Bri Steves is a walking, talking story of accomplishment. As this week’s First Look Friday subject, we were fortunate enough to talk with her about her Philly roots, how she overcame obstacles to find success, why bad relationships fueled her fire ass pen game and also debut a new freestyle video set to Young M.A.‘s “OOOUUU” song. So, sit back, press play and get familiar as Bri Steves is a talent that is set to outshine the competition in a major way.
Okayplayer: To music snobs the world over, you are making an impact. What is it that those in Philadelphia are seeing and hearing that the rest of the world has yet to discover?
Bri Steves: I think they are seeing what I can represent more than anything. A female MC from Philly at the top hasn’t been done in a while, and that lane is wide open for me. I’m just next up! The rest of the world has yet to discover a new rising champ from Philly—a young black girl at that. You have Lil’ Uzi [Vert] and Meek [Mill] putting on for Philly to the rest of the world in the rap game, but Philly needs a First Lady and I think that someone is me.
OKP: For those who have a passion for music, they honed their skills and practiced their craft. Who are your most cherished influences in music and why?
BS: I started rapping because of Biggie, Big L and Camp Lo. I admire the storytelling of J. Cole, the complexity of Kendrick Lamar and the wordplay of Drake. As far as creativity, I always go back and listen to favorite albums of mine from Kanye West, Pharrell, Marvin Gaye, Faith Evans, Lauryn Hill and Amerie. My mom raised me on different eras of music, primarily oldies. There wasn’t a genre she didn’t touch on beside country music, honestly.
OKP: Your song, “Persian Rugs” is extremely dope and has heightened anticipation for new work from you by music snobs who have a heavy presence in the industry. Can you talk about how life was for you while developing as an artist? How did you react to your first bits of press?
BS: Developing as an artist was a difficult time for me. The more I exposed myself to higher level situations, whether it be around great songwriters, producers, engineers or artists, it was a jab each time to get better. When I was around people that could do things better than me, I was embarrassed, and it hurt a lot. But I kept going at it. To this day, I am still developing as an artist, and it isn’t easy to keep trying to get better. Growing pains suck. When I received my first bit of press, I actually cried. I sacrificed money, sleep, friends, job and internship offers to pursue music. After I was featured in The Fader and on HipHopDX, it took DJ Jazzy Jeff‘s co-sign for me to be like, ‘Wow, okay, I must have something special here.’ I remember when I would do music and it wouldn’t be great to anyone but me. It feels almost surreal having others feel the same.
OKP: With incidents involving people of color, police and racist occurring almost on a daily basis — how can your music (and/or others) help to relieve the trauma that is being experienced by the masses?