The Break Presents: Bri Steves
Philly's hip-hop scene is no longer just a battleground for the world's most vicious spitters. In 2016, Lil Uzi Vert—rap's biggest rockstar—graced the XXL Freshman cover; a year later, crooner PnB Rock repped their hometown for the 2017 class. Then of course there's Meek Mill, who remains triumphant despite a few wins and losses over the years, breaking barriers as a criminal justice advocate in recent times. It's clear the City of Brotherly Love has reclaimed its spot in the game, yet appears to be more inviting these days. With their sisters, too.
Bri Steves is the latest female rap artist to come out of Philly since Tierra Whack and Eve. During her high school days in Delaware, Bri gained the respect of her male peers when she spit over Big Pun's "Twinz (Deep Cover '98)," and again when she dropped 2016's "Summer's Mine," a womanly take on the DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince seasonal classic, "Summertime."
“I had a fashion internship that I was supposed to do in the summer, and I actually got booked for a show in Philly somewhere," the 23-year-old spitta remembers. It was then that she began hitting the studio more often, teaching herself more about the equipment and ultimately buying her own with $3,000 that she originally saved for a car. “I called the internship place and was like ‘No, I’m not coming.'"
After meetings with G.O.O.D. Music, Top Dawg Entertainment and Atlantic Records, the "Jealous" rhymer signed to the latter because she felt "it was the best fit." Craig Kallman, the CEO of Atlantic, was blown away by her modern, edgy take on hip-hop's golden era and angelic vocals, like many. Now the Temple University grad—she holds a Bachelors in public relations after switching out from a Spanish and strategic communications double major—joins the likes of Rico Nasty and Maliibu Miitch on the label. “I’m glad that the industry is accepting women’s voices—we can all win at the same time," she tells XXL. "Times are changing."
Bri Steves has surely come a long way from opening up for Freeway and Dave East. For her not-yet-titled debut project, Bri hints at features by Ty Dolla $ign, Jeremih and Miguel. “The project definitely has a little bit of everything," she says. "It has the melody, it has the bars, it has the super ‘I’m talking my shit’ records, and then it has the super ‘I’m a girl, I’ve been hurt before, nigga why you hurt me? Fuck you [records].’ You’re gonna get everything.”
“The message I want to put out is for women to be unapologetically themselves,” Bri adds. “You can speak about what’s personal and not be ashamed of it.”
Learn more about Philly's new hometown hero in the latest edition of The Break. When you're done, check out her latest #BriMix music video, "Patience"—directed by Chop Mosley—below.
Name: Brianna Stevenson
Hometown: Northeast Philly
I grew up listening to: “I grew up listening to Marvin Gaye, Jill Scott, The Temptations, Faith Evans [and] Mary J. Blige. [In hip-hop] I was listening to Biggie, A Tribe Called Quest and Kanye West.”
My style’s been compared to: “I always get the quick comparison to great legends like Lauryn [Hill], of course, ’cause of the hair. But mostly I’m inspired by people like Missy [Elliott]. Of course Lauryn, Foxy [Brown], Eve. That’s where I take my inspiration from, in terms of female artists.”
Most people don’t know: “I’m really a self-taught everything. I engineer myself, produce myself, write the songs.”
My most slept-on record is: “That’s kinda hard to say, because my records ain’t really out yet. The most recent record is ‘Jealousy'—I just put it out. People, they see it, but it just got out there.”
My standout moment to date: “The biggest moment has to be meeting Kendrick Lamar. Crazy story about him: I was out in L.A. recording over at G.O.O.D Music, and then I got a call from [music executive] Sam Taylor. He was saying ‘Go over and meet K. Dot.’ I’m like, 'Is this really happening?!' So I got to meet him when I was out in L.A and it was just dope. I got to play two songs for him and he loved my energy and my music. And I’m a huge Kendrick fan, so to have somebody like him show me that type of love early on was like... [Smiles]"
“I just distinctly remember him saying—I mean, this is kinda girlish—but I was trying to shake his hand at the end and he was like ‘Nah, give me a hug. I feel like you family.’ I swear to God when I left outta there I was like, 'Yo, I’m not washing, I’m not taking a shower.' I was in the shower like, 'I really don’t wanna wash' because I felt like I got touched by a great. That’s up there for me.”
I’m going to blow up because: “I’m special—I mean, look at me [laughs]. I’m just kidding. I think that I have a lot to offer the industry. I feel like I really care about being a creative, so I have melody, I have bars, I got aggression, I got a vulnerable side. So I really have a little bit of everything to offer and kinda play around, so I think it’s bringing some uniqueness to the game. It’s my own flavor."
My goal in hip-hop is: “To meet the bar. I want to be worthy of the OGs and the legends that have come before me. So you know, you got the Eves, you got the Foxys, you got the Nicki Minajs, the MC Lytes, you know what I mean? I wanna be able to live up to that standard of what has come before me. I wanna do it justice, being a female in the game.”
I’m going to be the next: “Big thing.”
Standouts: "Patience Freestyle (#BriMix)
"Plain Jane (#BriMix)"
"Nice For What (#BriMix)"
"No Limit (#BriMix)"
Check Out the 2018 Hip-Hop Music Festivals You Need to See