Meet Lil Bri, Houston’s Newest Pride and Joy
Lil Bri has accomplished much in her young career.
She’s participated on multiple music-based TV shows and won the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award presented by former First Lady Michelle Obama.
And at the age of 17, she’s just getting started.
We had the opportunity to connect with Lil Bri and talk about her life growing up in Houston, the advice she received from DJ Khaled, her new album and much more.
Thanks for taking the time to chat with us. To start off, what does a typical day look like for you?
A typical day for me is waking up and saying my prayers. Just thanking God for putting me in the position I’m in. Some days I’ll start off writing and just getting my mind juiced up. If I’m doing an event, I’ll prepare for that.
I’m always trying to work on my craft. I’m never relaxed where I’m just chilling. It’s always finding something to do to better myself as an artist.
You began writing at a very young age. What led you to start rapping?
That’s a good question. Everybody asks me and honestly, I don’t know. I’m into law enforcement and criminal justice, that was the route I wanted to take for my career. I liked to write in school but music and poetry didn’t come along until I was about maybe 12 or 13.
I was in class and just writing constantly about how I felt because I was shy and didn’t express myself. So I just began writing and that eventually turned into rapping.
Was there someone around you that inspired you to start rapping?
No. Honestly, no one in my family raps. We have a couple of singers, but no one in my family was really into music. I went to an after-school program in Houston that taught me how to produce music, make my own beats and learn how to write.
A producer named Bass Heavy taught me the steps on how to make a beat. After I learned how to master beats, he taught me how to write my own music. From there it just took off.
At what point did you think you wanted to do this as a career?
After I mastered how to write music [Heavy Bass] said, “Let’s take this takes it to the next level and try performing.” I was so comfortable performing. Being shy and then being able to get on the stage and let all my emotions out, it was like an alter ego for me. I was able to turn Lil Bri on.
That shy girl disappeared. Once I saw that I could express myself in a much better way, that’s when I took off with it.
How would you describe your style of music?
I would describe myself as a storyteller. Starting with poetry helped. I love to have a vision. I love for people listen to my music, close their eyes and picture what I’m saying and feel or understand where I’m coming from. For me, it’s mostly being a storyteller for real, raw hip-hop. I want to bring back that lyrical style of rap – that’s my main goal.
You’re born and raised in Houston. How has being from Houston shaped you?
A lot. Honestly just the culture: the way we do our cars, talk and the Screw music. The circle is really small, we only have a couple big names that have come out of Houston. All of that has shaped me. Everywhere I go I represent Houston to the fullest.
What do you think of the current rap scene in Houston?
Honestly I feel like the rap scene could be better. There could be a bit more support but we’re just stuck in our ways.
If you come to Houston, you hear the O.G. names like Slim Thug, Paul Wall, Bun B, Pimp C, and so on. But you don’t see them allowing newer and younger artists to come in. They want to keep it like it is. If we could have the OGs and younger people collab, we could be as big as Atlanta or LA.
On your song “Survival of the Fittest,” you illustrate your experience living in Houston. How did that song come to be?
My style of rapping is storytelling. The more things I experience, the more things I see — that’s what starts my writing. I sometimes drive through certain areas and see what people are struggling with and take little notes. I turn all of that into a rap.
You’ve touched on subject matters like homelessness and seem to always include positive messages in your music. Where do you think this comes from?
My mom is always telling me to stand out and be different. “Don’t always try to ride the wave of what everybody is doing,” she says. Adults often preach about doing the right thing or what they went through but we don’t always listen. Being 17, if I put positive stuff in my music and make it in a way they want to listen, I can change a lot of people’s lives.
My buzz has grown from that. Of course I’m going to have fun with my music, but the majority of my music is just real and raw.
You do this on Instagram as well. You like to share insights about your life experiences and give words of encouragement.
I just go from what I’ve experienced and take knowledge from every situation. I’m never not listening. I always have my eyes and ears open, and that’s how my music comes about. I’m glad I can pass a positive message to people my age and even older.
You were recently a participant of Fox’s music competition series The Four with Diddy, DJ Khaled, and Meghan Trainor as judges. Was there a piece of advice you’ve received from any of these artists that stuck with you?
The main one would have to be from DJ Khaled. He’s amazing. A lot of celebrities are sometimes cocky, but he was so humble. He said, “Don’t let anybody tell you that what you’re doing has to be changed for the industry.” A lot of people are talking about a lot of inappropriate stuff and I chose to take a different route.
It may take me longer to get to the top, but I don’t mind because I’m doing something that I love and he really just told me to stick to that and stay grounded. That’s what is going to get where I need to be in the industry.
How have things changed for you since being on The Four?
It changed completely. I started with maybe a couple hundred followers and now I’m at 300 thousand followers or so [on Instagram]. Everybody’s giving me love in the city and showing me so much respect. More people are hitting me for shows, features and events. My fanbase has grown tremendously.
Who would you say are your biggest influences in music?
A lot of female rappers like Queen Latifah and MC Lyte. I also like Tupac and Biggie. One of the newer artists I like is Kevin Gates. I just love rappers who are just real, raw storytellers. That’s where I got my rap style from, all of those artists put together.
Is there an artist you would like to work with in the future?
The artists I would love to work with are definitely Beyonce, Kevin Gates, and T.I.. Back in the day I saw Beyonce collaborate with Slim Thug and a couple of other artists, but I haven’t seen her working with Houston artists recently. There’s so much talent out here. I would love for one day to run into her and make something happen.
Also T.I., that’s another artist I look up to. He’s so real and blunt. He’s never doing anything he’s not. Kevin Gates as well. His story about his life, starting off on drugs and now becoming this big artist. I love just the different chapters of each artist, everybody has been through something and I love the way they tell their stories.
Do you have a particular routine when you are in the process of recording or do you mentally prepare in any way?
The main thing is the speakers have to be loud. I have to hear every drum, every piece of instrument that’s in the beat. That’s my main thing, so I can really feel what I’m doing at that time. And then after I can go in there and let loose. That’s just like me being onstage. Me being behind the mic, I get that same feeling. Long as I’m in my zone, everything typically goes well.
It’s very common nowadays for artists to operate like a brand and dive into other fields. Is there anything else you’d like to pursue or are currently pursuing outside of music?
Definitely want to open up my own store. I want to have a teen club/clothing store. Out here in Houston there’s really nothing for teenagers to do. So by me opening up something for the youth to do, that would be amazing. So we want to start working on that clothing line. I want to get my merchandise out there for my supporters.
I also want to open my own recording studio. So I don’t have to depend on somebody else’s time to record. I could have my own recording studio, my own engineer, and have artists come in and out. That’s a good way to network and have listening parties too. So that’s my main goal outside of just doing music.
You have an album dropping in April. How would you describe the direction of this project?
Right now since I’ve been on The Four and Rap Game, I haven’t been in a situation where I could drop new music. And I’ve been doing it on my own for a while now. So this album is about my growth. It’s going to show me growing into an adult. I’ll be 18. Just being me and holding back.
When I was on the Rap Game, it’s a TV show, so you have to be the way they want you to be. You have to limit yourself. Even when I was on The Four, you don’t get to do everything that you want to do. So now that I’m dropping my album, I’ll be able to show who Lil Bri is. This is her comfort zone, this is who she is as an artist and hopefully people react to it well.
Do you have a name for the album?
Right now we’re still working on a name. It’ll be coming soon, but I’m thinking something that shows growth.
Is there a particular song that stands out for you in the album?
Right now the song that a lot of people are vibing to, I haven’t even released it, is called “Walk in My Shoes.”
A lot of people say, “Oh I can do that” or judge you about situations in your life or things you go through or the way you choose to handle stuff, and by me writing this I’m like, “Ok let me put you in my shoes and walk you through the song and show you what I’ve been through. See if you can actually handle that.” So that song is really good.
Do you have any specific goals for the rest of 2019?
Yes my main goal is to just keep growing as an artist. I don’t want to stop here.
Every year I want something to change. I want to bring in more income and also to start my store. Once my project is out, I want to make sure it’s successful. I also started to feed the homeless this year, so I want to continue to do that and make that a continual goal and get more people in on it.
Long after you’re gone, how do you want people to remember your music?
I want people to remember me as somebody who had a message.
Somebody who wanted everybody to grow and be themselves. Somebody who has continued to stay humble. I talk to my supporters and my fans on Instagram all of the time. People always contact me and message me saying, “Bri, we love what you’re doing and who you are.” A lot of parents say they don’t let their children listen to a lot of other artists but they’re glad there is somebody out there that is putting a positive message out there.
Those kids who listen to my music, they just keep me going. There were multiple times where I wanted to quit, but my supporters always bring me back up. It’ll be a little kid who messages me and says, “Bri you helped me through this.” It’s an amazing feeling.