Bree Runway is here to shake shit up. The London-based artist resents the fact that people assume she makes soul music just because she's a black woman. She states, "Black women in music are always expected to sing R&B or soul: we are always boxed in. I'm always asked if I'm a soul singer and I tell people, 'No, actually, I make very in-your-face, destructive pop that is all genres and everything at once." Her destructive pop sound is accompanied by vivacious visuals for her songs akin to the legendary music videos directed by Hype Williams and Dave Meyers from Busta Rhymes and Missy Elliot in the 1990s.
Runway credits her parents for the eclectic origins of her destructive pop sound. "My dad was the one who put me on the path of loving music, I'm from Ghana so it was through him playing genres like High Life that my interest really sparked. My dad was also a drummer and he would always have music on around the house. She gets her love for Pop acts like Queen and Lady Gaga from her mother and attributes the rest of her influence to watching MTV as a kid. Starting early, Runway learned the basics of music production while she was still in school and shortly after began to make beats and freestyle with friends.
After graduating from school, Runway studied music at university in London. While in school, she worked part-time and saved up enough to build her own DIY home studio to make music. Speaking on that time, Runway shared, "That whole process taught me so much - it built my character and made me a self-sufficient, DIY artist who knew exactly what she wanted in terms of sound, look, aesthetic and style." To this day, Runway is extremely hands-on in all creative aspects of her career including making all her own music, designing all the visuals for her videos, designing her song/album artwork and styling herself. She learned how to be self-sustaining a long time ago and her vision and attention to detail permeates through everything she puts out.
In 2015, Runway released her debut EP RNWY 01. Entirely recorded in her home studio, RNWY 01 was the launching point of her rising career. After the success of RNWY 01, Runway continued to make music but wanted to make it more personal. Her 2019 release, Be Runway, features a controversial cover depicting Bree Runway with half of her skin bleached. This represents her use of bleaching cream as a teenage because she was bullied during school because of the darkness of her skin. Speaking on how making Be Runway helped her she work through that trauma, she shared, "The highest I felt in life was when I started making music and talking about myself and my feelings and experiences for the first time, turning my pain into something positive. I overcame things I never thought I would. I never thought I'd ever feel comfortable as a dark-skinned woman and then suddenly I did. I received messages from fans all over the world telling me how much hearing my story helped them. It was so warming to hear their stories and that my music had helped in some way."
Since the release of Be Runway last year, Runway has made quite a name for herself with the release of her singles "Damn Daniel," "Gucci,", and "Little Nokia." Her upcoming EP 2000AND4EVA is out everywhere on Friday, November 6th and features new songs plus guest appearances from Missy Elliot and Rico Nasty. We caught up with Runway to talk about going to therapy, performing for Michelle Obama, controlling her creative, and much more. Read the full interview below.
Ones to Watch: It’s such a weird time. Has it been easy for you finish the EP?
Bree Runway: You know what, I’m actually extra busy because I built a better setup at home for recording and have been making a lot of content.
What have you learned about yourself during quarantine?
I learned to celebrate my wins and treat myself better. Like treat myself, my actual self, like the human body as well as I take care of my music. I learned that I have to rest and take care of myself. Otherwise, how is Bree is supposed to survive if Brenda is barely hanging on to life you know?
You performed for Michelle Obama when you were in school. Please tell us the story behind that.
Oh my god. I was at school and I was in the music room. I’ll never forget this actually; I was eating a Big Mac and my singing teacher came in with her eyes wide open. She said "Listen, I need you for something, but I can’t tell you what it is." I asked her what it was, and she didn't say. I wanted to hang with my friends instead of staying after school, but she said "No, no, no, this is not the time to do this shit. You need to listen to everything I’m going to say, and you need to train your voice how I taught you to train." I said "Whoa, okay, fine." So, I’m training my voice and I was training so hard I actually lost my voice. So, I went into this mysterious performance with my hoarse Bree Runway voice which people like but it's harder for me to sing. So then, on the day, there was a lot of security and a lot of Americans and I kept asking "what was going on?"
I asked a security guard if he was secret service and he replied, "We are a secret service." At this point I just wanted to find out what was going on. So then when it was my turn to sing, I got pushed out on stage because I was kind of scared to go. I had never seen a shindig like this at my school. So, I go out, and it’s Michelle Obama sitting next to my head teacher cheering me on. My singing teacher said, "you better get it together right now and sing." After a few seconds, I started, and I did my best. At the end, she gave me a high five. And she didn’t do that to anyone else. She told me I was fabulous. There are pictures of me just holding my face looking at her like "Oh my God." And then before she left, she came up to me and said "you’re gonna do such great things. I want to see you everywhere." It was so cute.
You've talked a lot about colorism and how it's affected you.
As a child, I was always treated as the least desirable in every situation. I was always singled out as the darkest one. As I was growing up, I wouldn’t even know how to deal with attention from boys because I’m thinking "oh my god, what the hell does he want from me? There’s no way he could like me. I closed myself off from connecting with guys and I didn’t feel comfortable in my skin. I didn’t even know how to take pictures of myself. It did take a long time for me to break out of that and become who I am now, but it was a very uncomfortable skin to shed.
All the artists you collaborate with seem to fit your style perfectly. Are all the collaborations organic?
Yeah 100%. I think the it's the best when everything is organic and authentic. I don’t like anything manufactured or microwavable and ready to make. I like working with people that I really like.
Why is it so important for you to be hands on with all your creative?
It’s super important because I feel like I’m such a complex person. I just don’t like anyone telling me what to do. It’s just so important for me to be the head of everything. I find it enjoyable as well and I just feel like no one can live out my vision like how I see it in my head. No one can do that for me, except for me.
What can you tell us about the new EP?
You’re just gonna have a great time. Honestly, this year has been really difficult. And if I can give anything to the world, I just want to give you a good time.
Stream Bree Runway's 2000AND4EVA below.