Bebe Rexha On “No Broken Hearts,” Songwriting & Her Debut LP: Interview
After penning huge songs for other artists (Eminem and Rihanna’s “The Monster” and Tinashe’s “All Hands On Deck”), Bebe Rexha landed back-to-back top 10 hits of her own as the featured vocalist on David Guetta’s “Hey Mama” and G-Eazy’s “Me, Myself & I.” She’s now gunning for her first smash as a lead artist with “No Broken Hearts” — an irresistible club-banger that showcases the 26-year-old’s new hip-hop-influenced sound and candy-colored image.
I caught up with the I Don’t Wanna Grow Up diva earlier this week and she explained her sound and image overhaul. (She’s going back to her NYC roots). Bebe also revealed how she pitched her second Nicki Minaj collaboration at a party and divulged a couple of tantalizing tidbits about her upcoming debut LP, which is shaping up to be one of the year’s most-anticipated pop releases. Get to know the rapidly ascending star a little better below.
What has been the biggest change for you since dropping “I Can’t Stop Drinking About You”?
I’ve just been changing as a person. I think that because I write my music, those changes are reflected in my music. I’m at a really different place now and I think I’m very clear on who I am and I’m making music unapologetically right now. I think I’ve always done that but, as the years go by, you start learning what you like and who you want to be. Right now things are getting clearer and clearer. I think that’s what has changed the most. I’m in a really good place.
Do you think people finally get you as an artist?
With this album, I think people will fully understand who I am. I think “No Broken Hearts” is a good introduction but there are a couple of songs that go a little bit deeper inside. I think once they hear the next couple of singles, they’ll definitely understand who I am and where I’ve come from because the album is definitely combining all the best things that I love and who I really am.
I think what happened is that I alienated my urban and hip-hop roots from growing up in New York City. I thought that was off limits for me. Then I did “Hey Mama” and I did the Rihanna thing [she wrote “The Monster”]. I was always finding myself in a song with a rapper. I’m like, “I’ve got to just do what I love and see that through. I know I went off on a little tangent.
No. That absolutely makes sense.
Once they hear the album as a whole, I think they will start understanding who I am. I think right now people only see the tip of the iceberg. It will take a while, but it will be well worth it.
Will any of the punk-inspired songs you performed in showcases make the cut?
Let’s see, I’m thinking. Maybe there will be a song or two on the album like that. I’m not sure. I’ve definitely been experimenting more in the R&B and the rhythmic world. I don’t know if there’s anything punky on the album, but I definitely think some of the lyrics have a punk feel. There’s a song called “Fuck Fake Friends,” but we did more of a rhythmic approach on it. The lyrics are very punk.
That is the best title ever.
It’s just “F.F.F.” you know.
I can’t wait to hear it.
It’s about living in L.A. too long. I’m like, “I can’t take this anymore.” I’ll play it for you when I can.
Awesome! Let’s talk about “No Broken Hearts.”
I was so scared to put it out. Definitely a lot of my other records are heavier. I think that’s a proper word. They’re very heavy. “No Broken Hearts” sounds later but it was inspired by a falling out with very important people in my life. It wasn’t just romantic, it was friendship and business as well. It really affected me and I remember being on in the studio and I was just in tears. I was sobbing and my mom had fly out to L.A. to be there for me.
So, I walk into the studio and the producers are like “Oh my gosh, what’s wrong with this girl.” I think that was a turning point for me. I didn’t know that was a turning point for me though. I was just like, “I don’t want to write a heavy song right now. I want to write something fun and happy.”
Did that situation also inspire your new look?
Yeah. I’ve been talking about dying my hair for the past 10 years now. Ever since I was like 15 or 16, I wanted to dye my hair so bad. My mom was like, “You know, you’re going to ruin your beautiful brown hair.” I think for me it was more of a personal thing. I was like, “I want to make my hair blonde, I want to change for myself.” I also never thought that I would wear color but I’m so happy that I am because… I always thought I’d be this different type of girl, always wearing black.
I hated color, I hated candy colored things. It’s kind of crazy how I’ve transformed. I think it was like a rebirth of myself. I don’t know, It’s just interesting. One thing I did learn is that you really never should say never in any aspects of your life.
You look amazing. It took me a split second to get used to it.
It was the same with me. I was like, “Oh no. What did I do?” Now, I can’t see myself any other way.
How did the Nicki feature come about? Was there always going to be a rap on the song?
I did the song and I was like, “There has to be a rapper on it.” I knew that we had so much success with “Hey Mama”. Actually, I met her manager at a party. It’s a funny story. I was at a party with Gee Roberson. He has these golden ears, so my lawyer was like, “Go talk to Gee Roberson.” I’d never met Gee, obviously I had already met Nicki doing “Hey Mama” together. I could get in touch with Nicki but I didn’t have her number.
So, I walked up to Gee Roberson at a party and said, “Hey Gee, my lawyer said you have the golden ears. Can I play you this record that I just did? I think Nicki would be unbelievable on it. Can I send it to her? Can I send it to your email?” He’s like “No. Play it now.” It was a very tight party. He’s like, “Play it on the phone if it’s a big record I’ll be able to tell.” I was like, “Oh my gosh.” He heard it and literally 30 seconds in, he was giving me high fives. He was like, “Send that to me right now I’m going to send it Nicki.” He sent it to her and she just jumped on it. It was really dope.
Are you going to be doing any performances of the song together?
We’re working on it. There’s definitely going to be a performance, I just don’t know when. Maybe I do know when but I cannot say. [Laughs]. It’s going to happen.
Fair enough! The video is incredible.
It’s blowing my mind how much many plays it has already. It already surpassed “I Can’t Stop Drinking About You.” That’s crazy.
Who came up with the concept?
I really didn’t want a concept video, I just wanted a feel. I wanted people to get to know me and see my personality. I think concept videos can be kind of… you get caught up. They either turn out really good or really bad and then you really never know who the artist is. I’m really obsessed with the ’00s. I love TLC, old Britney Spears. I actually wanted a Busta Rhymes video. I’ve been watching a lot of hip-hop videos from the ’00s and the late ’90s. I want to recreate a 2K hip-hop video with a lot of really cool and interesting scenes.
Because of the tempo of my song, I’d love for there to be a lot of slow mo things. I wanted color but I wanted it a little bit muted. I spoke to Dave Meyers, who did a lot of the Missy Elliot stuff back in the day, he did all the big Missy Elliot videos. Obviously he would be the right choice, right? So, we sat down and we just kind of made this thing come to life, which is really cool to see it come together. Also, we threw New York City in there because I thought it was important because I’m from New York and I feel like people don’t know how spicy I am.
You even throw in a little choreography, which is new for you.
I like dancing but I prefer moving. I’m not going to try and do crazy choreography. You never know, it all depends on how I feel. What I’m learning now is just go with the flow and be open to everything in the world. So, I’m willing to try everything once. I feel like it was necessary for “No Broken Hearts.” There needed to be movement. If I was just standing there the whole time, I think It would be really weird.
Will you include any of your old material on the album?
I’ll probably put the acoustic, stripped-down version of “Me, Myself and I” on the album, just because it sounds so great. There’s a trumpet solo on it. It’s so good. It’s so so good. I’ll definitely put that on the album.
The rest will be new songs?
Does “No Broken Hearts” set the tone for the rest of the album?
If there’s a left side and a right side, “No Broken Hearts” is probably somewhere in the middle. There are some songs that get a little bit more poppy and then there are some songs that get a little more rhythmic R&B. “No Broken Hearts” is like the middle of it. If that makes sense?
Absolutely. Do you have a release date in mind?
I think my manager is saying July. I hope this summer. Every time you say a date, it changes. My focus right now is “No Broken Heart.” I’m mixing a lot of other records right now on the album. I’m trying to focus on “No Broken Hearts” and getting the album done, because I feel the faster I get it done, the faster it can come out.
Will there be other features on the record?
I’ve been talking to a couple of rappers. There will definitely be a couple of collaborations.
Are you still writing songs for other people?
Honestly, it’s really hard to be working on other people’s albums right now. I bumped into Ciara the other day. She was telling me how she’s a fan of “Me, Myself, and I” and all the new stuff that’s coming out. I grew up listening to her, so I was like, “Oh my God! We should definitely do something.” I have a pile of songs, which I think are amazing — but you can only put 10 an album. If there’s a record that doesn’t make sense for the album, I can send it to another artist.
I’m very picky because I also want to give them something really amazing. I want it to be an amazing record. It’s hard to collaborate on the road, but I definitely talk to a lot of artists and send them ideas or rough drafts of things. Then, we go back and forth. I’ll send them the idea and they’ll take it to the next level and change things in the studio because they’re usually at home and what not. Songwriting will always be a part of me and it’ll always be something that I do.