You may not know her face yet, but you’ve definitely heard her words. Bebe Rexha has been hitting the Top 40 chart for years – writing and producing with Rihanna, Eminem, Iggy Azalea, G Easy and more – and now releasing a hit of her own with the one and only Nicki Minaj titled “No Broken Hearts.”
To show off her talents IRL, Bebe got front and center at W Seattle, performing to an electric crowd ready to put a face to the name. We caught up with the Billboard Next Up artist before she hit the stage, learning about her inspirations, favorite songs (catch her playlist here!), and her undying obsession with Cat Woman, ’00 style, and Arnold Palmers.
How would you describe your musical style?
Bebe Rexha: I was listening to my album this morning and it’s definitely R&B and rhythmic pop, with a lot of throwback elements. I was inspired by a lot of old Timbaland stuff, and brought back some of the ‘00s on some of the records. This album has taken all of my favorite things and combined them with a little bit of electronic elements, though there’s no straight up dance songs. It’s just a lot of mid-tempo cuts and all my favorite shit — R&B, rhythmic, a little bit throwback, and pop.
What is the first album you ever owned? How did you acquire it?
BR: The first thing I ever got was a Christina Aguilera cassette tape and it was from my aunt. It was “Genie In A Bottle”/”What A Girl Wants”/”Come On Over” — all those songs. That was my favorite. I also had an Aaliyah record, one of the Britney albums. I didn’t have a Walkman, so I had to just play them at home. I wasn’t going out to buy them, they were too expensive.
What are three things you look for when you see an artist play live?
BR: For a good performance, I look for the passion of the artist. Sometimes you have the most amazing production behind you – the most amazing lights, sound machine, fireworks, but there is something missing. It’s what makes a Michael Jackson, or a Madonna, or a Prince so epic – it’s the passion they have in their art and how much they give you on stage. When you watch Beyoncé on stage, she’s not half-doing the moves. She’s putting everything she has into it. I’m looking for the passion and the energy they give off, then I’m looking at the arrangements, how the music makes you feel, and of course the lights and what’s happening around me, and how it all comes together. Those are the most important things — the passion, the music, the lights and overall how does it make me feel? It could just be one person who is completely passionate singing a slow ballad with one spotlight and one fog machine, but it makes you feel something you’ve never felt before.
Who is your superhero alter ego and why?
BR: Maybe Cat Woman – is she a superhero? I think she’s so badass and I think that I have this woman inside of me. When I go on stage I transform into this woman that I always want to be, that I am. I’m this fearless woman and I’ll do whatever I want onstage and there are no boundaries. If I want to grab my crotch I will, if I want to say ‘fuck you’ I will, but if I want to say something positive about loving yourself, I’ll do that too. It’s just whatever I’m feeling and it’s really unapologetic.
If we’re going to buy you a drink, what should it be?
BR: It’s changed now. I loved tequila for a while but now I’m kind of over it, like I’m feeling sick over it. I honestly am really boring and would probably say an Arnold Palmer (laughs). Actually, you know what? I would want a Shirley Temple. If someone asks me for a drink, I would ask for a Shirley Temple – I know it’s so basic. I also usually tell the bartender or the person to surprise me, but I definitely don’t want anything hard like rum or anything too crazy.
What’s a song you have stuck in your head these days?
BR: I like a song called “Be Great” by Kevin Ross. If you listen to it, you’ll know why – it makes you feel really happy and positive like you can accomplish anything with your life. I love the lyrics and I think it’s just such a great record – it really makes you feel good!
What’s your favorite thing to order from room service?
BR: I always order a chicken soup, a salad with chicken on it, French fries, and usually a sparkling water or an Arnold Palmer (laughs). I’ve become obsessed with Arnold Palmers and I’ve made everyone around me obsessed with them too.
Where do you find your artistic inspiration?
BR: It can be hard to just write a song about what you want to say, and have it rhyme and the music fit right with it, but I’ve gotten a lot better about it. Now I’ll go right into the booth in the studio and it will all just spill out without thinking about it. I get inspired by everything that happens to me on a day–to-day basis – relationship-wise, friendship-wise, career-wise, family-wise, and goals-wise, and it just spills out in the booth.
Who’s your style icon and why?
BR: It’s funny but I actually look up to a lot of old ‘00s hip-hop artists. I was watching some Busta Rhymes music videos and I actually love old school hip-hop. I like to take inspiration from that because there are certain things that I love about it – the chains and the colors, the all denim and all chromatic colored suits and outfits. I think there’s something really great about that.
Give us an insider tip on what bands or artists are about to break.
BR: I always stick to my gut feelings and instincts. Right now I like that kid Kevin Ross and Chaz French. They don’t have any followers on Instagram or anything like that, but I think there’s something really special about them.