Philadelphia-based artist Bri Steves wants you to know there’s no statute of limitations on standing up for yourself


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Philadelphia-based artist Bri Steves wants you to know there’s no statute of limitations on standing up for yourself

For Bri Steves, creating music is an act of self-acceptance. She sees writing as therapy, and uses it to navigate her way through a labyrinth of emotions. On her 2021 compilation album ‘TBH’, Steves brought together songs she created at a time when she was having difficulty being honest with herself. On her upcoming project, Steves is looking inward in an effort to become the best version of herself.

Growing up in Delaware, Steves was a latchkey kid who escaped into a world of music by playing piano and the viola. During this time, she also discovered the transportive power of lyrics by listening to uninhibited artists like Mary J Blige, Amerie, and Aaliyah. When Steves moved to Philadelphia for college, she was inspired by the city’s competitive and fast-paced nature to experiment with songwriting, producing, and performing. As she developed as an artist, however, Steves began to feel the industry’s pressure to fit into the cookie cutter “female rapper” mold. Resisting, Steves became a force within the hip-hop community on her own terms, garnering co-signs from the likes of Missy Elliott and Kendrick Lamar in the process.

Following her A COLORS SHOW performance of ‘Lonely With You/ Back Outside Again’, we spoke with Bri Steves about learning to take accountability, the importance of embracing hardship, and fighting for your truth.

When did you first fall in love with music?

As a child, I used to steal my mom’s albums and play them on loop. I remember constantly listening to Mary J Blige’s ‘What’s the 411?’, Xscape’s ‘Traces of My Lipstick’, Aaliyah’s ‘One in a Million’, and Amerie’s ‘All I Have’. I would shut my door and escape into their music, imagining and dreaming of the love and pain these women expressed on their records.

I fell in love with hip-hop by discovering artists online. I was an early fan of Tyler, the Creator, Frank Ocean, Joey Bada$$, and of course Pharrell and Kanye West. I wouldn’t be the artist I am today without Kanye’s first three albums. I tell my stories as straightforwardly as Kanye did on ‘The College Dropout’, and play with beats and melodies in the way Pharrell does with his band N.E.R.D.

What made you want to focus on hip-hop as your main artistic genre?

Joey Bada$$’s ‘1999’ helped me to realize the power of poetics and storytelling in hip-hop. I’m a student of various hip-hop artists. Through listening to their music, I discovered the varied styles I could tap into. A spark was lit when I realized that there was a space for me, and that a blank canvas awaited my creations.

How did growing up between Delaware and Philadelphia impact your musical journey?

I was a latchkey kid in Delaware. I would go home from school and listen to music while isolated in my room. I had the time and space to fall in love with music in my own bubble. The piano was the first instrument I touched, and I fell in love with it instantly. In school, piano wasn’t offered in music class, so I began to learn the viola. Soon after that, I began playing in the Delaware Symphony Orchestra.

Philadelphia was where I became an adult, and where I gained my independence after moving out of my mom’s house. I learned to express myself, especially during my college years at Temple University. In Philly, everybody’s raw, competitive, and hustling; there’s an undeniable ‘go get it’ attitude in the city, unlike Delaware which is very slow paced. In Delaware, I could sit and be still, whereas in Philly, I felt activated. Philly helped me to find my voice.

“In the music industry, in this copy-cat era, you’re constantly pushed to assimilate, but I’ve learned my originality and my life story is what makes me unique.”

In 2021, you released a compilation album called ‘TBH’. Tell us about that project. 

‘TBH’ (To Be Honest) features tracks I created when I was attempting to be honest about my past. On this project, I speak about my experience having an abortion, my first tendrils of heartbreak, and about falling out with both friends and lovers. At the time, I didn’t know who I was. Looking back I can see that it was a special period of my life.

Did your song writing help you to navigate those experiences?

I treat writing like a therapy session. Every time I complete a piece of work I learn something new about myself.

What has been the biggest lesson you’ve learned from your writing?

I’ve learned about the importance of saying exactly how you feel. In the music industry, in this copy-cat era, you’re constantly pushed to assimilate, but I’ve learned my originality and my life story is what makes me unique.

When I get writer’s block, I know it’s because I’m looking for inspiration from outside of myself. Whenever I take the time to look within, I immediately find my voice. That’s why I stress the importance of saying exactly how you fucking feel. You’ll always find the answers in your own words.

For COLORS, you performed ‘Lonely With You/ Back Outside Again’. Tell us more about this track.

It’s a two-part track produced by Go Grizzly. He knows my style, and that I like to sing and rap, so he sent me this beat with a switch up. This gave me the ability to show my duality, like Jekyll and Hyde. In this track, you hear the two sides of Bri Steves.

‘Lonely With You’, is a conversational piece between me and a lover. I’m taking accountability for my toxic traits while asking him to love me despite them. This guy doesn’t exist, he’s a wish fulfillment. I know at my core that I want love. I want to grow with someone and to learn to love with someone who accepts me.

‘Back Outside Again’ is a total switch up. It’s a reflection of my experiences searching for love. It depicts the moment after my hopes are shattered when I realize a man is wasting my time, trying to conquer me, and wear me on their sleeve.

In the first half, I’m hopeful looking for love, and in the second I’m being realistic. I return to my cut-throat, heartbreaker ways.

“A lot of people run from their demons, I embrace my hardships to heal and become a better person.”

Why did you feel it was important to discuss the topic of accountability? 

Writing about accountability allowed me to be introspective so that I could move forward despite my shortcomings. People have trouble being honest with themselves, and in my experience the best way to be honest with yourself is learning to take accountability. A lot of people run from their demons, I embrace my hardships to heal and become a better person.

If you could give advice to people who are struggling to face their demons, what would it be? 

I’m coming out of an era of fighting, and finding my voice to stand up to the predatory men in the industry who have tried to position me in a way I wasn’t comfortable with. I encourage anyone who is going through similar experiences to fight back, speak up, and own your truth. There is no statute of limitation on standing up for yourself.

Last year, news broke that Cassie was filing charges against Diddy (Sean Combs). I’m so proud of her for standing up. I hope more women find the courage to do what she did. The same goes for Megan Thee Stallion, who spoke out about her experience with Tory Lanez. I support and respect these women for standing up against the oppressors and abusers in this industry. I encourage others to do the same.

Bri Steves is a Philadelphia-based artist whose A COLORS SHOW was released on the 25th February 2023. You can watch the full performance on our YouTube channel.

Text: Katerina Lytras
Photography: Megan Courtis (Image 2) and Aaron Ricketts


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