Even as a hip-hop artist who has rapped since the tender age of 3, spent time as multi-platinum recording artist Missy Elliot’s protégé and recorded tracks with popular acts like Flo Rida, Wale and Trina, Brianna said her career is only just beginning.
Brianna sat down at The Oracle office Jan. 11 — the day she turned 20 — and reflected on where she was only a year ago.
“2011 was a very interesting year for me, with a lot of opportunities and a lot of blessings,” Brianna said. “I got signed to Atlantic Records, which is a major record label, and that was incredible.”
Atlantic Records, home of musical acts ranging from Led Zeppelin and Aretha Franklin to Skrillex and Lupe Fiasco, works in part with Poe Boy Music Group to manage Brianna. Founded by CEO Elric “E-Class” Prince, Poe Boy is a Miami-based music label that has released records for artists such as Rick Ross and Flo Rida.
Brianna initially found her way into the limelight with only Poe Boy by her side, and said she’s accomplished much in only a year.
“I released my record ‘Marilyn Monroe,’ first independently without Atlantic, and it debuted on Billboard Music Charts at No. 94, which felt amazing,” said Brianna. “I worked on a film in Philly, ‘Must Be the Music’ with Charles Dutton, and that was fun. So in 2011, I got to do a lot of new things to further my career, so I am very excited about 2012.”
As for her single “Marilyn Monroe,” named after the iconic “Some Like it Hot” actress from the ’60s, Brianna said she recognized the ongoing visual motif of the blonde bombshell’s image in her work, but the icon doesn’t serve as her alter ego.
Much in the vein of Beyonce’s alter ego Sasha Fierce or “Super Bass” artist Nicki Minaj’s many alternate personalities from Roman to Martha, Brianna has one she can call all her own.
“My alter ego wouldn’t be Marilyn Monroe, it would be this other character I created named Britalia,” said Brianna. “She’s totally different from me, because I’m very laid-back, but when I’m performing she takes over and I am totally different. I go crazy on stage.”
Though before she gets too carried away with “I Am… Sasha Fierce”-style double-albums, Brianna took a look back at her beginnings as an aspiring hip-hop artist who spent time watching other MCs perform after school.
“Poe Boy Music Group was always kind of my family,” she said. “When I got picked up after school, that’s where I would go. I was supposed to be doing homework, but I would see artists like Rick Ross coming in and making beats. So I tried to write my little rhymes, and I had a name and everything — it was ‘Piranha’ because I was little and vicious.”
Brianna said hip-hop was instilled in her from a young age, and she initially stepped into the recording booth at age 7 to be on a mixtape put out by Poe Boy Music Group. It was only a few years later that she would collaborate with her first major artist as Lil’ Brianna.
“At age 9, I was on my first album, much love to Trina, we did the song ‘Kandi’ together,” Brianna said, “…and Missy (Elliott) heard that.”
“Kandi,” off of Trina’s acclaimed 2002 album “Diamond Princess,” caught more than just the ear of that album’s producer and “Work It” performer Missy Elliott, Brianna said.
“From working with Trina, she noticed that, and I was signed with Missy for three years,” she said. “So I’ve just been on my grind ever since I can remember.”
While working with two well-respected hip-hop artists would be enough for some, Brianna said she has many other influences and individuals she’d like to work with in the future.
“Jay-Z, big Jay-Z fan, Beyonce, Kanye,” she said. “I love Eve, then of course Missy and Trina — you know, anyone that’s working hard in the (hip-hop) game. All the greats, I just respect them and study them, and I hope to be great one day as well.”
As far as future collaborations go, Brianna remains secretive, simply saying, “I can’t relate that.” Yet she said no matter what artist she’s working with, there is something new to learn.
“Every artist I work with, either major or up and coming like myself, you get to see different tactics and work ethics and how others’ creative process works,” Brianna said. “I learn every time I step in the studio. It’s just like school — you come and you learn something new everyday.”
Brianna’s recently released mix tape “Face Off,” featuring appearances by the likes of Wale and J. Cole, is available now through her website briannatheyrb.com. Her single “Marilyn Monroe” is now available through iTunes.
Brianna said she encourages those who are unfamiliar with her talents to become acquainted with both releases.
“If you don’t know about me, get familiar with me, because I’m here,” she said.