Published: July 4, 2022

Last Updated: August 4, 2022

Whole Lotta Star Power: The Rise of BIA

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Making music that emits raw authencity, unwavering confidence, and outspoken energy, BIA illuminates every room that she walks in. Since her emergence into the mainstream, the rapper has exemplified a persuasive blend of dexterity, drawing in critical praise from hip-hop fans and industry veterans alike. If dominating this previous year with the Nicki Minaj-assisted “WHOLE LOTTA MONEY” wasn’t enough, the resounding success of For Certain and its singles have unequivocally cemented BIA as one of the breakout stars of this generation.

Although the masses are finally catching up, the musician’s rise to acclaim has been well-documented over the past several years. After being injured in a fatal motorcycle accident the year prior, she debuted on Oxygen’s TV series Sisterhood of Hip Hop, the T.I.-executive produced show that followed five female emcees navigating their way around the male-dominated industry. That same year, BIA was introduced—and later signed—to Pharrell Williams by way of Virginia rapper and former manager Fam-Lay who discovered the artist after the relative success of her 2012 video “High.” The Boston native would later sign to his i am OTHER imprint in a joint venture with RCA Records, just scratching the surface of her potential.

Growing up in Boston, BIA—born Bianca Landrau—was in a prime position to benefit from the fact that Latin hip-hop had risen to popularity in contemporary rap over the past several years. Like many bicultural Latinas, her Puerto Rican and Italian roots often poised a challenge in regard to negotiating relationships and various racial worlds when it comes to finding a sense of belonging. This is something that would reemerge years later after fans of the rapper suggested she was “not Black,” leading her to clear up the confusion regarding her ethnicity. However, on songs like “La Tirana” and 2021’s “BESITO” featuring G Herbo, the rap starlet’s cross-language appeal allows her to achieve success in both language markets.

In 2014, the self-proclaimed Perico Princess turned heads upon the release of her debut mixtape #CHOLASEASON. The fifteen-song offering helmed songs like “Jug Dance” and “Chain Swang” featuring Fam-Lay and Pharrell, the latter of which produced a handful of tracks from the project. It showcases BIA’s lyrical prowess and genre-blending style of trapetón, a fusion of trap and reggaetón while also serving as a formal musical introduction to the radiant voice that had been growing years prior. Followed by a slew of singles, she joined J Balvin for “Safari” alongside Pharell Williams and Sky. The video, which has amassed over 1 billion YouTube views, subsequently peaked at No. 1 on US Latin Airplay and achieved four-times Platinum in Spain.

Meanwhile, BIA’s solo catalog began to gain a buzz of its own for songs like “Whip It” and her viral hit “Gucci Comin’ Home,” a nod to Atlanta rapper Gucci Mane’s eagerly-awaited return home after being incarcerated since 2013. Both songs were slated to be on her at-the-time debut EP, Trap Vogue, although the project was shelved and she later joined Ariana Grande as a support act for the European leg of her Dangerous Woman tour in 2017. Though her collaborative effort “Esta Noche” featuring Grande never officially surfaced, she performed the song on the 15-stop tour run.

After co-writing tracks for the likes of Camila Cabello, touring alongside Grande, and building an immense fanbase, it was finally time for BIA to unload some material of her on. Thus, 2018’s NICE GIRLS FINISH LAST: CUIDADO arrived with much anticipation from fans alike. Efforts such as “YAKWTFGO” featuring global Columbian singer and songwriter Kali Uchis and “VIBES ON ME” featuring Florida staple Kodak Black were met with much acclaim. BIA’s “HOLLYWOOD” and “SUPABIEN” also made quite a bit of noise whilst production was handled by Murda Beatz, Cardo, CuBeatz, and many others. However, this would BIA’s final project under RCA Records as mentioned that the label was preventing her from releasing music.

Dubbed one of Rihanna’s favorite new songs on Instagram upon its release, Russ’ “BEST ON EARTH” featuring BIA propelled both musicians into another realm of popularity. While the former had already gained co-signs from influencers like Kylie Jenner, the song earned BIA her first Platinum record, garnering roughly a quarter-billion global streams and a whopping 40 million YouTube views since its release towards the tail-end of 2019. The Boi-1da and Jahaan Sweet-produced track peaked at No. 46 on the Hot 100 charts, and getting a co-sign from someone she cited as one of her favorites was certainly a big deal.

Pivoting from the success of the record and gaining the stamp of approval from Rihanna, BIA announced that she had signed to Epic Records at the top of 2020. Her first song two songs under the new partnership were “FREE BIA (1ST DAY OUT)” as well as “COVER GIRL,” which was accompanied by an at-home music video. The record was followed by the Lil Durk-assisted cut “SAME HANDS,” gaining over three million views on YouTube and serving as a proper reintroduction to a name that’s been buzzing for years. “SKATE” was the fourth and final single she released, serving as a predecessor to her label debut, and landing a massive sync as the theme song for the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Each song, which had respectively amassed millions of views prior, appeared on For Certain. The 8-song project introduced new songs like “AUTOMATIC” and “PLATE” in addition to guest appearances from Lil Jon, 42 Dugg, and Doe Boy, all while building on the success of pre-release singles. Although, one song in particular, “WHOLE LOTTA MONEY,” flourished in a way that not even the rapper could expect. The record generated viral buzz on TikTok, pouring in industry support from Cardi B and Lizzo to mega influencers such as Kendall Jenner, Chelsea Handler, and Shay Mitchell. The song’s stats remained equally impressive with nearly 8,000-10,000 videos being created per day and 506,000 videos total with 2.5B video views in the months of its release.

The record garnered so much support upon its initial release that it attracted the attention of Nicki Minaj, who off her presence alone, powered a 238% surge to 14.7 million U.S. streams in the tracking week and landed BIA her first top 40 on the Hot 100 charts debuting at No. 16. Concurrently, her LP For Certain saw a 255% percent increase, selling an equivalent of 12,000 album units. The remarkable success of the remix paved a way for her deluxe project, which boasted new features from G Herbo and Sevyn Streeter, who lends a hand on “BIG DEAL.” Meanwhile, songs like “CAN’T TOUCH THIS” interpolate Kelis’ 2003 classic “Milkshake.”

In April, BIA stepped back into the limelight with her first official release of 2022, “LONDON,” featuring North Carolina rapper J. Cole. As the song’s title hints, the two artists trade verses while trying their hand at British lingo and referencing various locations such as the O2 arena and Heathrow Airport. The luxurious theme of the song continues her high-profile appeal and positions her as more than just a hot-for-the-moment rapper, but rather an artist with longevity and triumph. “I thought about this song for a month straight, it was my favorite song and I only heard it one time,” Cole says. For BIA, the focus remains on making her career worthwhile and giving her fans as much timeless music as possible—and it’s coming more and more as she prepares to release her debut album later this year.

Undoubtedly an icon in the making, it goes without saying that the rapper is slated to have a meteoric come-up this year. Having cemented her presence from early on and gained support from some of the music industry’s biggest names to date—from R&B polymath Rihanna to rap queen Nicki Minaj, BIA is well on her way to becoming the quintessential rap star of this generation.