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BIA is the Rapper Behind the NHL's Hottest Rap Remix

The Boston emcee talks about teaming up with the NHL and claiming her crown in the rap game.

by Malcolm Currie

NHL playoff season is over and even though Tampa Bay took home the Stanley Cup this year, BIA is the real champ, having won our hearts and countless accolades with her trap rap “Skate” NHL remix.

Earlier this year the NHL reached out and asked the Boston rapper to re-record her track to lead them into the 2021 playoff season. Now, “Skate” is the NHL’s first original song in years and was the central tune in hockey‘s postseason action. It’s also the first song to ever be commissioned by the franchise featuring an artist of Black or Latin descent. Suffice to say, BIA successfully cross-checks her contemporaries into the boards with a welcome bravado when she raps, “If I wanted that shiny trophy / then I’m getting that.” 

NHL chief content officer Steve Mayer worked with BIA and her team to produce the postseason version. “We’re thrilled,” Mayer told NHL.com. “It’s so much fun. ‘Skate’ has a great energy to it, and it’s different.”

Outside the ice rink, BIA is under the spotlight following her latest EP, For Certain; an impressive collection of songs that is engaging and masterful from start to finish. Lil Nas X sampled a verse from her hit single “Whole Lotta Money” on his recent SNL performance, and Kylie Jenner posted about it on her social networks — all this was more than enough to get the music world talking about her.

When we spoke with BIA, she was calm and collected, even while talking about her love for making music and her choice of Bodega snacks. BIA is a humble personality in the rap game, but her confidence is vital. We reached out to chat about her beginnings in music, her love for the colour orange, and where she sees herself in the future. 

Hey BIA, how are you doing? I was just pumping myself up for this interview listening to For Certain.

I’m doing great. And that just makes me so happy because I love talking to people who know my music. So, I’m excited to talk to you!

What was life like growing up in Medford, Massachusetts? 

You know, that’s a hard one because Medford was not the most diverse city in the world, but it has its areas. I grew up in lower-income housing, a single-parent household. It was just me and my mom for a while. Massachusetts is one of those places where you need to have tough skin. 

Would you say it pushed you to grow in some kind of sense?

Yes, you always wonder if there’s anything else outside of this for kids that grow up there. Like, “What else is there? Is there anything else?” We only get two months of nice weather, but the sports are great. And you’ll wonder what else is outside the world, especially for a creative person. 

When did you realize that you wanted to pursue rap as your full-time career?

I would say I pursued it as a hobby, and then I just found a love for making music right after high school. I just loved it, I got joy from making music, and I just never stopped.

Who ignited a spark for you, in terms of making music?

When I started rapping, I listened to a lot of A$AP Rocky, Big Sean, and Wiz Khalifa. I didn’t feel like any girls could jump in and out of those sounds. I listen to a lot of Nicki Minaj and lots of old-school female hip-hop, and I felt like there was nobody really rapping how I wanted to rap. So that’s when it started for me: I wanted to become what I wasn’t hearing.

So many big things are happening for you right now after “Whole Lotta Money.” How exciting is that for you?

It’s a dream come true because I’ve been making music for so long, and having your peers, or people you respect musically, embrace your music like that is a blessing. It just feels so good because I never had that.

From your early mixtapes to now, sometimes it just takes that one song to kind of pop off. Now people are finally starting to come to the party.

Yeah, it’s so funny because sometimes I get frustrated about that, but it’s like, “Welcome, glad you’re here now!”

Tell us about the NHL remix of “Skate.” Are you a big hockey fan? 

Yes! You know what? I am a hockey fan because my little sister used to play hockey all through middle school and high school. So I love hockey. But I didn’t see a lot of rap presence in the sport. I haven’t seen a lot of, you know, Black or Latino presence in hockey. So I’m just happy to be like the first one to, you know, do that with the playoffs.

When it comes to songwriting, what’s your method?

It depends on what mood I’m in, because if I go and put on a beat, something might come to me right away. So I’ll just go in there, and I’ll be like, “Yo! Let me cut a pass.” But if it’s some rap, like where I feel I’ve got to write real, natural bars; sometimes I’ll just sit down and I’ll write depending on what I’m going for on the song.

You have a unique ability to switch flows and ride the beat with confidence. Where would you say that stems from? 

I feel like that’s a new thing. I’ve always had confidence in my lyrics because I believe in myself. I don’t write anything that’s not true. For the most part, I believe everything I write, so I say it with conviction. But when it comes to being confident, it’s about people. Who you’re creating with, it has a lot to do with your confidence. You don’t want a bunch of “Yes Men” around, but you want people that are going to push your pen and make sure you’re coming up with the best music and having a good time while you’re doing it. Because if I’m not having fun, big chances are my music will not be that good. Every time I go to the studio with my friends, I have a blast.

For Certain is your second EP. How do you feel you’ve evolved from previous projects, and are you looking to come out with a full album anytime soon? 

Absolutely. I feel blessed that I’m even on my second project. It’s taken me a little while because I’ve been out for a while. But this is the project that feels the most authentic to me. I’ve been working on the Deluxe edition, and I’m just really excited to be putting all this music out because I’ve been working on this throughout the entire quarantine and before.

Everyone has an online opinion. Do you get caught up in the comments, or do you stay away from stuff like that?

Yeah, I mean, I have my days. I’m only human, just like anybody else. Your haters are never doing better than you. That’s something I’ve learned along the way.

Okay, if you’re going to the bodega, what’s your usual haul? What are you picking up, what are your favourite snacks? I know you’re a snack girl, so I had to ask.

Oh, I’m a snack girl. It depends which bodega I’m at, because if I’m in a New York bodega I’m getting a sandwich. But if I’m in my L.A. bodega, we gettin’ some chips, we gettin’ wrap snacks… I love sour worms and I love the trolls. I’m getting Mini Snickers, and in our bodega around here they have Dunkaroos. You should see how we get down with the snacks — it’s not a joke.

You have a night off, what’s an ideal night for you?

An ideal night for me is really good food with my loved ones. Followed by a party night, followed by some tequila. I just love to be around good energy and loved ones. Me and my friends, drunk, playing For Certain.

What are you listening to in your downtime?

Right now I’ve been flipping back and forth between “Whole Lotta Money” and “Twerkulator,” by hip-hop duo City Girls.

Was the pandemic an opportunity for you to get more creative in the studio? How did it affect you?

The pandemic was mentally trying for me in the beginning because I’ve never been forced to stay in the house, so once I got over that I just started to learn new things. And I’m not going to lie to you, towards the end of the pandemic I was starting to enjoy it because I was starting to really make the most of my time and figure things out. I learned how to do my nails! I have a nail page on Instagram called @nailsforcertain, please check it out!

I have to ask about your love for the colour orange. I feel like orange was always my favourite colour when I was growing up and everyone always hated it. Has that always been your favourite colour?

It actually hasn’t, but I feel like when you find your colour you’ll know. Everybody always asks me: “How did you know that orange was going to be your colour?” I experimented with different colours, but for some reason, when I put orange in my hair, from that moment I felt like it transformed me. When I put that orange hair on for the first time and I saw the way it was hitting my skin, I said, “Whoa, this is for me.” It just felt like my aura changed into something warmer, I was happier.

Following the departure from your label, you had “Best on Earth,” a single with Russ, come out just a week later. Do you think if you hadn’t had that freedom, that the trajectory of your career might be different?

Yeah, absolutely. I think there are so many incredible artists in this world whose music will never see the light of day because of their business infrastructure or they’re not getting the shine they should from their label. So to get that second chance — it feels real. I can’t even put into words how grateful I am for that opportunity because I don’t think I would be here right now if I hadn’t had control of my music and my decisions. 

Are you looking forward to getting out there and performing live shows again? 

I’m so excited. I’m just excited to touch people again because I’m a showgirl. I love shows and I love meeting my fans. I love meeting the people who are really supporting me in real life. And yeah, I just love the energy, it just feels different. So I’m definitely ready to get back to the shows.

Where do you see yourself in the next five years? Do you have any plans or goals?

Aside from being an executive, a businesswoman, and running my own label, I see myself touring worldwide; I feel I’m more of an international artist. I think I’m supposed to grace different places throughout the world. So that’s where I would love to see myself within the next couple of years. I would love to see myself with a family. I’m family-oriented. I love how Beyoncé does that, it’s legendary. I don’t like to set too many expectations for myself. As you see, I couldn’t have planned this, so wherever God takes me at this point, I just say: “Let’s ride!”