BIA is officially “That Bitch.” On Friday, the Massachusetts artist released her latest single—a drill empowerment song produced by Timbaland. After a three-week lull, she’s coming back strong as she gears up for a slew of releases she says are “definitely experimental.”
The cover art for “I’m That Bitch” is directly inspired by Missy Elliott’s 1999 album Da Real World, which saw the iconic rapper rocking a white button-up with a black tie and black corset on top. BIA’s version brings that same boss babe attitude; styled by Raya, the cover features the artist rocking long braids and hoop earrings.
Beyond the commemoration to the hip-hop legend through her visuals, BIA’s new single interpolates one of Missy Elliott’s classics. She credits Timbaland with that decision, saying “he was like, ‘Yo, I love what you’ve been doing with drill. I want to do a flip of Missy’s ‘She’s A Bitch.’ It was his idea.”
“I’m That Bitch” follows BIA’s last release from March 6, “SIXTEEN,” where BIA raps, “Take me back to when I lost my job, I told ‘em, ‘Fuck you.’ I came from a place where there’s nobody to look up to. We weren’t broke together, tell me how the fuck I trust you? I left mama house, bitch, I ain’t have nowhere to run to.” She spills on the job that inspired that job, below.
BIA’s journey in the music industry jumpstarted in 2014 when she signed to Pharrell’s I Am Other label, and has taken an interesting path since. She first caught the public’s eye in 2016 when J. Balvin featured her on “Safari.” Her biggest accomplishment came in 2020 when Nicki Minaj hopped on BIA’s most popular track thus far, “WHOLE LOTTA MONEY (Remix).” BIA has long vocalized her respect and admiration for Nicki Minaj, so, when she got a personal invite to her house, it exceeded all expectations.
This past year alone, BIA has had a lot to celebrate. She landed an opening slot for Russ on tour, where she performed their viral smash hit “BEST ON EARTH.” The song got a co-sign from Rihanna, who posted a video of her walking to the song on her Instagram. Most recently, BIA headlined Spotify’s first-ever Feelin’ Myself fashion show, reminding folks of her standout efforts in both music and fashion.
Complex briefly caught up with BIA at a nail salon in Los Angeles on the day her highly anticipated new single dropped. Below, we discuss her love for Missy Elliott, why she stopped smoking, and more.
This interview has been lightly edited for clarity purposes.
BIA! You’ve come a long way since I first saw you perform at The Echoplex in 2017. Do you feel like you’re living out your dreams, or do you have your eyes set on more?
I definitely feel like I’m living out my dreams. This whole journey has been a little bit [like] entrepreneurship, where it’s up and down, mixed with having fun every day. Because when you do something you really love, you have fun all the time.
I saw you tweet that you’re sober. How do you feel now? What inspired your sobriety?
Honestly, I was sick of being dependent on any substance. I don’t want to have to allocate an extra 30 minutes to smoke before I do anything. I used to say, “I need 30 minutes so I can roll up. Give me a second.” I’m always late, or I always smell like weed. I didn’t want that anymore. I’m just reaching a new place.
I think that’s very inspirational for you to tweet honestly, because it inspires people to do the same.
Really? And I was having trouble [with] my eating habits. I wasn’t eating. I would have to smoke before I could eat, and I wouldn’t finish my food. I noticed a significant difference in my weight. Since I’ve [been] clean, I’ve gained 10 to 15 pounds.
You look great.
Thank you, and I feel good. I feel happy and comfortable. I’m always eating now. Why was I never this hungry before? [Laughs.]
Let’s talk about your new single with Timbaland; tell us the story behind “I’m That Bitch.”
It’s so dope. I linked up with Timbaland, we did a couple songs. The first one he was like, “Yo, I love what you’ve been doing with drill. I want to do a flip of Missy’s ‘She’s A Bitch.’”It was his idea. I had my homeboy Lil Rich there, we do a lot of stuff together. He said “OK, skip on the beat.” They put the drill on it [and] Timbaland did his thing. It was really dope. It’s really dope.
What did you learn from working with him?
Timbaland is such a legend. He has so many gems, he dropped so many gems just as he talks. One thing I really took from him was: the only thing that matters is the music in the songs. Make the best songs you can because at the end of the day, that’s the only thing that matters.
That epic cover art inspired by Missy Elliott, is it something you’ve always wanted to do? What influence did she have on you?
Yes. Whenever you flip a song, you have to pay some type of homage. When I flipped “CAN’T TOUCH THIS,” which was “My milkshake brings all the boys in the yard,” after the Kelis flip, I wore the same outfit as Kelis in the video. The Dior corset. With this one, Missy is the original style icon. There’s no one better than Missy, in terms of aesthetics. She is the GOAT.
It’s really hard to redo anything that she does, because she’s so perfect and flawless with her execution. If we’re going to do this, we have to do it in our own way, but still show respect and homage to the original because it’s not going to be better. It’s just going to be its own new thing, you know?
Did you send it to her before…?
I kind of [wanted] it to be a surprise [but] I wanted her to see it and [then] be like, “Do you like this?” She was really supportive when she saw it, and I’m really thankful for that.
Do you remember how old you were when you discovered her Da Real World album (1999)?
I was 9 or 10. When I was growing up listening to Missy, her videos were always what stuck out to me the most. Creativity-wise. She had that little girl in the videos, dancing. She always had fire dancers, fire looks. Everything.
I’m guessing you got her co-sign/permission to sample “She’s That Bitch”?
I hope so. She supports it, so I’m really happy. I’m so grateful. That’s what you want from a legend like her. If you touch anything that they’ve done, you want to make sure you make them proud. At the end of the day, I’m only as good as the people that have opened the doors. If they didn’t open the doors for me, I wouldn’t be here right now. I gotta show respect and I gotta show homage, just pray and hope they like it because I put my all into it.
What was it like working with Missy on David Guetta’s “Trampoline”?
Oh fire! I said her name in my verse, too: “Missy met me, they’re like, ‘Who sweatin’?’” I love Missy man, she’s incredible to me. I saw her being honored this year at this Grammy event. They were honoring her, Sylvia Rhone, Swizz Beatz… a bunch of legends. That was really dope to see because it’s really dope to see somebody like her get their flowers. I want to be one to give them to her as well.
How’d it feel doing a track for Godfather of Harlem? Did Swizz Beatz reach out to you to work on “Waiting On Me”?
Yes! That was through my label. Epic [Records] said “Hey, we got this song. Swizz Beatz wants you to get on it.” Since then, me and Swizz became really cool. We’re probably going to work on some music together too coming up. Actually, he’s on something on my album.
Where do you get your fashion inspo? Anyone in the hip-hop space?
A lot from the ‘90s. A lot of 2000’s, mixed with fly girl stuff. High fashion, runway, mixed with vintage.
Tell us the story behind your other recent single, “SIXTEEN.” What job did you lose and did you really tell them “fuck you”?
Yes, oh my God. But the crazy thing is, I had a million regular jobs [before this]… I was a waitress, a bartender. I worked at the mall. I worked bagging groceries. I worked at a little bank in the grocery store. I did so many jobs. I definitely told—well I don’t want to say who, because I still work with them now. Foot Locker. I told my boss “Fuck you,” but me and my boss are like brother and sister. I guess you could say that, my old boss at Foot Locker, he’s like my big brother. We used to taunt each other. “Fuck you, I quit.” Then you go back a week later like “I don’t quit. I need this per hour.”
Did you get made fun of for the referee uniform?
No. Because back in the day, all the fine girls worked at Foot Locker. If you worked at Foot Locker, you’re fine.
Loved your line on “SIXTEEN,” that says “I played The Hollywood Bowl and I brought the label with me.” I was there at the Russ show. How was that moment, taking on such a big stage?
I loved it. I got to do songs I don’t usually get to perform for that big of a crowd. What I love about Russ’ audience is [that] they’re really listening to what you’re saying. They didn’t just come just for the hits, they come to listen to whatever it is you have to say. So I was able to do records that I wouldn’t necessarily do on a festival stage, [which] connected more with people. Like “MOTIONLESS” and “SAME HANDS.” Certain things connect more.
You went from RCA to independent to now Epic. How is your relationship with [Chair & CEO of Epic Records] Sylvia Rhone and what does working with a powerful women executive mean?
I love Sylvia Rhone so much. I am so grateful for her. She’s family to me now, I love her. It feels so empowering to have such a powerful woman really believe in you the way Sylvia believes in me. She empowers me to be myself. She doesn’t try to change me; she accepts me. She believes in my vision. That’s a dream come true with a label. To even learn from someone like her, what hasn’t she seen? She’s seen it all! To impress her, you gotta really be on your shit.
When are we getting the album?
When the time is right. But soon… I’m gearing up for the summertime.
You tweeted: “I haven’t even put out my best songs yet, this shit crazy.” What else can we expect in the vault?
Different genres. That’s all I’ll say.