Bibi Bourelly Drops New Track "Ballin," Talks Wanting to Change the World

Bibi Bourelly Drops New Track "Ballin," Talks Wanting to Change the World

You'll know her as the songwriter behind Rihanna's major "Bitch Better Have My Money," but Bibi Bourelly has been carving out her own singing career one sick track after the next. Here, she talks her artful upbringing, not changing for anyone, and how this is only the beginning.

You'll know her as the songwriter behind Rihanna's major "Bitch Better Have My Money," but Bibi Bourelly has been carving out her own singing career one sick track after the next. Here, she talks her artful upbringing, not changing for anyone, and how this is only the beginning.

Text: Whitney Mallett

“I want to change the world. That sounds unrealistic as fuck, but that’s what I want to do,” says Bibi Bourelly, the 22-year-old who co-wrote Rihanna’s “Bitch Better Have My Money” when she was still a teenager. “I want music to really unite people, more than the way a pop single unites people. I want to unite people through their pain and really change mentalities, change minds, and change perspectives.”

Bourelly is prone to extravagant rants. She’s also full of an infectious energy that emanates from the moment she enters a room. She released a two-part album this year called Free the Real (the second half not yet released), the title indicative of a tendency to pit authenticity against fakery in much of her lyrics. “I can deal with imperfection, but I can’t deal with people who lie to themselves and lie to the world to make the world feel better,” she explains. “If I were so selfish as to get on TV and pretend like I was perfect for my benefit, to protect myself, and to make everyone like me, like if I were to lose weight and not cuss, I would be doing a disservice to the entire world because that shit doesn’t exist. It’s just feeding people lies.”

Free the Real (Pt. #1), which came out in May, includes a collaboration with the singer’s father Jean-Paul Bourelly, a Haitian-American jazz and blues rock guitarist, who made the move from Chicago to Berlin before Bibi was born. In Germany, she was raised around “mad artists.” Her mother, who passed when she was six, worked at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt, a national center for international contemporary arts, and her stepmother, the Nigerian filmmaker Branwen Okpako, directed the music video for Bibi’s second single “Ego.” “[Music] was the first language I learned to speak,” she explains. “It’s something I feel more connected to than English.”

In spite of Bourelly’s artful upbringing, she still felt misunderstood as a teen. “I was even in an international school in Germany, but it’s the system. It doesn’t matter how eclectic the teachers are, the system is not designed for someone like me to prosper,” she says. “I think a lot of my angst comes from feeling unaccepted. It also comes from pain. I’ve been through a lot of painful things in my life.” As a result, there’s a rawness to Bourelly’s voice that prevents her lyrics from veering into rebellious platitudes. At the same time, her adolescent insubordination remains wontedly universal.

As for the Rihanna hit, “That’s something that was inevitably going to happen because I worked every day,” Bourelly says. “That’s just one door though. [Lil’] Wayne was a door, Usher was a door, fucking working with Kanye was a door. But growing up, the doors weren’t obvious. To get to that point, there was no obvious success. But I cared about this and was able to see the bigger picture. Opportunities don’t always come dressed in neon colors.”

In spite of working with pop and hip-hop icons and getting a Def Jam deal, Bourelly isn’t close to satisfied. “That was just the beginning. In my brain I’m passed that,” she says. “How do you make truthful shit poppin’? That’s my goal. But even that’s difficult because the people that decide what’s going on the radio do not give a fuck about humanity. They’re thinking what can we put in front of this 14-year-old girl to make her spend her money, so we can get richer. That’s just real.”

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