A STARRAH ON THE RISE
V sat down (virtually) with the hitmaker responsible for some of top 40’s biggest smashes about what it’s like working behind the scenes and also right in the spotlight
When we think of mainstream music, the chartbusters, the hits, the songs that sell out in the millions and stream in the billions, we think of Drake, Katy Perry, Camila Cabello, Megan Thee Stallion, Maroon 5, Rihanna, and several others.
But, in that same club, we should also be thinking of Starrah, the one factor that all these artists have in common. Brittany Hazzard aka “Starrah” has been a mainstay behind the scenes and in the recording studio for about six years now, songwriting and producing away, but still remains shrouded in mystery. A lot of it comes from her intention to keep her life and appearance private, choosing often to hide her face with her hands or behind a mask. “I just really love my privacy,” she says. “I think it’s important that people focus on the music and not the distraction of the personal life that’s attached to it. You don’t listen to music with your eyes, you listen with your ears.”
Just as much of that mystery, however, is a result of the industry’s glacial pace when it comes to the recognition of the women responsible for revolutionizing the mainstream. “If a woman is in a room, 9 times out of 10, people are looking at her for sexual enjoyment, and not for what she brings with her brain,” she says. “When I was younger, I had exchanges with producers where they would try to come on to me. And I think that’s one of the biggest problems, we’re not taken seriously as intellectuals or creatives.”
The newly minted Grammy-winner for her work on Thee Stallion’s “Savage,” at this point, could easily command that respect. But the shy and unassuming Starrah would rather have her work speak for her. And she’s finally taking a giant step into the frontlines of the industry with the release of music of her own.
“When I’m writing for myself,” she explains, “it’s free because I don’t have to think about another artist’s career. I know what I want to say because I live it everyday.” Starrah’s musical process usually sees the lyrics go in first (“either free flow lyrics or a concept that I’ve been thinking about for a while”) followed by adding the beat to it, but it changes up each time. “Sometimes, I’ll just sit at home and play around, pushing buttons and listening to little sounds, I’ll make a beat,” she says. And from there came The Longest Interlude, her debut studio album.
“It’s really cool that people can finally listen to what I’ve been working on,” she says about the record. Released on March 15, the 13-track album is a midnight mood musing of sorts on universal experiences with love and relationships. The production and melodies take center stage, leaning into many of the sounds that top 40 is currently fawning over while maintaining a distinct uniqueness from other artists she works with, featuring some extra credits from the likes of James Blake, Nile Rodgers, and Skrillex.
Time seems to be one of the binding principles of the album, evident in the titles of songs like “Make Time,” “Distance and Time,” “8 Days A Week,” “Twenty 4,” and “56 Nights.”
“It was so heavy on my mind about how much of a difference time can make and change your perspective on life and relationships, friendships, career choices, life choices,” she explains. And, to get a little meta, the album was a long time coming, naturally so after years of working on some of the biggest hits of the past decade like the aforementioned “Savage,” Camila Cabello’s “Havana,” Rihanna’s “Needed Me,” Maroon 5’s “Girls Like You,” and fully executive producing Normani’s highly anticipated debut album. That’s several platinum and diamond certified records right there, if you weren’t keeping track.
Basically, Starrah’s kind of a big deal, if you haven’t caught on yet. But growing up in a small town in Delaware, the youngest of nine children, she’d suspected that the odds weren’t in her favor. “I’m black. I’m from the hood. This is America,” she says. “In reality, me recording my album in the same place the Beatles did [Abbey Road], selling, I don’t know, 10, 20 million singles… that never happens to kids from the hood, that’s a fairy tale.”
Watching younger artists like Lil Bow Wow on her TV screen, however, was the inspiration she needed. “I just felt like there was a place for kids in music and I thought ‘this is what I want to do,’ so I started working towards it,” she says. Years and songs later, a well-received debut, 15 billion streams, a Grammy award, and immense industry recognition, that all pretty much sounds like a fairy tale that ultimately did come true.
“I used to go by the name Bri-star. But I had a friend, who’d say ‘you’re a Starrah, you’re a Starrah,’ and I thought ‘yeah, I’m a Starrah.’”
Listen to The Longest Interlude below: