Bree Runway is Headed For Pure Greatness
The London-based rapper and singer talks the election, lockdown and her debut mixtape "2000and4Eva."
The London-based rapper and singer talks the election, lockdown and her debut mixtape "2000and4Eva."
Text: Trishna Rikhy
When singer, rapper and songwriter Bree Runway imagines her future, there is a clear-cut vision of what lies ahead for her: pure greatness. And with her music, brand and style, no one should expect for her to achieve anything less.
Hailing from London, the artist encapsulates everything the modern moment has to offer. Her new mixtape, 2000and4Eva, is fresh, energetic, and a saving grace from the whirlwind chaos of the world right now in the form of a 9-track, star-studded bundle of songs. Her sound is dynamic, electric and alive; her style is spunky, cool and original; and her Bree Runway brand is definitively and uniquely her own.
“I think I’m naturally very much a comedian,” she says. “I can just be anything at any time. So I love the fact that sometimes people don’t know where to place me. I just don’t want to be boxed in, because I fall under everything. I think it’s so fun that my art isn’t centered in one sound or rooted in one lane or whatever. It’s just the Bree lane.”
The 2000and4Eva mixtape marks her first full-length project, and features singles she released earlier this year along some highly notable names including Missy Elliott, Rico Nasty, Maliibu Miitch and Yung Baby Tate—women who have the balls without actually having balls, as she puts it.
“They’re such amazing women in a sense where they love and respect me as much as I love and respect them, which is great,” says Bree of the featured artists on 2000and4Eva. “The love is just so mutual, which is so, so, so nice. And I just feel like it was very organic. Nothing felt forced or nothing felt like you had to beg for it or anything. It just married together so nicely.”
Fans have been awaiting Bree Runway’s debut mixtape for ages, but one track in particular held an added layer of intrigue. The artist teased it across Instagram and Twitter, dropping hints that it featured a collaboration with a big name—and she delivered completely when she revealed Missy Elliott would feature on the third track of the mixtape, “ATM.”
“Since we started interacting with each other online from early on in the year, I was like, ‘Oh, damn, I would love to collab with [Missy],’” says Bree. “And then I’m about to go to sleep on the day of the ‘Gucci’ release and I get a call—Missy wants to work with me. So it was like, what the fuck? Everything just came together like, what the hell, so perfectly.”
Everything coming together perfectly, a delicious strand of kismet: it works for Bree collaborating with Missy, who she’d idolized for quite some time already, and it works for just about everything else for the Bree Runway brand, too.
Her music is sometimes rap, sometimes electric pop, sometimes R&B. She bends genres and restructures them, makes moulds and bends them to fit her sound and her vision rather than squeezing her artistry into forms that have already been defined. There is something intangible about Bree Runway, where you could listen to her whole discography track by track, and just when you think you’ve nailed down her sound, what comes next will be something completely new.
“I feel like how I maintain [my brand] is constantly surprising people,” she says. “I feel like every single release is different from each other. You know, I feel it’s just important to put everybody in the car and just don’t even put on the GPS, but just tell them, listen, I’m driving. And they’re like, where are we going? I don’t even answer. I’m just driving. You’re just going to love it. I’m driving. I just keep doing me.”
“Me” for Bree Runway isn’t a specific or singular facet; it’s ambiguous and amorphous, reflecting something new in her sound, her style, her force of nature each time it presents itself.
“I feel like that’s the Bree party!” she exclaims. “Like, everyone’s invited, but sometimes I feel like no one knows what the dress code is. So they get really, like, okay, what do we call her then? Or like, what do we wear? Just come to the party! It’s going to be great! You don’t know how, it’s just going to be.”
If you’ve seen the music video for “Little Nokia,” you know that Bree Runway is capable of partying. In the Y2K-esque video, she has the epitome of a good time: hooking up in a car, swinging on a rope swing with spiked hair and even riding on a Nokia cell phone with Aguileran striped highlights.
Of the video, she says she “wanted it to feel quite explosive and just really play on the character of Bree the Rockstar. And that’s why I had to come out with the spiky mohawk, like super punk. The Jean-Paul Gautier, that collection is just super punk that I was wearing. And I wanted it to have a bit of a storyline, but to go pretty nostalgic in a sense where…there’s music videos I used to watch in the early 2000s, for example, and they had a little storyline, then they’d have a dance break. And I wanted to have that spirit in this video.”
It’s a fair assessment to say that the Y2K aesthetic has made a grand comeback in pop culture and popular style, especially this year. Everything has come back some two decades later and infiltrated the newest trends—even low-rise jeans, to a certain extent, which is saying a lot. Yet when Bree Runway approaches the 2000s, she does it in a way that feels more nuanced, more intricate. It’s not a trend for her, but instead, perceptibly part of who she is.
Even without the backdrop of her music and 2000and4Eva, the artist’s personal style is unique, a clever concoction of the early 2000s with elements of the 80s and 90s, mixing styles of the 2010s with fabrics of the 00s. The briefest of glances at her Instagram feed would show you that it’s impossible to box her into one aesthetic category—instead, she seems to carve out an entirely new one herself, drawing inspiration from everywhere and anywhere.
“There’s this black and green hair style I did one time,” she recalls. “And it was literally inspired by my neighbor taking out their green recycling bins in a black outfit. I just loved the color combination, and I was like, Oh, I want black and green hair now. That’s how I pull my inspo. It could literally be from anything.”
But even a fashion taste as eclectic and off-brand as Bree Runway’s isn’t removed from the glitz and glam of high fashion couture—in addition to having tracks on the mixtape titled “Rolls Royce” and “Gucci,” she’s been known to flex some designer items of her own on Instagram.
“Right now, I’m going through a phase where all the stuff I’ve wanted when I didn’t have that much money I’m buying right now,” she says. “So it’s like, Gucci from seasons ago, or Givenchy from seasons ago that I still love that I could still make fresh now. That’s kind of how I do my shit.”
Taking well-loved and well-worn icons of the past and making them fresh is something Bree Runway excels at without a doubt. Among the biggest influences on her sound she lists Freddie Mercury, Lil Kim, Britney Spears, Kelis and Missy Elliot, a notably iconic list of names with expansive discographies that transverse genres and even decades. She looked back to them as “musical greats” throughout quarantine and lockdown, finding inspiration from the past to produce her music now.
“I’m just inspired by how fast-paced my life is,” she says. “Being around people that I love who are cool and inspiring, that kind of feeds me, but being in lockdown and in the same four walls, you kind of have to bring yourself your own vibes.”
The four walls Bree Runway describes—the same ones she interviews from—have become a multifaceted set-up to encompass multiple aspects of the artist’s personal life and career. It is her gym, her studio, her closet, the backdrop to videos and the space where she has been “plugging into great Black icons.” She developed her cooking skills during quarantine and a newfound love of documentaries, but, like the rest of us, she spent time within those walls reminiscing about the pre-COVID days, too, scrolling through her camera roll and looking at beloved memories over and over again.
But the time she spent tucked away inside like the rest of the world didn’t go to waste in the slightest. The lockdown months ended up being just the right catalyst to produce 2000and4Eva, a burst of light and sunshine in an otherwise chaotic, distressful time.
“I went through so many emotions [during lockdown] because I felt like the world was going in the way the news was going,” she recalls. “Like, with George Floyd, there were so many pandemics in the pandemic. I was like, as an artist, where do I stand in this? Do I need to come up with some political move? And I tried all of those things, but it just felt a little bit forced. I just had to do what was best in terms of putting this tape together, which has given the people joy. I feel like instead of reminding people of all the crazy things that’s going on in the world, I needed them to press play on this project and just escape from it for a second, because this year has been crazy. So I needed for myself and for the fans, for people to press play on this and have just a nice escape into the Bree world.”
The Bree world is a world where we all want to live—where Bree Runway’s music is on a constant loop, yes, but more importantly, where the artist’s empathy and relationship with her fans shines through.
Her aim with the mixtape was to provide joy for her listeners in times of hardship, and even when she’s not coming out with new projects, she stands as a pillar of trustworthiness and love for her fans, a confidant they’ve never even met before but seek solace from in DMs and personal messages.
“We’re literally like a little family,” confesses Bree.
A family in which the artist sympathizes with and connects with her listeners. If the evidence in 2000and4Eva that Bree pours her heart into her work because she wants it to connect with and impact her fans wasn’t enough, her words speak just as loud as her actions. When I mention the US election to her, she, a UK citizen, empathizes and stresses about it from a 6-hour time difference and an entire ocean away.
“[The election] is affecting me in a sense where it’s affecting my fans,” she says. “They keep messaging me about it and I just feel very helpless in this, but it’s just, it’s a lot. I’m anxious even from here.”
To be a support system who can provide an escape and a pocket of joy for her fans speaks volumes not only to the power and ability of Bree Runway’s music, but to her character, too. As we get off the phone, she even tells me she hopes I don’t stress too much about the election from my post in New York, and the sincerity in her voice is genuine: “Just have a cup of tea, please, babes.”
It’s always heartening to find that the idols you adore and look up to actually adore and care about you back, and it can be said with certainty that Bree Runway puts in as much as she gets out. Her success isn’t random or by chance—she worked for it, designed it for herself, made everything that happen for her happen herself. You can listen to her music and know it belongs to her, that you’re listening to Bree Runway from London, Bree the Rockstar, Bree the Comedian, the Popstar, the 2000s Icon.
“Everything is different now,” she reflects. “I feel like I’m just experiencing the cream of the crop in terms of everything. In terms of collaborations, in terms of press, in terms of the opportunities, the calls I’m getting in. It’s just so different, but it feels deserved because I feel like this is what I’ve been working towards and this is the vision I’ve had in my head from the beginning anyway, that I was going to be in this position. But it does feel very rewarding because I’ve worked really, really hard, especially this year through everything that’s been presented to us in terms of limitations. I’ve worked hard and smacked them all in the face and kicked all the barriers in the face and I’ve pushed through.”
With this mindset, with these ambitions and this path that she has carved for herself and walks on unparalleled by any potential competition, it is impossible to see a future of music without Bree Runway’s name lighting up in headlights. Without hesitation, she tells me that what we can expect from her in the future is pure greatness, and even if it weren’t for the conviction with which she says it I’d still believe her.
“I’m working towards it,” she says. “I’ve designed everything you see right now from a very, very young age. I have a very big vision in my mind and it’s all coming to fruition. So what’s ahead for Bree is the absolute best, because I’m going to keep working for it.”
Listen to 2000and4Evaby Bree Runway on all streaming platforms now.