Brianna Stevenson said she has always been interested in pursuing a career in music, but saw the male-dominated music industry as “an impenetrable wall.”
On her first day in the studio, she was hardly addressed and two people did not acknowledge her.
“For all they knew, I could have been somebody’s girlfriend or daughter,” said Stevenson, a senior public relations major who performs under the name Bri Steves. “People get so shocked when they see a woman in a position of power who knows what she’s doing.”
Steves, a Philadelphia-based singer and rapper, did not feel as though she belonged in the conversation that day, but said she realized being a successful woman artist would make her “unstoppable.”
The singer and rapper said she is inspired by artists like Notorious B.I.G., Camp Lo and Joey Bada$$, and she describes her music as “90s nostalgic.” In the past year, she has opened for the Black Eyed Peas and Ty Dolla $ign as part of a “Rock the Vote” event held at the Fillmore during the Democratic National Convention last summer in Philadelphia.
Steves also recently released her latest single, “Summer’s Mine,” with an accompanying music video.
In Summer 2015, Steves turned down a fashion internship with PR Couture in New York City two weeks before she was supposed to start. During that time, she found herself in the WalkTheSky studio in South Philly and “it just clicked.”
“I am so glad that I made that decision and I kept making those decisions,” Steves said. “Everything up until this point has been a choice and I keep choosing music.”
Although Steves is dedicated to her career in music, she said she values the time she spends learning about PR, because it teaches her a lot about professionalism and self-branding.
“Having PR as a major helped me a lot in terms of learning the other side of the game,” Steves said. “It’s not just about the music or being creative, a lot of it is about the business.”
Steves’ producer, Jay Williams, also known as JayTheGreat, said the senior’s work ethic is one of the things that separates her from many other artists in the industry today.
Williams first met Steves when she was in the R&B and hip-hop trio Tomboy. When the group broke up, Steves and Williams decided to continue their work together.
“Bri has always been talented, and that’s something that I’ve always noticed. … But I think the main difference is her life and experiences,” Williams said. “It’s going to be an upward journey, and she’s done a couple of new things in this past year that have allowed her to come from a different perspective in her music.”
Steves said she believes that moving from Delaware to Philadelphia for college has impacted her music, because Philadelphia has given her the independence to express and develop herself.
“There wasn’t that pressure to fit into a norm, because there are so many different people in the city,” Steves said. “I got the chance when I came to college to figure out who I wanted to be.”
Steves’ mom, Kelly Stevenson, said she has watched her daughter’s musical progression and believes she has “skyrocketed,” even though her daughter was musically inclined from a very young age.
Kelly Stevenson gave 10-year-old Steves a keyboard for Christmas. She played with it for hours and hours after she learned the different beats, Kelly Stevenson said.
“[Her music] has evolved over the years, especially starting from high school going forward. … I’m very happy with where it is now,” Stevenson said. “I’m just amazed with how she has taken off.”
Steves believes she has accelerated in the music industry so quickly because she has seen her pursuits as a step-by-step process.
“I take it one day at a time,” Steves said. “You can’t focus on the Great Wall of China and, ‘I’ve got to make this whole wall.’ You just have to focus on each brick. … One at a time. That’s it, that’s the secret. It’s just the one brick.”
Jenny Stein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.