When Brianna Perry's name was read as a nominee for Best Female Hip Hop Artist at the BET Awards last Sunday, some folks watching at home undoubtedly said, "Who?" But BET viewers who've been paying attention are already in the know when it comes to the 20-year-old Miami-based rapper. Her bouncy single "Marilyn Monroe" is one of the year's surprise bangers, landing her an appearance on 106 & Park back in January. And though she lost out at the BET Awards to Nicki Minaj, don't be surprised if Perry makes a strong run at next year's proceedings — and the year after. The statuesque rapper recently sat down with BET.com to discuss Missy Elliott, Beethoven and her new mixtape.
Brianna made a big mark with "Marilyn Monroe," in which she compares her "Hollyhood" glamour — not to mention her bleach-blonde tresses and curvaceous figure — to the late starlet. But Brianna says the song is more than just a boast. "Confidence is sexy and that's what I wanted to have people feel on that record," she tells BET.com. "It's just about feeling good and feeling yourself and having fun. When I thought about a woman who really impacted the world with her sexiness and her poise, there's nobody like Marilyn Monroe."
Rapping since the age of three, Brianna has worked with Miami icons including Flo Rida and Trina, and has made appearances in videos for Trick Daddy, DJ Khaled and Missy Elliott — who gave Perry her first taste of success when she signed the rapper, then known as Lil Brianna, as a teen. Though a grown-up Brianna is now signed to Poe Boy Music, also home to Flo Rida, she says her time under Missy's wing had a huge impact.
"She's a musical icon — from her work ethic in the studio to her shows," Brianna says. "She puts 200 percent into her shows, so when [I saw] her come up with her concert ideas and her rehearsals, it definitely [made an] impression on me. She told me to just to have fun with your music and never stop having fun — as long as you're loving what you're doing you'll be successful."
But Brianna's also found inspiration by linking with some of rap's newer titans — she recruited MMG spitter Wale for the remix to "Marilyn Monroe." "He's definitely one of the most hardest working people that I've come across," she says. "[He's] always working, a humble guy, very talented. That was a great experience."
Not that Brianna needs much help in the work ethic department — she's balancing being a budding rap rookie with pursuing a degree. "I'm still in college; I attend the University of Miami School of Business," she says. "I'm just taking life one day at a time, enjoying myself and learning so much."
She gets her diploma next year, but she hopes to graduate to the next level in the rap game before then, as she's prepping a new mixtape, Symphony No. 9, named after Beethoven's iconic masterwork. If Brianna has her way, it'll be just as timeless and acclaimed.
"Beethoven went deaf, and that's what I'm doing with this project," she says. "Just going deaf to the game and what everybody's telling me — who I should sound like, what I should look like or what I shouldn't be doing. I'm just sticking to my own sound and my own thing and my own movement."
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(Photo: John Ricard)