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For Hackney's Bree Runway, the past couple of years have been the most dramatic example of the "how it started vs. how it's going" meme. Seemingly capable of making things happen by speaking them into existence, in March, she tweeted hip-hop superstar Missy Elliott asking her jump on a remix to one of her songs, and just six months later, Missy is one of the featured artists on Bree's new mixtape, 2000AND4EVA.
For a lot of her fans, Bree Runway is Missy's natural successor. Her hyper-futuristic aesthetic, disregard for genre boundaries and galactic-sized personality are all working together to realise Missy's vision. But she's so much more than the "new Missy", and we're sure she'd dismiss such a description (as well as comparisons to Kelis and Grace Jones). The influence of early 2000s MTV excess is an obvious one, but mixed in with that are proud celebrations of her Ghanaian heritage, distorted punk noise, and a swagger that could only have come from her East London stomping ground. In just the last year, we've had chrome-covered funk ("GUCCI"), rap and R&B bombast ("APESHIT") and caustic mosh-pit anthems ("LITTLE NOKIA"), the latter of which was given a Rico Nasty-assisted remix. One thing we're sure of is that Bree was sent to us from space and there'll never be another quite like her.
Complex caught up with Bree Runway to break down every track on the 2000AND4EVA tape, explaining more about some of the themes and how they play into each track.
"I love how 'APESHIT' was birthed. Typical of me to be jumping around and freestyling whilst my friends mess around on Ableton, but there was something about the 'APESHIT' chords that just stuck! I looked at the producer, Moon Willis, and said: 'Hold on! We have something here.' The chorus melody came about almost instantly, and it was super easy to wrap this. The room was as hype as the outcome of the song, and of course it was important to mirror that energy in the video. I wanted the video to be a visual representation of what going 'APESHIT' looks like; viewers are met with fast-paced shots and me going nuts! I said, 'Fuck looking pretty or posing. I want this video to be nuts and crazy, because that's really what I am.'"
"I remember walking into the studio—it was a session with Easy Fun and Cleo. I said to Easy Fun, 'I need you to give me the most un-PC music shit right now. I don't want to hear NO regular pop chords, seriously. Press play on something SCARY and exciting.' I had a very big middle finger I wanted to throw up to a certain guy, and I needed the production to reflect that, and no word of a lie, he didn't even take his coat off. He got stuck right in, and I heard that aggressive, distorted guitar and was taken aback! I was like, 'Yesss! This is what I want to be screaming: All you do is li-li-lie, li-li-lie lie on."
"ATM" f/ Missy Elliott
"Oh, man! 'ATM'. So I had just released 'GUCCI', and it was causing a frenzy online. I was literally glued to my phone basking in all the love till my eyes literally couldn't handle anymore. So I thought, 'It's time to hit the sheets.' I was just about to close my eyes and my A&R called. It was late, so in my head it had to be an emergency and you damn right it was! He said, 'Missy Elliott wants to do a record with you.' I was like, 'With WHO???' 'ATM' was always one of those songs that felt incomplete to me, but the lightbulb moment hit us and Missy was definitely the missing piece of the puzzle. With fingers crossed, we sent it over to her hoping she'd like it and she did. When I got her verse back, tears were literally streaming down my face. I kept saying, 'OMG! Missy thee legend, the icon! I almost dropped my laptop. I was shook! [Laughs] She just means so much to me; her work is still as iconic as it was when I was a kid, and that’s timeless—that's that icon shit. I hope I have that same kind of impact in the years to come."
"DAMN DANIEL" f/ Yung Baby Tate
"In Tate's words: 'Omg! It's like Brandy and Monica, but rap.' And in mine: 'Yes, exactly.' I originally wrote two verses whilst on a trip in Sweden—one in a super British accent, one in a super American accent; one character called Keisha and one called Lisa—but I sat on the song for a second and realised it would be better to actually have another girl on it. And who other than Tate? She's so animated and full of personality, everything this song is. The video is also something I'll hold close to my heart, as it was shot at the start of quarantine during the peak of lockdown. We were supposed to have Tate fly in, but we ended up shooting in our living rooms."
"This song was birthed out of a session where I was reminiscing on some party nights out where I'd be in a Rolls Royce that wasn't rented. Literally! I don't know what it is with gunshots, but I love how they sound in music and this song makes me feel like I'm raving in the Caribbean; it just has that feel. This is a sound I haven't touched on before, but just like with any other genre I hop on, I just step to the mic and make it Bree Runway. I love this song so much. It makes me want to go out."
"GUCCI" f/ Maliibu Miitch
"After a day out shopping in Selfridges, I went over to the studio and I said to Moon Willis, 'I want to talk my fly girl shit,' as per usual. I felt so good that day, and I wanted to lay down some words that mirrored how special I was feeling. In comes the sample we were obsessed with that day: 'Gucci like a girl they can call, they can call.' To me, that just spoke money and presence. It's less about Gucci, the brand, more about the client, the woman—me! Gucci wants an elite girl to call, and I have so many offers on my phone. I'm just poppin'! And that's what this song's all about."
"4 NICOLE THEA & BABY REIGN"
"During the lockdown, I lost a good friend. She was just about to give birth, and I was so excited to meet baby Reign. It was so hard for me and still is hard to understand her passing. I could only put my pain into song. The line 'when I look up high, I see your light' means a lot to me because when I was struggling to write how I felt about her one day; it was a really gloomy day, and the sun appeared out of nowhere and shined directly on me. I took that as her guidance and her embrace."
"NO SIR (FREESTYLE)"
"Man, what a fun day! I often go for writing trips in Berlin with this amazing producer duo called Killian & Jo, and we really do come alive in the night time. This freestyle came about at 4-something in the morning. With the energy I put into this song, you'd have thought that I was on something [laughs], but that's that typical Bree Runway: high-off-life energy. I'm like the Energizer Bunny."
"LITTLE NOKIA" (REMIX) f/ Rico Nasty
"When I got the original session bounce over, I listened to it so many times and with each listen, I thought: 'Damn! Rico Nasty would sound so sick on this.' Fans picked up on that same feeling when the song was released and would tag us saying we should make it happen. I'm glad our schedules allowed us this time around as we've been meaning to work with each other for a while."