Emerging rap star Bia, 26, was born Bianca Landrau in Boston and raised in Medford. Also known as Perico Princess, the half-Puerto Rican, half-Italian singer/songwriter and model debuted on the Oxygen reality TV show Sisterhood of Hip Hop and is signed to Pharrell’s record label, i Am Other, in collaboration with RCA. After the release of her debut project, #CholaSeason, she earned nominations for a Latin Grammy and Latin Music Award for her feature on J.Balvin’s 2016 hit “Safari.” She has toured with Pusha-T and Ariana Grande, and last year she opened for Grande before the concert bombing that killed 23 in Manchester, England. She spends her time in Boston and Los Angeles.
Jonathan Soroff: Is it harder to be a woman in the music industry?
Bia: No. I always get that question, but I really don’t feel that way. Being a woman is a lot of fun. We have our trials, just like everybody else, but I actually think it makes it better being a woman and doing what I’m doing.
Best part of touring? The performance is number one. Just tapping in with all the fans in different places, and the traveling is so much fun. You get to see so many places, and it’s a culture shock everywhere you go.
What’s it like when you perform in other countries? I’ve performed throughout Latin America, and I’ve noticed that in Latin countries, I get a lot of love. They just embrace me so much, which I’m so grateful for. Especially because with Spanish, I’m still learning and it’s been great to travel in these countries and get the feedback that I have.
Once you hit the big time, what was the biggest extravagance you gave yourself? To be honest, I’m not someone who indulges myself. I’m more about taking care of the people around me and making sure everybody has what they need. I never went out and said, “Oh, I want this car,” or whatever. I’m taking care of a couple of other people, too.
Is it easier for you to write because you can draw from two different languages? It’s not easier, but it brings a different perspective. And it gives me more options, and there’s a wider range for people to relate to.
Favorite music festival you’ve played? I loved playing at the Hellow Festival in Monterrey, Mexico. That was my favorite to date.
Favorite venue? The Ziggo Dome in Amsterdam. It’s such a cool venue, and it was such a great crowd. I loved it.
Top three things in heavy rotation on your playlist? I’m listening to a lot of SZA, a lot of Rich the Kid and a lot of reggae mixes.
Favorite piece of equipment for making music? When I record at home, there’s this little thing that goes over the mic. I don’t know what it’s called, but it’s like a big blue ball, and you can record in open spaces with it and it makes everything sound better. I love using that thing.
Three adjectives that describe your fashion sense? Edgy, chic and fly.
Word that you overuse the most? In writing songs, I don’t really have one, but in speaking, I say, “It’s lit” way too much.
Is Boston a good place for rap and hip-hop? For people starting out, absolutely, because Boston has one of the best underground rap fan bases and a lot of venues that cater to early rap acts, like the Sinclair, and the Paradise Rock Club and the Middle East. I played at all those places. There are just a lot of ways to reach the people.
Do you ever write in your sleep? That’s so crazy you say that. No one’s ever asked me that, but yes! It happens to me all the time. I’ll go to sleep with an idea, or I’ll have something running through my mind, and I’ll wake up and say, “I have to write this down, so I don’t forget it by the morning.” It happens to me quite often.
What other forms of music inspire you? I love listening to music with no lyrics sometimes. Just beats and instruments, melodies with no lyrics. That really gets my creative juices flowing. And I like to listen to music from other cultures. I listen to a lot of Brazilian music, a lot of reggae, even rap from other countries like Germany or Holland.
One thing people would be surprised to know about you? People never expect me to be nice or as relatable as I am. I’m kind of private when it comes to social media. A lot of artists are more open and interactive with their fans. They show their lives a lot more. If a lot of people saw my life, I think they’d say, “Oh, this makes a lot more sense. I can really relate to her.”
Any desire to act in movies? Absolutely. I think every entertainer wants that. I just see myself as an entertainer as a whole. Music’s just my passion, but I’d definitely love to act.
Most overrated rapper of all time? I think people overhype a lot of new rappers all the time. Every three months there’s someone saying, “This is the greatest rapper of all time,” and he’s been out for like six months. Then, two years later, you never hear from them again. It’s the test of time. I just like to see who’s still here.
Who’s the most underrated or underappreciated? I can name you a zillion artists who are underrated. There are a lot of local artists who don’t have the resources to get into everyone’s headphones or onto those playlists. I encourage people to listen to their local artists. Listen to the people who don’t necessarily have a billboard. Check them out.
Favorite Spanglish phrase? Well, right now, it’s “Oye, papi,” because ever since “Safari” came out, everyone comes up to me and says that. I’d like to think I popularized that.
Thing you miss most about Boston when you’re not here? Besides my family—who I miss so, so much—the food. Boston has such great seafood, and I really miss that.
Would you ever consider cutting your hair short? No, I wouldn’t do a short ’do, but I will switch it up. I went blond this year. I’ve changed the color. But I’m never doing a Halle Berry thing.
Favorite fashion designer? I love this designer out of Russia, Ksenia Schnaider. Their stuff is really, really dope. Reconstructed jeans that are really fun, and stuff. And Y/Project, out of Paris. I love their stuff.
So when do you think you’ll win a Grammy? I can’t call it. I have no idea, but hopefully this year. The next Grammys is what I’m shooting for.
Is there one you really want to play but haven’t? Yes. I would love to play Coachella. That’s the greatest festival, especially out here.
Ever written any lyrics that your parents disapproved of? No. [Laughs]
A person you’re dying to work with? I would love to work with Rihanna. ◆
Bia photographed for The Improper by Mark Squires; Location: Los Angeles; Stylist: E.J. King; Assistant stylist: Jyoti; Hair: Preston Wada; Makeup: Juanice Reed; Wardrobe: MaryMe-JimmyPaul coat, This Is A Love Song lingerie