One thing about Muni Long (pronounced Money Long) is she’s not afraid of reinvention. Born Priscilla Renea Hamilton, the multi-talented songwriter, and artist released her first studio album Jukebox under the name Priscilla Renea in 2009 after being discovered on YouTube. She soon pivoted to songwriting and spent the next decade co-writing chart-topping hits for some of the biggest names in music. Remember Rihanna’s “California King Bed” from 2011? Muni co-wrote it. What about “Imagine” by Ariana Grande? Yup, she also co-wrote that. Her songwriting resume is as impressive as it is endless—Mariah Carey, Madonna, Mary J. Blige, and Selena Gomez to name a few also flexing the diversity of genres in which she succeeded. But years of working for others behind the scenes got tiring, dimming her own star power and vocal abilities to retain her job of supporting bigger acts in the studio.
The comfortability of figuratively making yourself smaller to accommodate others usually stems from learned behavior in your childhood. It’s a topic Muni speaks to in-depth below but as she experienced the growing pains of adulthood she realized she didn’t have to stay pigeonholed in her job. Betting on herself, she returned to her career as a solo artist in 2018 and launched her own label, Supergiant Records, in January 2020 reinventing herself once again as Muni Long. At the end of 2021, she released her EP Public Displays Of Affection, and one song, in particular, took the internet by storm going viral on TikTok and playlists everywhere. “Hrs & Hrs” fittingly starts off with Muni saying “I don’t usually do this but can I sing to you?” before singing in her soulful and honeyed voice and telling a lover “I wanna give you your flowers”. It’s the song that finally gave Muni her flowers, reaching the top 20 spot on the Billboard 100 chart, becoming certified platinum by the RIAA, and is currently sitting at over 90 million streams on Spotify. After years of having her name scribbled in the songwriting credits of platinum hits for others, Muni finally got the solo spotlight she deserved.
Continuing to stack her faith in herself and building on her success, Muni’s released a string of singles since such as “Another”, “Baby Boo” feat. Saweetie, and John Legend’s “Honey” in which she’s the featured artist. Below, she opens up about unlearning behavior from her childhood, navigating adulthood through hardship, collaborating with Saweetie and why telling the truth and making it rhyme is the essence of successful music.
Your song “Baby Boo” with Saweetie was just released, tell me about how that collaboration came together?
I went into the studio to work with Tommy Brown and Mr. Franks, who do all the stuff for Ariana Grande, most recently “Positions” and “Thank U, Next”. They played me some sketch ideas and when I heard the track sketch for “Baby Boo” I immediately started singing “I love you, I love you” just being silly like always—it’s pretty much how most of my best stuff comes from—and then the song took us 45 mins to an hour max to write. We were talking trash, writing, and laughing, and then I got a call, Saweetie’s been in the studio working on her album, and I got a call to come through and possibly do something with her together. I was playing “Baby Boo” and initially, she was like yeah [but] she had some other ideas for what she wanted us to do together. Her label was listening, coming in and out of the room, and everybody was like what is that coming out of the room? And she was like okay imma get on it but I need you to do something for me, so we wrote a song together for her that we’ll do together if she ends up using it. She’s singing on [Baby Boo and] I was impressed, even though she sang before on other songs, she’s super melodic. The video is going to be really fun and she’s just a joy to work with.
In your song “Another”, you’re putting your partner on notice for not treating you the way you want and drawing your boundaries. Have you always had that empowerment within you to accept nothing less than what you deserve or is this something you’ve learned over time?
Definitely, something I’ve learned over time, I used to be very much a people pleaser [and I] didn’t want to ruffle anybody’s feathers. [I was] coming from a very strict household where you didn’t have a voice, you didn’t have a choice, [it was] do what I say. My dad was in the military, [and] my mom was very strict so I didn’t understand that it’s hard to transition out of that into adulthood, a lot of times super strict parents don’t understand [that] you’re training your child to be obedient [and] you’re not training them to have their own thoughts. So it took me a long time to realize you have a choice, you don’t have to do what everybody else wants you to do, you’re not living for anyone else’s expectations, you have to live your life for [yourself] and be the best that you can be from moment to moment. I think years of being a pushover, getting bullied, having to fight, [and] getting taken advantage of, I’m like yeah I did that, I’m good I don’t need to do that anymore, you know what I’m saying? Cause a lot of people [who] go through stuff like that become the people that they hate. But I feel like bullying, it’s going out of style, it’s not fun to be an asshole, so I prefer to be kind, protect myself, protect my space, [and] protect the people in my space so I very much fight and advocate for my people.
You’ve been a songwriter for many years, was it an aha moment when you decided to pursue your own solo career?
No, just like with anything sometimes when you do it enough you hit a ceiling, I had done it enough—I did it for 12 years. This generation is different like our moms and dads worked jobs for 30 years, we don’t do that, when something is no longer fulfilling us, we are no longer afraid to move on and it’s as simple as that. I had enough of that experience and I wanted to try something else.
What did your years of songwriting for others teach you that is beneficial for your solo career?
My skillset, I honed my skills as a songwriter, [and] being able to see behind the veil of A list entertainers and A list productions and being a part of those. Songwriting isn’t always other artists sometimes it’s movies [or] TV and you get to see things and begin to understand how the whole show business works, there’s so much that happens and I’m still learning. I feel like I’m [forever] learning because as things continue to evolve, technology, web 3.0, metaverse, [and] social media it’s so much to grab onto. I think my skills as a songwriter [are] what is helping this fire burn so bright—it’s like adding gasoline.
Even though it’s not what you wanted to do forever, did those years as a songwriter serve a greater purpose in giving you knowledge that’s advantageous compared to new artists in the industry?
No question, while I was going through it I [wished] I wasn’t and I cried a lot. I was frustrated and unhappy, I did a lot of [unfortunate] things like substance abuse, eating the wrong things, hanging out with the wrong people, not taking care of myself [and] damaging my body and my mind but I wouldn’t take any of it back because now that I’m out of it I’m like yea I needed that. I needed that experience because I didn’t get it as a child, I was so sheltered [and] I didn’t know anything. I came out here [to LA], 18-19 years old till like 23 I had this intense life lesson and then from 23-28 I had extreme hardship and what that means for me is not the same thing it means for someone who is impoverished but for me, it meant being an adult. Not having any money or tools, I didn’t know how to be an adult— didn’t know how to write a letter [or] how to pay my bills. It was hard getting evicted, contemplating having to sell things, I had 7 cents in my bank account and that lasted for 3 years, no exaggeration like drinking Kool-Aid and rationing a pack of ramen noodles. But I was just thinking I don’t wanna go back home, it’s one of those things when you say it out loud you realize how bad it actually was.
How would you describe your relationship with social media? Do you ever feel the pressure of constantly creating content?
I actually love it, the only time [it’s] frustrating is when people who don’t understand social media try to pressure you to post. It totally defeats the purpose it has to be organic [and] authentic. Social media is something people are choosing to consume–I get to swipe, [delete], block—it is completely curated by the user [and] you cannot try to commercialize that because we don’t want to watch commercials, we skip the ad if there is a button to skip [it]. I know what my supporters want to hear [and] what my [fan] base wants to see from me, it’s worth it to wait a week and give an authentic piece versus eroding the trust of my [fan] base by continuously trying to sell them shit but other than that I love socials. It’s like literally being able to roll over [out of bed] with a loudspeaker and there’s a crowd of million people and it’s like [holds a microphone] alright y’all, what did you think about this? I could see a comedy sketch now, imagine a group of people waiting for you to do something, you go get dressed and you’re like what do you think?
You said you heard this quote “whatever is most personal is universal” at USC graduation and it stuck with you. Where do vulnerability and self-awareness come into your creative process for making music?
I always say you have to tell the truth and make it rhyme—those are the best songs. For me personally, you can’t connect with me unless you are being authentic, I can tell when someone is being disingenuous there’s a film that separates our energy [it] doesn’t mesh like oil and water. You can’t trick people and I’ve said that for many years, you can’t trick the audience, they know. I always make sure that whatever I’m doing, it’s authentic, it has to be real, if it makes people be like [gasps] she said that? I would rather have that than something that is like oh that was pretty and then you forget it.
Is that a product of your years in the industry learning to see through the fake and real? And have you always said what’s on your mind?
For me that’s two different things, yes to the second part. I always have [said what’s on my mind] but it hasn’t always been received, that’s part of the hang-up when you’re providing a service for other people, they may or may not be comfortable to be outrageous like that or say whatever unfiltered. I, on the other hand, don’t have a filter and I do take into account the concerns of other people but for the most part, as long as it’s not harming anybody—it’s okay to be polarizing. The other part about seeing through the bullshit [is] I was very naive because I’m not a liar, I don’t expect other people to lie, even just recently I’m learning someone can be a really good salesman and convince you of their authenticity with words and that takes a little bit longer to decipher because you just end up being confused…
When their actions don’t match up with their words.
Why am I confused? Why am I frustrated? Wait a minute, it’s you [laughs] that happened to me recently where I was like aha! It’s freaking you and that person is no longer around, I’m still learning, but that took me a long time to figure out.
What legacy would you like to leave behind for the future generation of songwriters and artists?
I want people to understand that you really can do anything. You can only meet people as deeply as they’ve met themselves, [and] you can only accomplish your dreams to the level of belief that you have. So aside from building your physical life, the things around you, your bank account, instead of just staking that, you gotta stack your faith too. People do it every day and they don’t realize it they’re like oh man I really want Starbucks, and then an hour later they got a coffee cup in their hand or I really want to go to the movies, and then they go—those are things you believe you can have. Now at the place where I’ll say something like I really want to work with this person [or] I’ll say I really wanna go on vacation and then I’ll get an offer to do something. Being able to really super-create your reality that way is so much more gratifying than being angry with someone. When you realize you have the ability to have [a] superpower and eventually that’ll grow and keep growing for me where I can say I want to buy a house in Bali and it will appear, I’m not there yet [laughs] but I’m on my way.
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