Singer-songwriter Muni Long, once known as Priscilla Renea, is the writer behind a bevy of chart-topping songs for other artists like “Timber” by Pitbull and Kesha, “Somethin’ Bad” by Miranda Lambert and Carrie Underwood and “California King Bed” by Rihanna. She’s made a career of sowing songs into other singers, but one day, while humming around in her kitchen, she stumbled upon the song that would grant her the shine she’s long deserved as a singer with her viral sensation, “Hrs & Hrs.” Now the music starlet is taking the industry by storm with no end in sight.
Long sat down with Blavity to discuss her viral success and unexpected rise to music’s frontlines.
From Priscilla Renea to Muni Long
“I used to make videos on YouTube under the name Priscilla Renea, which is still me still in there,” Long told Blavity.
While Long has never done a formal reintroduction for her followers, she said she sometimes notices people realizing that they’ve seen her before. One of the people who had such an epiphany was singer Monica. The veteran songstress invited Long to join her on an episode of Family Feud, but before that, the two linked up in Atlanta and got to talking when it all hit Monica.
“My government name is Priscilla. So I kept saying that,” Long said. “[Monica] was like, ‘why do you keep saying, Priscilla? Wait a minute — Muni Long is Priscilla Renea. Oh my God.’ Like she just had a moment where she was just like, ‘this whole time I’ve been sitting here around you and I didn’t know that y’all were the same person.’”
Long has earned quite the treasure trove of accolades as Priscilla Renea, but the transformation to Muni Long allowed her to feel more authentically herself.
“Honestly, Muni Long is who I actually am like, when I’m with my friends, but that’s just my personality. Super funny and like, sassy, witty, whatever,” Long said. “I think I had to just tuck that person away and be professional to last as a songwriter. You know, Priscilla Renea is like goody two shoes, you know, a student. And I had to be that person for a very long time. But that’s not who I actually really am. So, Muni Long is just me finally getting to kind of just like, okay, you know, be me, I’m super happy and just like, I feel free now.”
The unexpected viral life of "Hrs & Hrs"
“Hrs & Hrs” is the byproduct of washing dishes.
“I was sitting here washing dishes at like one in the morning,” Long said. “I don’t like cleaning up, so I was trying to just like distract myself by playing some beats. So, I go on YouTube and I look up R&B type beat, and it was like, you know, a few things popped up. I’m swiping with my elbow [since I was] washing dishes. And that one popped up and immediately I was like, ‘oh, wait a minute, that’s different,’ and I started freestyling.”
As she was freestyling and humming, words developed to what she’d later refine as the lyrics to “Hrs & Hrs.”
“And then a couple of days later, I went to record or it might even have been the next day, I can’t remember. But I just liked it. That’s it. It was that simple. I just really liked it.”
Normally, she’d write something and look for an artist to sell to, but this song felt different.
“I’m blessed to be the person that gets to sing this song,” she said. “I just keep saying like, ‘thank you God for letting me be the person that the song belongs to.’ If I had still been a songwriter, I honestly don’t think I would have given it away. I think I probably still would have just been like, ‘Nah, I think I’m gonna keep this one.’ You know, because I really just loved it.”
And then it went viral, as Blavity previously reported.
“I did not expect that song to do anywhere close to what it did. I mean, we’re getting new good news every day. The song just went gold a few days ago!”
Learning to take the lead
Putting herself center stage wasn’t a vie for fame, she said. She was just trying to see how far she could go and how much she might be able to grow as an artist.
“I’ve always been an accessory to someone else’s dreams,” Long said. “And this was the first time it’s like when you’re really out front, in uncharted territory, and you just get to choose which direction you want to go. It can be very scary.”
But, when it was time for her to dream something for herself, she still thought of how it could help others.
“I think I’ve given a lot of hope and inspiration to aspiring artists, fellow songwriters, people in my peer group. I love the idea of the win for me being a win for everybody. So yeah, that was pretty much my mission. And I think we accomplished it.”
The gift that keeps on giving
“It took me a while for it to really all the way deeply sink in what has happened,” Long said. “I still don’t think I know how far this song is gonna take me.”
“[Amazon] gave me complete freedom to do whatever I wanted musically,” Long said.
She opted to perform the song a-la-Jill Scott, she said, adding that the new version has Scott-inspired neo-soul vibes.
“Hopefully everybody likes it, but if not, then, you know, I feel like people need to see someone, especially someone who looks like me, feel free to experiment and express themselves. You know, we need to know that. You can try things it’s okay. You know, everybody might not like it, but it’s part of your journey.”