As an artist, discovering a true sense of agency within yourself can afford you an opportunity to produce a whole new sound. For Priscilla Renea Hamilton, an in-demand writer, this became the case when she introduced her alter-ego Muni Long last summer.
While the alternative version of herself might seem new to most, she isn’t to Hamilton. In fact, the two are quite familiar with each other.
“It’s funny because Muni Long is the actual me, like how I am around my friends and family,” she tells Rated R&B. “Priscilla Renea, although that is my government name, [is] more of the fictional character. I was very brave to be articulate, prim and proper, but I’m from the country. I’m the complete opposite. Muni Long is me finally being comfortable with myself, talking how I talk and not trying to be this perfect little princess.”
Before embarking on this natural path as Long, she had released two albums as Renea, most notably 2018’s Coloured, a genre-blurring album deeply rooted in country and soul. At the time of this call, she is in Nashville, finishing up a writing session for material that she did not disclose its intended recorder.
But, with the music she’s recorded as Long, she had things inside she needed to let loose for herself rather than gain merely co-writing credit and high chart placements for others.
“I think I just got tired of being small,” she explains. “It kind of sounds condescending to anybody who’s okay with being in the background and ancillary. There’s nothing wrong with helping other people build their dreams. I’m very professional. I know how to come in and do what I was hired for, but I think I had a lot of things that I wanted to say, how I wanted to say them and didn’t want to edit it.”
Filtering herself as a songwriter, particularly in the pop lane, was something she found herself faced with on far too many occasions.
“I really got tired of people who didn’t understand my culture, which is, Black culture,” she says. “You want me to come in and write you something that will sell in a pop way, but that pulls and draws from my culture. It made a knot in my throat every time I had to do it. And not that I had to; it was a choice. So I chose differently. I might as well pour that into myself. That’s what I did.”
She returns once again with Public Displays of Affection. Featuring an appearance from Ann Marie, the eight-track EP, which Long describes as “the most emotional project” she has ever made, is another snapshot of Long being self-sufficient in her best form.
In our interview with Long, she breaks down each track on Public Displays of Affection.
“No R&B” featuring Ann Marie
Obviously, I was being facetious with the title because it is very R&B. I’m married, but I’m very in tune with my culture right now. There’s this sort of erosion of morals and principles surrounding relationships, marriage and monogamy.
From the last EP, I had a song called “Bodies,” and I did a Clubhouse with Justin Laboy. The things people were saying were so crazy to me because yes, I’m a millennial, and yes, I’m with it — I have a song called “Thot Thoughts.” But I don’t understand the idea behind women feeling like it’s cute — not even just women, ninjas — being in relationships and feeling like it’s cute to have a side chick and promote that.
It’s very different when two people have an agreement like, “Yeah. You’re my person, but I’m going to do my thing.” When you’re misleading and manipulating people for your own benefit, I don’t understand that.
The concept of this song is just like, “Okay bitch. Play with me if you want to because mine ain’t doing that. I know it’s you.” I’m an attractive woman. I have beautiful, attractive friends who are secure. We all talk about how we’re starting to see it more where women are sexual predators too.
We absolutely are making advances on men that don’t want to be touched. That’s what the song is about. Some people are just problematic regardless of gender. Sometimes you have to let them know I’m not the one, sweetie. Don’t do it. I don’t like to fight because of my nails, makeup, [and] my clothes. They be too cute to get in a tussle, but I will if I have to.
This was one of the ones where I was a little emotional in the studio. Being in a relationship, you have to be a flexible person. You can’t feel like it’s your way or the highway. I think I’m on a journey right now, learning what forgiveness means and how to apply that to the people I love.
So I wrote that song like, “I don’t have no shame. I don’t have no pride. The goal is peace, love [and] meaningful relationships. I don’t care what happened. Who did what? Who said what? Who started it? I want to get it over with and get it resolved.” That’s my stance with any and everything, not just in my relationship but in life. Let me get to the bottom of it so we can move on and continue being positive and happy.
“To Do List”
I have a friend. His name is Bo. He’s popular on this app called Vigo. He helped me write “Sneaky Link.” We wrote this song on the same day. We wrote “Sneaky Link,” and he stepped outside, and I pulled up another track and started writing to it. He came in the room and was like, “I think you need to sing more. You don’t be singing enough. You know, you can sing your ass off, and you never sing.”
I was like, “Well, I don’t like to do that. I just kind of liked to have fun, talk my shit and get off.” He was like, “Oh, we want to hear you sing Muni.” So he literally sat there the whole time, and like, every time I did a run, he would do his hand, like “Hmm mmm. Some more.” (laughs) That’s really how we made the song — just like me looking at him, like, “Are you satisfied yet?” I feel like this is probably one of my favorite verses on the album.
I wrote this one on the same day as “IMU.” It was very personal. The song is self-explanatory, like, “This shit is just difficult trying to be the human that I want to be, but also, every day waking up and dealing with another human being.” Definitely, I know a lot of people feel me on this song, and I love the production as well.
“Hrs and Hrs”
This one is just a vibe. I was washing dishes, and it was just a very monotonous task. I hate cleaning up. So I decided to listen to some tracks while I was washing dishes. This one came up, and I just started freestyling. I would every now and then use my elbow to start it over from the top. I think I wrote the song in maybe 20 minutes. I went in the studio a couple of days later and recorded it. It’s probably my favorite song to sing live. It’s just so beautiful.
“No Signal” is just me being funny because I live in LA and there’s so many drop spots especially living in Calabasas. You go through the mountains, and there’s going to be patches where your call will drop every single time. On the way to the studio that day, I was listening to beats. I think I was trying to do something on my phone. I literally was like, (starts singing) “I ain’t got nothing.” I was playing, and then I burst out laughing. I was like, “That’s actually fire, and I’m going to do that.” I took that little silly melody and went in the studio and freaked out the song.
It’s just a real song, man. I think every person, regardless of gender, gender identity, or sexuality, have all gone through a moment with another person where we’re like, “Man, I wish I never met your ass.” (laughs). So that’s what this song is about – just expressing that frustration.
“Just Beginning – Live”
I performed this song for the Sheen Awards, which aired on Fox Soul a couple of weeks back. I decided one day to post a clip of it on my TikTok and my Instagram. It went viral. I was like, “Oh shit. I wasn’t expecting that.” So, because of it, there was a lot of conversation between a few influencers. London Romano had a conversation with Rihanna about it. Monica hit me up. A lot of people I’ve worked with in the past, who didn’t realize that I had made the shift to Muni Long, were all engaging with that piece of content.
We just got it right. I did that with Frank Gatson, who choreographed and creative directed. We collaborated on the actual concept and shooting of it. I did my own makeup and nails. [I] collaborated with [Sir] Joe Exclusive on the styling [and] pulled in my hair person Devante Turnbull. It was so Muni Long from top to bottom. Getting that sort of reception was kind of like a big stamp of approval from God like, “Okay. You know what you’re doing. Trust your heart and follow what it is that you like and set your own standards.”
Unanimously, everybody was talking about how beautiful the piece was overall, how beautiful the costume was, how beautiful I looked and how amazing the song was because of the way they were captivated. They listened to the lyrics because of how I grabbed their attention visually. So, the decision to put the live version on this EP was just because of how much people enjoyed the piece.
Stream Muni Long’s Public Displays of Affection below.