In 2020, the artist formerly known as Priscilla Renea decided it was time for a change. She’d been successful in the industry as a songwriter, penning records for the likes of Rihanna (“California King Bed”), Ariana Grande (“Imagine“), Pitbull and Kesha (“Timber“), Fifth Harmony (“Worth It”), and more. While these are all undoubtedly successful records, a fresh start was what she truly desired. So in 2020, Renea changed her stage name to what we all know her by today: Muni Long. Between then and now, Long used her veteran experience, combined with the appearance of being a new artist, to do things her way.
And then she struck gold. At the end of 2021, Long released Public Displays Of Affection, her third project under her new stage name. In a matter of a month, “Hrs And Hrs” from the project grew to not only be a fan favorite from the project but a viral record on TikTok as well. The song is a sultry and immensely passionate record that manifests a love that lasts a lifetime. However, the track’s success didn’t stop there. Just a month in 2022, “Hrs And Hrs” has climbed upward on the Billboard Hot 100 chart where it currently sits at No. 25. With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, we can expect the song to grow even more and reach new heights.
We caught up with Muni Long to talk about the record, her growth as an artist and songwriter, and what she hopes the future for herself and the industry looks like.
With the success you’re experiencing as Muni Long, it’s also brought attention to your past work as Priscilla Renea, thus elevating your past and current chapters. How has this experience been watching it all unfold?
I’m just happy to always be able to be free and express myself in whatever way I want to, I think that’s the power of the internet. Also, when you just choose fearlessly to exist the way you want to exist, and you’re able to be your most authentic self, then people will love you for it and accept you. I think part of that, what people don’t really maybe cling on is that I’m everything that doing it for the pure joy of this is just what I want to be doing. My intention is not to go viral or have everybody love what I’m doing, I really don’t care. I couldn’t care less about that part. I think that’s part of the magic, right? It was like a balance between focusing on what you want and attracting it and then creating that distance so it’s like you’re not desperate for it when it comes to you. I’m just excited that I finally figured out that formula because I know that that means I can do this over and over again.
How did you learn to deal with the frustrations of being boxed in as a songwriter despite wanting to break out as your own established artists?
I’ve been like, really, really high and then really, really low. I’ve always believed in the idea that you got to keep going and because I have had like some crazy health scares and moments where I was like, “Oh, sh*t, I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to sing again,” you sort of lose that concern for what everybody else thinks. I’m already very down to earth, but I think having some really humbling moments where you realize, “dang you really can lose it all,” it just makes you just live carefree. I’m just glad to be here, glad to be alive, glad to be able to breathe, you know, just simple things like that. Everything else is a bonus., an extra. I think me getting to that place mentally, spiritually, [and] emotionally has contributed to the success of the song, the success of my Muni Long project. I don’t know, I’m just really happy to be alive.
Your success on TikTok with “Hrs And Hrs” is similar to that which you achieved on YouTube to start your career. What inspirations or anything at all did you keep in mind when it was time to use TikTok to your advantage?
I don’t think anything was specific to the song. My strategy was just to get back to being my authentic self: goofy, not caring about what people think about me, blocking all the negativity — literally like I’ll block and delete it. Really just liking all the comments and having a rapport with enough of my following to actually respond to people or have a relationship with them. I wouldn’t say that we’re friends — I mean a couple of people, like literally maybe one or two, I’ve actually become close with outside of the internet, like, we talked on the phone and hang out. But I actually have a rapport with my supporters, like my true supporters. I could tell, I just know who really are the ones who really f*ck with me, and the ones who are just here because of the song, it’s love to all kinds of traffic. I think the strategy is to actually care about the people you’re asking to support and listen to your music. I actually really do care about them and I want them to feel inspired and uplifted by what I’m giving them.
Looking at how things went for you after your YouTube success, what have you learned from then that you plan to do differently with your resurgence?
Just keep the negativity to a minimum. I don’t want to engage in any drama. I just want to have fun, that’s it. Have fun, keep making great music, perform, connect with people, [and] experience the best things in life.
With “Hrs And Hrs,” what was the one moment where you realized this song was going to be bigger than you ever imagined?
Okay, so I was home, like Christmas — no, it was New Year’s Eve. I went home to visit my parents, me and my husband were supposed to be on vacation, but that didn’t work out. We ended up going to my mom’s house in Florida and I was on the way back home from Chick Fil A with my husband and we were just in the car and I heard the song playing and I kind of panicked like hold up, where’s that coming from? I don’t know why I panicked, but I just was nervous for a second, like, what the hell? My phone is not on, the radio is not on, what is that? I realized that the car next to us was blasting the song, and I was like, “Oh sh*t, she’s playing the song.” Then she merged over in front of us and we could see her finger waving like she was singing the song. I was like, “Oh that’s crazy!.” At first, it felt like a video game. It just didn’t feel real
How would you describe your growth as Muni Long over the past two years?
I think there’s being confident in who I am, really enforcing the boundary of love and light, positivity, [and] manifesting what you want on songs like “Build A Bae.” There’s “Hrs And Hrs” which people have said that they’ve been using as an affirmation song to manifest love. I think people are always looking for some type of drama, they’re always trying to start something. One of my things as an artist is to just really enforce that I don’t want to be a part of that. Let’s have fun, let’s elevate, let’s grow as people and individuals, let’s encourage each other, and let’s support each other’s artistry. I’m starting to see the fruits of that in my life behind the scenes. As I continue to exist in the spotlight, people will see more of that where I’m collaborating with a lot of these other dope female artists. Collaborations are coming with some of the guys too, it’s just like that message is gonna continue to permeate. Beefing is really stupid to me, I’m just happy to be alive. I don’t wanna beef with nobody, but that’s the biggest thing to me for Muni Long. Even the name Muni Long is an affirmation. My whole life is centered around attracting the best possible out of this universe and you can’t do that when you have any type of blockages or animosity. Of course, you need darkness in order for life to exist and vice versa, but I just choose to be the light and that’s really the biggest thing.
How have things changed for you in the past couple of months, even on the most minimal scale possible? How are you handling it?
It’s pretty crazy what the internet can do for you. Honestly, the best way to explain it is I don’t know if you’ve ever walked into church late? Or walk into class late and everybody turned around and look at you? It really feels like I walk into a stadium of people and everybody turned around and looked at me at the same time. It’s like, “Damn! Okay.” It’s not a bad thing, I’m ready for it, it’s like, I can take it but all of y’all just turned around at the same time? My Instagram went crazy. Or the last two weeks. Like last week, I was getting like 60,000-70,000 followers a day. My Instagram went from 80k to 361k [followers]. That’s nuts! It happened super fast. The kind of attention that I’m getting now is different. The other day I went to lunch with my friends, and four people walked in the restaurant waving at me, you know, “Oh can I take a picture?” I’m like, yo that’s crazy. Now, I’m at the point, like, I went out on Sunday, and somebody was filming me while I was eating my food. They posted on Instagram and I was like, okay that’s weird. Stuff like that is weird, but you know, what you gonna do?
It’s a new year and you’ve already experienced so much success. What are some additional goals that you have for yourself both musically and personally?
I just want to keep exploring the depths of my talent. I know that this is the song that blew up and it’s super R&B, but I rap, you know, I have all these things that I can do that I want to do. I just want to have fun, so just being able to have success on multiple levels. Doing some Latin music, you know, just exploring. Then getting into the fashion world and the beauty world, maybe some film and television. I just want to explore my creativity.
You’ve got the attention of the industry as you’re one the most talked-about artists. What’s one or two things that you’d ask from the industry?
I just wish that people in general were nicer. I went through hell in the beginning, like the first 5-7 years of my career, people can just be really mean. You never know what people are going through. Like how people were making fun of Chadwick Boseman for being so skinny, and then they found out he was sick. Why do we feel so comfortable picking on people? I never understood that. That would be one thing, and I know that’s not really the industry, but I think artists kind of set the standard, right? If we come out and speak up against certain things, or if there were more programs or opportunities for us to encourage kindness? I know it sounds like such a small thing, but I don’t know, I just hate it. A lot of these fans — not to like name anyone specific but I think we know who we’re talking about here, like different groups that support artists, they’re really mean. They’re mean to other artists, they’re mean to other fans, it’s like that energy is not cool.
Public Displays Of Affection is out now via Supergiant Records. You can stream it here.