Going Through Phases with Henri B. Styles

The DMV music scene has been growing in the last couple of years. From established artists such as Brent Faiyaz and Ari Lennox to upcoming acts such as Matt McGhee and Foots x Coles. There’s such a wide variety of talent over there. You can’t just group them all. More importantly, it’s not always easy to make it out of there. The DMV has always had talent sitting underneath the mainstream’s surface and one of those extraordinary musicians is none other than Henri B. Styles. The 21-year old singer/songwriter/entrepreneur/fashionista just released her third EP, Phases, in April this year. Her transparency and vulnerability throughout the project make her a relatable artist in more ways than one. However, she has been like this since she released her first EP, Alter-Ego, back in 2019. She also released her second EP, The Lost Files (a project made due to the catalog of lost songs) later that year. She has never been afraid to let herself go in her body of work. Her progression as an artist aligns with her progression as a Black woman. This new project, to me, identifies as an ode to Black women and Henri herself. It reminds them that they have to stand in their power no matter what they go through in life. I talk to Henri B. Styles about her upbringing in music, the Phases EP, her apparel/accessories brand Ancien and more.

What was your first time like being exposed to music?

When I was five or six years old. I don’t know why I vividly remember this, but my parents got me a toy stereo and that shit looked cool as fuck back then. It had different little fake CDs and I remember it playing Britney Spears and Michael Jackson. Also, my dad would always play music like Lauryn Hill and Bob Marley from what I remember.

You’ve been writing for most of your life, but you just started recording in 2019. What was that first experience like and what did you learn from it?

The first time recording was very “Oh My Gosh.” The first time I started recording was in 2015 in high school. One of my friends had a home studio and I hated the way I sounded. At that point, I just wanted to stick to my voice memos. However, when I recorded Alter Ego’ I said, “Oh shit, I could do this.” I feel like I prepared myself for that moment. It was nerve-wracking for sure. It taught me to be vulnerable in the studio. You have to be open and go in with intention.

Your recent EP, Phases, came out this year and it speaks on the stages of a Black woman in their 20s. You talk about self-worth, spirituality, anxiety, frustrations in relationships, self-love, and much more. Were these things that you were going through yourself? If so, are you still dealing with that?

Yes, these were things I was going through but not so much in my love life. I’m not going through these things as much anymore. I’m still discovering myself, finding my voice, still in love, and figuring things out as an individual. I’m all about my spirituality so if I’m not aligned with God, then nothing’s right.

The introduction to the Phases EP is a poem done by Porsha Olayiwola called “Trigger.” What made you want to use that as the intro to this EP?

Do you know what’s crazy? Before I started looking for interludes, I was ready to drop the project. I fuck with my manager because he’s very hands-on with my work which I’m always here for. I’m always open to different creatives helping me create something. He played that poem for me and I said, “Oh shit. This would slap as an intro.” She was talking about finding your voice and being 100% yourself. I felt like she was speaking for me.

Going back to my previous question, your project uses Black women poets like Porsha, Jae Nichelle, and Nikki Giovanni to narrate the story. Why were those poets important for Phases?

They’re a representation of who I am and what I’ve been through. As Black women, we need to be represented well and these women did it effortlessly and beautifully.

From “4 AM” to “Another Life” you tell a story about feeling neglected in a relationship, infidelity, and regret. How hard was that time for you? More importantly, how hard was it to put those emotions on a record?

It wasn’t actually. Do you know what’s crazy? Let me be completely transparent. I wasn’t going through anything crazy in those two songs (“4 AM” and “Another Time.”) If it’s not about me, it’s probably someone that’s around me. “Another Lifetime” is something I just came up with. “4 AM” was about my sexuality and being open. It wasn’t too much about me.

There are some moments in the project where you’re talking about wanting your own space and time for yourself. What are some enjoyable things you like to do during your time alone?

I love praying, writing, doing yoga outdoors now and then, hanging out with my friends, singing, and eating food. I’m a big foodie. Sometimes I feel like I’m always on the go and I just need to stay still a little bit to recollect myself, my mind, and my spirit. My solitude and peace of mind are so important to me.

You have a brand called Ancien which sells apparel and accessories. What made you want to start a business and what was that process like?

Ever since I was a young girl, I’ve always been into fashion. I’ve always wanted to do it, and I finally told myself that I would start a business last year. Wholesaling has always been suggested to me, but I was unsure because I wanted to make my own thing. However, I said fuck it and tried it. So I put some money on the side to start a website, bought a bunch of stuff, and sell. I thought of the name of the brand two years before I started. I enjoyed the process. I was nervous for sure about starting a business, but it was a learning experience. I started it with not much and learned as I went.

You’ve never been afraid to express your relationship with God through your music. Why is it so important for you to have that one on one conversation in your projects?

I want to show who I truly am. People love transparency. If you’re not real, people can tell. I want to be as relatable as possible. Once you put God first, everything flows.

You have dropped three EP’s so far (Alter-Ego, Lost Files, and Phases.) Tell me one thing you have learned from these projects.

The number one thing is to make sure that I’m satisfied with everything. It’s so easy for people to say it’s time to put out new music. However, if I’m not feeling 100%, then they could wait a little bit. As an artist, you know when it’s time to drop a project.

What do you want people, specifically Black women, to take away from this EP?

Stand firm in who you are. Don’t hide your power. Don’t shy away from it because we’re so amazing! We’re them bitches. If any Black woman or any little girl listens to this project, I want them to stand in their power. Don’t shy away from your light because you don’t know where that’s going to take you. I’m saying this to you, but I’m speaking to myself. Own that shit and be unapologetically yourself. Once you do that, good things come to you.

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“being happy is the goal, but greatness is my vision”