Image Source: Tony Bee
Muni Long, aka the artist formerly known as Priscilla Renea, knew she had a hit on her hands when her song "Hrs and Hrs" hit the top 10 on iTunes. After becoming a viral success on TikTok — all thanks to the loving R&B ballad — she's now focused on taking the track No. 1.
Contrary to her recent success, Long has been in the music industry for over a decade now. The R&B singer landed a record deal with Capitol Records in 2008 after getting discovered on YouTube. But her future at the label stalled cold after she released her debut project and a few singles, prompting her to take up a new skill: songwriting. From 2010 to 2019, Long wrote songs for big-name artists like Madonna, Mary J. Blige, Demi Lovato, Mariah Carey, Ariana Grande, and more. But even with a long list of writing credits, the songwriter grew tired of helping everyone else except herself. So Long decided to go back to making her own music — and this time on her terms.
"I don't think it was a turning point," Long tells POPSUGAR of her choice to pursue a solo career. "Sometimes you just don't want to do something anymore. It's like you could have a great-paying job, but it just doesn't fulfill you. You want something else. It's like you feel stuck." Though Long doesn't attribute her career decision to any particular event, she tells us things in her personal life encouraged her to "live my life to the fullest and stop trying to live for other people."
A new chapter for Long meant completely changing her stage name to something that had meaning to her. According to the singer, the "Muni" part of her name means "to think deeply from within," while "Long" is meant to be an affirmation. Reinventing herself under an entirely new identity was for her own mental state, but it also was a chance to part ways with a previous version of herself already known in the music industry.
"I needed to be able to really step into this persona [and] be the person who I always wanted to be," she explains. "But then it's also like you grow up with a certain nickname that your family knows you as . . . you grow up and you outgrow those things. But the people that have known you for all this time never want to let you live it down. . . . It's like all these people over the last decade felt like they knew me, and they only saw me in a certain light. I really wanted my music to have a fair shot and my artistry to have a fair shot. So I created this different persona so by the time people realized that it was me, it'd be too late. I would've already been successful, and that's exactly what happened."
Image Source: Tony Bee
For some multi-hyphenate artists, it's not always easy to catch their second wind — especially in an industry where songwriters tend to get boxed in. But that glass-ceiling mentality doesn't phase Long in the slightest. Her own philosophies inspire her to take control of her life, and she doesn't feel like she needs to answer to anyone else. "I'm a firm believer in creating your own reality," she says. "No one can stop you from doing anything. Nobody has that much control over you. I think we don't hear that enough about retraining your mind, studying, and unlearning all of the limiting beliefs and things that we're taught growing up about how only a few people can be successful [and] there's not enough room for everybody . . . these are all things that would make someone fearful to step out and try."
But stepping out on faith is what allowed Long to successfully pivot to R&B (following a brief stint with country music), a suggestion her manager brought up. "He told me, 'You need to be doing R&B,'" she recalls. "And that was the only thing that I hadn't done yet. So we tried it, and it worked, I guess." R&B more than worked in Long's favor. The genre opened up a lane for her to secure a hit — which took on a life of its own as soon as social media got a hold of it. Long's breakout song, "Hrs and Hrs" — a track she freestyled in 20 minutes while washing dishes — was released on her "Public Displays of Affection" EP this past November. Shortly after, the song gained a huge presence online, promptly sparking the #hrsandhrschallenge. From couples to singers (and even a few foodies), Long's popular song quickly became the backdrop for social media users' many videos. Long called the buzz "cute" at first, but she realized that it was becoming much bigger than anything she ever imagined.
"We realized like, 'Wait a minute, this isn't going to stop. This is pretty crazy,'" she tells us of her team's reaction. "Missy Elliott wrote me on Twitter, then Halle Berry, and then Niecy Nash posted a video with her and her wife. It was just so much [happening]. Every day was something else to where it just didn't even feel real." Long's song hit multiple Billboard charts by the top of 2022 (currently sitting at No. 18 on the Billboard Hot 100). "Anything after this is a bonus," she says. "I'm super happy . . . I've just been smiling and grateful, even though there's some challenges with everything. But regardless, even with those things, I've still just been super grateful that I get to be the one that sings this song."
Long's newfound success has done a complete 180 on her career. The singer/songwriter is a real hot commodity right now, and though the demand for her time is at an all-time high, she remains humble in her musical journey. The most valuable lesson she's learned so far revolves around molding her own destiny. Her advice to other artists: "Nobody's going to do it for you. Don't make excuses; just get up, and make things happen."
Long's motto these days is "make your dream come true," a sentiment that took her a long time to believe in herself. As far as what's next for the R&B singing sensation, her goal is to get "Hrs and Hrs" to the top of the charts. But above all, Long just wants to stay creative in her career for as long as possible. "That's how we got here, so I don't want to get distracted and start doing things outside of what I know works for me," she says. "Which is staying connected with the supporters and continuing to make great music that I want to make."