Record of the Week: Daisha McBride’s ‘People Like Me’

Listen to an audio feature on Daisha McBride’s latest project and professional accomplishments

Daisha McBride is reclining on the couch in her new, Berry Hill apartment with her laptop open

“I’m on the Spotify for Artists page right now,” she explains, “and I’m just looking at my streaming numbers from the past 12 months, and I can see my top songs.”

That includes “Birds,” a goodbye to dating whose coolly flippant hook reclines into an easygoing pocket of slippery synth bass, twinkling keys and skeletal drums.

“It was my first song to hit a million, like, on my own,” McBride points out.

As in, a million streams, without a guest feature or promotional budget.

Behind the scenes, she celebrated the milestone by ordering a special plaque on Etsy for her producer Sci-FY. She pulls up an image on her phone. “Definitely a DIY one, because it’s not RIAA[-certified] by any means. I just wanted something that I could give Sci-Fy that was cool.”

McBride also made a big deal of the streaming stat to her audience in a TikTok clip, and raps about it in her new EP’s opening track, “Ms. Make It Happen.”

“It was important for me to put it in the song,” she says, “because I just want to show people that this is like real and I’m not paying for streams and this is all organic. You don’t see that anymore. Or if you do, it’s the people who have the giant labels behind them and they’re on every editorial playlist.”

That’s not the sort of flex that you often hear in hip-hop. It’s significantly outnumbered by rap lyrics about counting cash as a sign of success. Even McBride dropped a track called “Dolla$” years back. It was all part of her growth process, trying on different approaches and postures, until she found what felt right to her.

She was just messing around when she started posting raps from her MTSU dorm room about a decade ago, but quickly got serious about her hip-hop career. She could’ve chased SoundCloud rap trends, or a record deal. Instead, she’s learned to veer away from what doesn’t work for her while steering towards what does. The paradox is that her new project, titled People Like Me, offers both the clearest view of her creative and professional ethic to date and her most multi-faceted music-making.

Staying on her independent grind might not have made her rich overnight, but it’s paid tangible dividends in recent years. A fellow singing rapper she admires, Atlanta-based 6BLACK, hopped on the “Birds” remix. She was the subject of a short documentary film, as part of a program created by Queen Latifah. After that, McBride and her manager D’Llisha Davis were invited to the BET Awards, where McBride performed during the pre-show.

“As a Black artist, the BET Awards, that’s like our Grammys,” says McBride, adding that neither she nor Davis could recall any other Nashville rappers making it to the BETs. “We’re in this VIP tent with hella celebrities, and people are coming up and they’re like, ‘Wait, you had their song “Birds,” right?’ Those moments were very affirming.”

So was securing festival and tour dates, both as an opener and a headliner, and landing her music in a TV ad for Google’s Pixel 8 phone.

“With the Google money, I was able to really invest in me,” McBride grins. “My car that I was driving was on the edge of dying, and I was just like, ‘Man, I do not want to go into another Nashville summer with no air.’”

And she won’t have to, thanks to her new ride.

McBride’s big on painting a complete picture of how she experiences the world. There are times when she swaggers on her EP and times when she strains beneath the weight of simply surviving. Take her track “All Is Well” with its fretful flow and off-kilter beat: “Today started out rough / Hard for me to get up / Rent due on the fifth / It’s the first of the month.”

McBride’s brought greater emotional specificity to her music over time. And it was no small thing when she decided to spell out, on 2021’s Let Me Get This Off My Chest, that the romantic partners in her songs were women.

“I totally remember when I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m talking about my sexuality!’” says McBride. “‘And this feels so new and open and weird.’ And now it’s crazy that I ever stressed about that, because I’m so comfortable with who I am as a human. And I think that that just translates a little better in the music.”

In her new music, McBride’s venturing further into the sensuality and forwardness of R&B. But she also bends minor-key melodies toward lament, and gets conversationally casual with her rhyming. That’s why the cover art depicts eight different versions of her likeness, each with a different style and attitude. She’s showing that she contains multitudes.

Plus, McBride had more of a hand in shaping the feel of the tracks. For the first time, she co-produced with Sci-FY, hunting for loops that caught her ear and recording vocals in her bedroom late at night.

“I’m still not Pharrell,” she jokes, “but if you listen to the original versions of the beats and then the ones that I did, they’re not too far off. I think it felt a little bit differently creatively, just because I felt more connected [to the making of the music].”

One thing that’s notably absent is any sense that McBride has to show off her technique.

“I used to think, ‘Okay, I got to be able to rap all these triplets and do all these double and triple entendres,’” says McBride. “With this EP, I focused less on trying to do all these crazy raps, and I was just making songs that felt good and that felt true. And felt honest to me.”