MBW’s World’s Greatest Songwriters series celebrates the songwriters behind the world’s greatest hits. Today we talk to Starrah, one of today’s most successful young hip-hop and pop writers, about writing number one hits like Havana and Savage Remix, working with Madonna and her new publishing house, 3:02. World’s Greatest Songwriters is backed by AMRA – the global digital music collecting company striving to maximize value for songwriters and publishers in the digital age.
Starrah is one of the most innovative, interesting and in-demand songwriters to emerge in the past 10 years.
She’s a young, black, LGBTQ woman who writes modern hip-hop classics and mainstream pop hits — and doesn’t really want the world to know who she is. Or at least don’t want the world to know who she really is.
There’s a biopic disguised as a paragraph right there.
She grew up in a small beach town in Delaware, the youngest of nine children, and became the first in her family to graduate from college. By then she had already started writing songs and sharing them online, creating a network of friends and collaborators that proved invaluable when she moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in the music.
A first big break came when she was signed by her manager, Nick Jarjour, who has already said he discovered Starrah: “I didn’t know if it was a girl or a boy, 11 or 27; she was the most ambiguous person I have ever heard.
From there, success came fairly quickly – then unequivocally dramatically. Her first cut was Kid Ink’s 2015 single, Be realand over the next two years co-wrote songs for, among others, Rihanna, Travis Scott, Drake, The Weeknd, Nicki Minaj, Calvin Harris and Katy Perry.
In 2017, she wrote two number one records – Havana by Camila Cabello and girls like you by Maroon 5, the first two proofs, if needed, that Starrah can write in any genre.
His third number one was wild remix by Megan Thee Stallion feat. Beyonce . The track won the Grammy for Best Rap Song, although Starrah’s aversion to award shows/spotlight meant she wasn’t at the ceremony. Instead, she stayed home and “ran around the house screaming,” which seems like a solid choice.
In 2019, she sold her catalog to Merck Mercuriadis’ Hipgnosis Songs Fund. As a result, she and Jarjour became members of the company’s advisory board and are now part of its Richter scale recording revolution, with song value and writers’ compensation at the epicenter of the company. blast.
More recently, she started her own publishing company, 3:02 (that’s the Delaware area code), as a JV with Pulse Music Group, which signed her as a client in 2015. C It’s a vehicle she hopes won’t just sign great writers. and deliver big hits, but also stay steadfastly true to the “creatives first” mission on which it is founded.
Social anxiety means that Starrah rarely (and almost certainly never) gives interviews (or photoshoots, she always finds a way to at least partially cover her face – see above), so MBW is partly surprised and completely thrilled when we hear that she will talk about her life, her work, her philosophy and her ambitions as a songwriter…
What music did you listen to as a child and which artists first inspired you?
The music I listened to on my own as a kid was Lil’ Bow Wow, B2K, Lil’ Romeo, Lil’ Sammie – all Lil’s.
My siblings were seven and eight years older than me, so when I got in the car with them I would listen to Eve, Ruff Ryders, Hot Boys, etc.
How did you get into the business?
Hard work – networking via Twitter and Instagram, and being at every studio session, just trying to perform better than the day before.
Why did you turn to songwriting rather than being an artist?
I was rapping at first but it wasn’t fulfilling for me. I liked experimenting with genres and wanted to learn a new skill.
I have a friend named Shinique who co-wrote Medusa for Chris Brown, and at the time she told me she thought I could write songs. I took his advice and I followed him.
What were the tracks or sessions that changed the game for you and propelled you into the big leagues?
Be realby Kid Ink ft Dej Loaf was my first song to be released properly [in 2015]. So what girls like you by brown 5  was a song I wrote in 20 minutes that went to number one.
For me it meant everything and it changed the way I approach music.
I made lifelong friendships from those sessions, with Cirkut, Jason Evigan and Gian Stone – which, to be honest, is more important to me than “the big leagues”.
Can you tell us about your role in writing a few specific tracks – Havana and wild remix?
With Havana, [producer] Frank Dukes came to the studio and asked me to write a teaser. I did it in 15 minutes. It was my first number one record.
When I wrote my part of the Savage Remix, it took three submissions.
I didn’t really hear many comments on the first two, so I knew the answer was no. After that I tried one last time and this final revision is what made the cut.
How did you come to work with Madonna on Mrs X  and how was it?
Madonna called me on the phone during the holidays. I was with my family. I walked out to take the call and she said she wanted me to come vibe with her.
We worked in London and it was an amazing experience. She has such a beautiful soul and I’m grateful for the time we spent creating together.
You worked in small groups on this record, is that something you enjoy?
Yeah, I like working mostly by myself, to be honest.
Small groups and small cozy studios are ideal environments for me. I like to create real links with the people I create with.
Songwriting in general has become much more social than solitary and seems to involve a lot of networking, what do you think of this aspect of the job?
I have my musical family and it happened by being social and sharing our visions with each other. So I think it’s necessary, otherwise it starts to look like a job. Making real creative connections is key to a healthy work environment.
What are the most important skills and attributes you bring to a writing room?
I never do what people expect and I am efficient. I write full songs pretty quickly.
In 2017 JUSTIN TRANTER SAID the music industry was “shockingly homophobic, misogynistic and racist”. That’s when you really broke through. was this your experience and has this situation improved?
That was my experience for sure. I’ve been in situations where people think I’m supposed to take whatever they give me, that I’m not allowed to have an opinion or choose what I’d like to work on – so they call me complicated or a diva.
A man with this same view of themselves would be considered a boss. Or some people just leave me out of rooms or try to put me in a box.
“Some people just leave me out of rooms or try to put me in a box.”
Those reasons seemed racially driven, especially when they would call me an urban writer when I have multiple #1 pop songs.
I have now created an environment for me and my team that is inclusive for everyone from all walks of life; that’s my favorite thing about what we’re building at 3:02.
Can you tell us about the formation of 3:02 and your plans and hopes for this company?
3:02 was formed by my desire to provide opportunities for my friends and create a healthy work environment.
I want creatives to have a safe space and a room to be the best version of themselves. I hope the company will be a catalyst for positive change in the industry.
I approach everything from a creative perspective and put the mental, physical and spiritual health of my team first.
Who have been your mentors in your career to date?
My mentors to date have been my manager Nick Jarjour and my partner [in 3.02, songwriter and Pulse Music Group co-founder] Scott Cutler.
Who are your favorite songwriters at the moment?
My favorite songwriters never really change: The-Dream, James Fauntleroy and Max Martin.
What do you like most about your job?
I literally live my dream every day. It’s not a job for me, it’s something I really enjoy doing and it’s the most important thing for me.
If you had a magic wand, what would you change in the industry?
The restlessness mentality. I hate how people push the idea that the restlessness mentality is the best way to fuel creativity; it takes away the passion and the soul of the music.
What advice would you give to a young songwriter starting out?
Have fun and make music you want to listen to. Don’t chase trends. Create your own style and stick to it.
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