The last time an R&B upstart sampled the Notorious B.I.G. on her debut single, it was the early aughts: Eminem was still cleaning out his closet and Pink and Christina Augilera were pop's reigning bad girls. Amidst all that, Ashanti's Biggie-sampling "Foolish" scaled the charts and spent 10 weeks at #1 on the way to becoming one of the decade's most successful singles. Now, 10 years later, Rita Ora is dipping into Mr. Wallace's vault for her first Stateside release.
But whereas the onetime Murder Inc. princess made a breakup ballad for the ages, Ora's debut single, "How We Do (Party)" — which gets musical inspiration from the late Big's grimy "Party and Bullsh--" — is as bouncy as a box spring. When the newly minted Roc Nation signee visited the MTV newsroom earlier this month, we drilled her with questions about the tune and its equally effervescent video.
"It's basically a big party with no judgment," Ora explained of how the visual matches the sentiment of the number, written by Kelly Sheehan and Bonnie McKee.
"So there's a whole bunch of people in there, from a guy who's got knickers on and who's colored in paint on his chest to an old man kind of shaking his hips around. ... It's definitely [about embracing] anyone who wants to come to a party," she laughed.
In the clip, the Kosovo-born, West London-raised beauty down a Basquiat-style crown as she presides over a colorful bash that alternates between a lush garden at twilight, a foil-wrapped bedroom and a white-cube space complete with guests using their torsos as paint brushes. " 'Cause when the sun sets, baby, on the avenue/ I get that drunk sex feeling, yeah when I'm with you," she coos to the camera.
The infectious tune dares you not to dance along, and last week at New York's SOB's, a room full of seen-it-all industry types gathered for a Roc Nation showcase fully rocked out. Ora, for her part, announced the next song in her set by throwing an oversize Coogi sweater (we think Big would have approved!) over her tank. With a red knit cap pulled down over platinum-blond curls, she called to mind a cross between mid-'90s-era Faith Evans (during her courtship with Mr. Wallace, of course) and Gwen Stefani, whom Ora cites as an influence.
"I am a huge Notorious B.I.G. fan and I loved his Coogi sweaters and ... I found one for 10 pounds actually in a village shop back home," she told us of the Brooklyn icon's signature cover-up.
The connections to Biggie don't end there, though. Ora is the latest on a growing roster of acts being groomed by Jay-Z, the Roc Nation mogul and Big's old Bed-Stuy pal. Back in February, Shawn Carter himself accompanied his new artist, single in hand, to iHeartRadio's Z100. The video went viral and the Jordan-wearing 21-year-old hasn't looked back since.
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