We Got High With Bebe Rexha and Unpacked Her Surprisingly Bright New Album
“I already know the drill,” says Bebe Rexha, holding her ID in one hand and a pen in the other as she signs into Markt dispensary, a weed shop in L.A.’s Studio City neighborhood. Rexha tried the Runtz OG last time she visited but wasn’t a fan, so she’s staying away from that strain this time. “I like Blue Dream,” she says, taking a sniff of a different hybrid strain. “Do you have any Blue Dream?”
They don’t, it turns out, so the pop star opts for some hybrid pre-rolls, plus some Gelato strain flower for her manager, Adéllyn.
Over the past year, Rexha has frequently visited the dispensary while making her brightest, happiest, highest album yet — Bebe, due out Friday. On the album, Rexha mixes a Seventies pop, Stevie Nicks lyricism with her more familiar dance-pop sound. There are also some more weed-infused lyrics, including on the disco-tinged single “Satellite,” which was released on 4/20 and features Snoop Dogg. (Did we mention that Bebe’s been smoking weed?)
The album is a stark contrast from the darker energy of her earlier music — this is the pop star, after all, who’s earned more than a billion streams with 2018’s “I’m a Mess,” a brutally honest, self-flagellating song about unrequited love, and dominated radio with G-Eazy’s “Me, Myself, and I,” about grappling with loneliness and fame.
After leaving the dispensary, Rexha and I head to her place for a smoke session (and a jelly-bean taste test) while unpacking her new era. We take turns taking puffs on the balcony of her Italian-style home, which is perched in the Hollywood Hills. As we sit at her dining room table, I offer that perhaps Bebe — with its brighter melodies and optimistic songwriting — is the sun and the last two records she made are the moon.
“It’s probably your happiest songwriting,” I say.
“You think so?” she asks, taking a pause. “Oh, my God. Is that a bad thing?”
“No, that’s good! Why are you overthinking that?”
“Because people like it when I’m depressed.”
“But this is a new era of Bebe,” interrupts Adéllyn from the kitchen.
“I am a much happier person,” responds Rexha with a shrug.
“Why do you think that is?” I ask.
“Because I’ve been smoking that ganja all night long, ayyy!” she says, letting out a cackle and getting out of her head. “Well, I’m doing what I love. As long as I can make music, I’ll be happy.”
Fleetwood Mac was a big influence on Bebe — in fact, when she started making the album in December 2021, she had “Landslide” playing on a loop. The Mac’s classic meditation on time and aging inspired a song called “Seasons.” “I was like, ‘Guys, I want to write a song about knowing that you need to change, but you’re not changing’” she recalls. “And I just started singing: ‘The seasons change right under my feet. I’m still the same, same, same, same old me.’ That’s how it all started.”
“Seasons” was the first song Rexha wrote for the record, and with its country twang, it seemed ripe for a guest appearance from a legend who loomed large in Rexha’s life — Dolly Parton. “My grandmother used to play Dolly all the time,” Rexha says. “Nothing really excites my grandmother to be honest, and when I told her about Dolly, she was like ‘Oh, my gosh.”’ Rexha and Parton filmed the music video for the song a few weeks prior to our smoke session, and Rexha is still fangirling. “I was shaking, but she made me feel so comfortable and said that she was going to adopt me,” she says. “I’m waiting for those papers!”
Then there are the love songs, which might also explain why she’s a happier person these days. Early in the album is “Miracle Man,” where she sings to a new partner about all of the things she’ll need to feel satisfied in a relationship. “I’m a strong woman and whoever wants to be with me has to up their pussy,” she explains. “You gotta teach me something about life. Show me the better things. Elevate me as a human being. You want to be around people that uplift you … That’s what I want in a man.”
“Want or have found?” I ask.
“Excuse me?” Rexha responds with an eye roll and a blush. “Have found.” (She’s been linked to filmmaker Keyan Safyari, who directed her video for “Satellite,” since 2020.)
And there’s “I’m Not High, I’m in Love,” where she briefly reflects on the dark feelings of her past, and how today, she “sees the colors dancing all around the room.”
We already got the “high” part explained, but, I ask, “Is the ‘love part’ of the song a personal experience?”
“Oh. Yeah,” she responds. “I’m in love. That’s all you’re gonna get to know.”
WE’VE FINISHED SMOKING, and in between sips of her orange-creamsicle-flavored sparkling water, Rexha asks me an important question: “How do we get more people to recognize [my music]?”
Several weeks ago, after her David Guetta collab “I’m Good (Blue)” hit the Top 10, a tweet went viral: “Bebe Rexha could have the most top ten songs in the history of recorded music and still, no one would know who she is. Completely fascinating phenomenon.”
Rexha recently saw a similar post describing her as a “famous person who isn’t famous at all” and responded on TikTok. At first, she said in her video, she was upset with that perception, but has since come to terms with it: “If you want to get more of me, I’ll be here keeping it real.”
Rexha started her career as a songwriter more than a decade ago, giving away some of her best songs to other artists — including “Monster,” made famous by Eminem and Rihanna. Since then, she’s released plenty of hits of her own: a fan-favorite single with Nicki Minaj (“No Broken Hearts”), a chart-topper with G-Eazy (“Me, Myself, and I”), multiple EDM-driven collaborations that have garnered more than 500 million streams on Spotify alone (“In the Name of Love” with Martin Garrix; “Hey Mama” and “Say My Name” with Guetta), a left-field country song with Florida Georgia Line that broke records (“Meant to Be”), and two studio albums with billions of streams. Rexha, in many ways, is a pop chameleon. But despite the massive hits, she hasn’t been able to break through as an A-list celebrity.
Rexha has thought about that phenomenon a lot. Perhaps it’s the fact that her biggest songs have been collabs? Has she not shown enough of herself? Is she too nice? “Maybe” she wonders, “the music is not good enough.”
The music is good enough, and her sound has been the pulse of pop for years. It’s hard to put a finger on it. Her team starts to half-jokingly chime in with ideas of what needs to happen for Rexha to go big with Bebe.
“You know what you need?” offers an assistant. “A good scandal.”
“I had that one Grammy thing when the dress didn’t fit me,” says Rexha, referring to the time she called out designers for refusing to dress her in her size.
“That doesn’t register in my head as drama,” I respond.
“What do you mean by drama?” asks Rexha. “Who could I fight with?”
“Hailey Bieber!” jokes a friend.
“Girl, no. I could actually fight with a bitch right now,” says Rexha. “But I’m not going down to her level.”
Rexha likes being a celebrity who can go out in public without necessarily being noticed. “They have to spend those marketing dollars on me. You know what I mean? They need to plaster my face all over the city or some shit,” she says, later adding, “I don’t know. There’s a beauty in going somewhere and being able to stand in a crowd and hearing people sing your song, enjoying that moment and then walking away to your nice Ferrari, and driving home.”
Still, she’s not immune from some of the darker aspects of fame, like trolls dinging her about her weight. Recently, she tweeted how upsetting it was that TikTok’s algorithm suggested the search term “Bebe Rexha weight” under one of her videos. “When you read things like that, it’s tough. It’s discouraging,” she says. “We’re in 2023, we should not be talking about these things, whether somebody’s super thin or super thick or whatever.”
“I said on my Twitter, ‘A bitch likes to eat.’ But I also have things that I’m going through like medical stuff that affects my weight,” she adds, referring to some of the medications she takes to treat her PCOS, or polycystic ovary syndrome. Rexha has been working out and going on a healthier diet, but ultimately, “She’s a thick bitch.”
“I could afford the lipo and I could afford a boob job, but right now I’m fucking terrified of that shit. I’m not against it,” she says. “‘You got rid of your stomach, you have a flat stomach.’ Amazing. I’m jealous of that. I wish I could have that. But I’m the type of person that is scared that if I go get surgery I’ll fucking die on the surgery table or some shit. I can’t do it. I have a major fear of anything surgical.”
You won’t see Rexha recovering from a BBL anytime soon — she’d rather take matters into her own hands. It’s consistent with her work ethic, with her striving to deliver more than what’s asked of her. She says her “always hustling” mentality comes from growing up in an immigrant family. Both of her parents are Albanian, with her father immigrating to the U.S. from North Macedonia at the age of 21 in the late Eighties, prior to the Yugoslav Wars. Her mom was born in the U.S., but Rexha’s maternal grandparents also migrated from Europe in search of “a better life.”
“They’re more paranoid. More stressed out,” she says of her immediate family. “I feel like I’ve taken some of those qualities from my family because it passes down, but you have to learn how to pull yourself away from that. Nobody ever talks about generational trauma.”
Rexha channeled her culture in a different way on “I Am,” which she penned after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. That decision got her thinking about her roots, and some of the ingrained misogyny she sees in Albanian culture.
“Don’t get me wrong, I love my culture, and I hate to say this, but sometimes I feel like women are treated as second-class citizens,” she says. “The men eat first. The men speak. It’s all about the men, and then the women come in.”
Rexha acknowledges that perhaps the song might be a tad cheesy with its affirmations. But, she says, “if I want to listen to something that makes me feel powerful and sing along to, I’m going to listen to ‘I Am.’”
A FEW WEEKS after our smoke session, Rexha hops on a morning Zoom to catch up. We’re not high this time: “I have a new rule that if I want to smoke, I can only do it at the end of the day or if I want to write songs or be in a mood,” she says. “I’m being an adult.”
She just got back from Coachella, where she joined the DJ duo Two Friends to perform an unreleased club-ready banger called “If Only I.” She says there’s a Guetta remix on the way for her electro-pop single “Call On Me,” and a collab with PNAU and a massive Latin star. “I’m kind of like, ‘Shit. Should I have done an EDM album?” she asks. “In the future, I’m going to make a straight-up dance project.”
Rexha is excited about dropping Bebe; she’s especially looking forward to seeing what her devoted Rexhars think. “I have a fan chat on my WhatsApp. They’re like my little committee. I’ll send them ideas and stuff like that. And they’re always giving me their opinions and everything. I love it. They’re so outspoken, but I live for it,” she says. “They’re so supportive but harsh critics too.”
After a snippet of a song called “Now You Don’t Exist” went viral on TikTok, her fans questioned why it wasn’t on the album. “Now I’m being bullied into putting it on the deluxe,” she says with a laugh. “They bully me a little but I love it.”
After she drops her album, she’ll head on her first headlining tour in six years. “I haven’t felt that energy, and I feel like it’s so important to be in front of people and performing and connecting,” she says. “You can’t describe that, and it’s just not the same when you listen to it on your computer versus live.”
Even though Bebe is still not out yet, she’s also been thinking about what’s to come.
“Guess what? I already started working on the next one,” she says.
“Really? What’s it giving?”
“Energy. It’s giving me life.”
“How far along are you?”
“I can’t lie. It’s very early stages. I just started listening to some beats and getting inspired, but I’ve already started.”