On the morning of December 7, 2018, H.E.R. exploded into the public eye when she was nominated for a Grammy Award for Album of the Year as well as Best New Artist. From her enigmatic stage name, to her penchant for always wearing sunglasses in photos and on stage, she's made the world curious for more. But for those just discovering H.E.R., here's a quick song primer: Listen to "Focus", then "Best Part," and finally, her Tiny Desk performance. Now that you know her sound, it's time to really get to know the young, influential, and thought-provoking artist going head to head with the likes of Drake, Cardi B, and Kacey Musgraves. She's Grammy ready, so it's time for us to get H.E.R-ready.
Since her 2016 debut, R&B singer H.E.R. has tried to keep her persona a mystery. And though her identity has since been figured out — you might remember her as Gabi Wilson, the singer behind the 2014 hit “Something To Prove” — she’d still prefer to focus less on who she is and more on what she’s about.
“It’s easier for people to judge what they don’t like about someone when they know exactly what they’re looking at,” she says. “I just want it to be all about the music. Forget the clothes, the looks, the name, the backstory...you’re here for the music.” The acronym H.E.R., by the way, stands for “Having Everything Revealed.”
Even with less of a focus on her exterior, the singer — who first fell in love with music as a toddler playing the instruments her father’s Bay Area band stashed in the living room — says she has faced discrimination.
“I’ve been working in this industry since I was 13, and I still get producers who walk into a room, see me with a guitar, and joke, ‘Oh, what is she going to do with that?’” says H.E.R., who’s now 20. “I think people underestimate the talents of a woman and especially of a Black woman.”
She’s released two hit EPs, H.E.R. volumes 1 and 2, and in her signature mysterious way, she hints that we might expect new music sometime this summer. As for her creative process, she holds tight to some pretty clutch advice from another artist who might know a thing or two about singing and songwriting.
“Alicia Keys told me that when it comes to music, all you need is three chords and the truth,” H.E.R. says. “I think you can apply that to life, too.”
Black Is The New Black is Refinery29’s celebration of 20 Black women who kicked down doors in their fields this past year. Black women who are reminding the world that we are not a trend or “a moment.” We’re here — and we’ve been here. Check out the full list.