Singer-songwriter Muni Long became the night’s breakout sensation at this year’s BET Awards and is still reveling in the high of her acclaimed performance.
The R&B star hit the stage to sing her chart-topping hit “Hrs and Hrs” and the show-stopping number was one of the major highlights from Sunday night’s event. But now Long, 33, admits she hasn’t watched the performance herself.
“I still have not watched the performance back because when you have on those in-ears, you can’t hear anything; it’s just completely silent other than the music in your voice,” she explains in the latest episode of the PEOPLE Every Day podcast. “My team was telling me everyone was screaming the words, they were all singing with you.”
“I really want to see what that sounded like, but I had such a great experience and a beautiful memory of that night,” she adds about her fear of tarnishing her memory of that experience. “I don’t want to ruin it by watching what actually happened.”
Long admits she has watched it “on mute” and that’s enough for her. “Hrs and Hrs” has become one of the year’s inescapable anthems after going viral on TikTok in late 2021. And while she is “still coming to grips” with the track’s success, Long explains what a “huge deal” it was to bring her talents to a major award show.
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“I grew up watching BET, especially the BET Awards, so to be like included, to be nominated, to be performing… I already won,” she muses about this latest career highlight, which paid tribute to veteran singer and actress Lola Falana. Long wanted to bring a new vision to the song, which has been embraced by millions thanks to social media. “It’s funny how the internet and collective agreement is very powerful, and people have sort of come up with their own meanings for the song.”
After nearly two decades in the industry, Long admits it’s been a long road to get where she is, having signed her first major record deal when she was still a teenager thanks to getting discovered through YouTube. “It was just my first taste of the industry,” she says about the frustrating experience, which led her to take a stab at songwriting instead.
The career pivot paid off for the Florida native, who would go on to pen hits for the likes of Rihanna, Mariah Carey, Ariana Grande and Madonna. She even earned a Grammy nomination earlier this year for her work on H.E.R.’s album Back of My Mind. “I did that for like 10 years and then I just had enough,” she confesses about returning to performing. “I’m just like, ‘Yeah, this isn’t satisfying me… And I decided with my husband that we would start a label and we didn’t know what we were doing. We just knew that eventually something would work.”
Long’s work as an independent artist led to a new deal with Def Jam Recordings and the release of her hit EP, Public Displays of Affection. “One of the songs blew up and then, boom, now here we are,” she says.
While much of her work is about love, especially as she and husband Masimba Chibanda recently celebrated their seventh wedding anniversary, Long wants the idea that “you really can be and do whatever you want” to permeate throughout her music. “I literally was just hoping, wishing, waiting for someone to come save me, and I just decided I’m going do it and I’m going to be myself.”
Long believes her “genuine and authentic” approach to songwriting is what has garnered the support of listeners, and doesn’t have any intention of changing that up. “I’m just being myself out loud and it’s working,” she says. “I think what people don’t realize is there’s billions of people in this world and at least a couple million of them are going to be very similar to you and have similar dreams, aspirations, perspectives. So you just have to be yourself and those people will find you.”