From Flint to Atlanta: On the road to SXSW with BFF

FLINT, Michigan — Much has changed in the eight months since Brelia Renee and Furillostar created the group BFF and left Flint to move to ATL to be “the biggest that we can be.” The decision has paid off in strides with stylized photoshoots, higher production music videos, a slew of viral videos, and a celebrated set at the Univeristy of Michigan’s “Dancing In The Streets” event in Flint last November.

The success has primed them for their debut as official performing artists at this year's SXSW Music Festival. But it isn’t the only thing they’ve gained — there’s confidence, too.

There’s a feeling of deep artist development outside Furillo’s family’s house as the duo easily poses, wearing individual outfits that symbolize a shift into more balanced masculine-feminine energies. Playfully, they banter with all of us but also implement on-the-spot advice from photojournalist Anthony Summers and their longtime manager and videographer Dee Steele and TruVai Pearson.

Later, they’ll give me a private listening session, illustrating their move into mature artists with groovy R&B and Hip-Hop tunes reminiscent of Chris Brown, Ciara, or Usher.

BFF’s artistry has grown, reflected in everything they do. And days before they have to perform at SXSW, they’re back in Flint to rest, raise money to get to SXSW, and strategize in the home and city that, according to them, “poured into us.” It’s one of the reasons why they stay humble amid an opportunity that promises “a huge platform and all the perks and gifts that come with that.”

Flintside caught up with the dynamic duo to talk SXSW, new music, and the definition of success.

"Now, coming back as an official artist, people are seeing our hard work. It’s like when preparation meets opportunity,” explains BFF on Feb. 25, 2024. (Anthony Summers |
Flintside: How does it feel to be an official performing artist for SXSW?

BFF: “We don’t even have the words to describe how excited we are. In 2022, we had the opportunity to do SXSW, but at that point, we weren’t official artists. That first experience we had was great. We met many amazing people, got to network, and still have those relationships. A lot of the showcases are very intimate. Now, coming back as an official artist, people are seeing our hard work. They come looking for people to hire and talent to find. It’s like when preparation meets opportunity.”

Flintside: A lot of versatility comes with being an artist. You both sing, dance, produce, write, and more. Talk about these different areas that have blossomed over this time.

BFF: “Our past experiences led us to be more in control. Before we decided to become a group, our experiences were controlled and restricted, and we didn’t know anything. We’re listening to people, and it’s not seeming like they have our best interests. Luckily, we got away from both situations, came together, and started working. We had those conversations, and we’re always learning because we know we want to have our hands and feet in a little bit of everything. We are students of the game.” 

Flintside: You both seem to have settled in this process. ATL must have shifted y’all. I’m curious about what experiences and lessons y’all learned from it.

Brelia: “Speaking for myself, I’ve learned to trust myself more. Growing up doing music, I had people in my corner listening to how I should be, say things, sing, and what my music should be. I feel on this journey of growth, I’ve learned to trust myself, my creative process, what I’m going to say, and who I want to be. I’ve also just learned that sometimes uncomfortability is what you need to grow.”

Contemporary R&B and pop duo BFF pose effortlessly and confidently on Feb. 25, 2024. (Anthony Summers |
Flintside: You’ve experienced many setbacks, naysayers, and detours, but you’re still doing music. What’s the growth been like for Furillo? 

Furillo: “The older I got, the more scared I got about things. Moving to ATL was a big deal for me, too, because we didn’t know anything. We just knew that we wanted to be there. We were lucky that everything kind of snowballed. But I feel stronger, smarter, and more sure of myself. Being with [Brelia], I feel more level-headed. I have never seen the future so clearly in my life.” 

Flintside: Let’s talk music because you were on This Life. We Lead’s song. Is this more R&B, sultry sound something we’ll get more of?

BFF: “We are leaning into the R&B route. It’s more adult and mature but still has pop elements because that’s who we are. We look like pop stars because we love that aspect of the music, but taking inspiration from Brandy and Michael Jackson and listening to singers. We’re paying attention, listening to harmonies, and trusting ourselves more. There will be trend-inspired records on our project, but the soul of the music you’ll hear on these records real soon.”

"We’re very intentional with every single thing we do. We hope the next generation will know that the sky is the limit,” says BFF on Feb. 25, 2024. (Anthony Summers |
Flintside: BFF is leading a new wave of what’s possible, in my opinion. How do you both see yourselves in your journey from the humble beginnings of Flint to now?

BFF: “We are so tunneled vision that sometimes we have to remind each other not to be so tunnel-visioned that we’re not paying attention to what’s going on at home. There are still a lot of dope artists here, and if we can, try to extend the opportunities that we have. I know how hard we work; even when it looks like we’re not doing anything, we’re working. We’re on our phones doing research, emailing people, and trying to book shows.” 

Flintside: Where does this drive come from?

BFF: “I think it’s because we know what we want. We don’t know if other artists in Flint wanna be global superstars, but that’s what we want. We try to make the best decisions we know how to get there. If that seems like we’re leading the pack, it’s because we want to be at the top. We understand the business aspect, too. Who’s selling records? Who’s streaming records? We’re very intentional with every single thing we do. We hope the next generation will know that the sky is the limit.”

Flintside: Finally, with moving to ATL and the multiple viral dance videos of BFF, how do you both define success?

BFF: “A very substantial amount of money in the bank account. Let’s start there because we have to take care of ourselves. We all want to take care of our family. Once we get to the point where we’re touring, hold the mic up, and the crowd sings your song word for word, that’s success. That’s when you start crying. Don’t get us wrong, we want to be able to hold up our accolades, but the biggest thing is when we’re standing in the middle of a stage at an arena or stadium, and thousands of people are singing your song back, that’s going to be the moment.”

Find Brelia Renee, Furillostar, and BFF on social media. Help BFF get to SXSW by contributing to their GoFundMe
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Read more articles by Xzavier Simon.