Serena Smart is here to become a household name, and she’s not stopping until she gets to the top. Hailing from Queens, New York, and reppin’ her hometown any chance she can, the creative singer-songwriter is a breath of fresh air in the R&B game, lending her smooth, sultry vocals and pairing it with relatable lyrics for listeners all around the world.
At only 18 years old, the rising star has already achieved great heights, from attending performing arts high school and auditioning for America’s Got Talent in 2018 to performing at the world-famous Apollo Theater and even landing syncs on CW’s Black Lightning. Of course, every artist needs a home team… and Serena has officially signed to We Got Bucks Productions with manager Lou Simmons and BoomLife Media founded by famed director and producer Benny Boom.
Most recently, Serena unleashed her newest release titled “Decisions,” the follow up to her previous single “Focused” featuring Busta Rhymes’ son Trillian. The record is produced by Benny Boom’s 14-year-old prodigy MiniBoom. Both songs hold fans over until the release of her forthcoming debut EP, slated to arrive later this summer.
Flaunt caught up with Serena via Zoom to discuss her roots in New York, biggest influences, her sound, how “Focused” and “Decisions” came to be, shooting both videos in one day, having her song on a TV show she watches, studio essentials, linking with Shiggy, her forthcoming debut EP, and more.
How was it growing up in Queens?
I’m from Queens, but I like repping the whole New York City type vibe. It was cool growing up, everybody knows everybody. I’m 18 years old, I’m pretty young. Just making my way through New York and trying to find a way for myself, trying to figure out my path is the main objective for me growing up in Queens.
Who are your biggest influences?
I listen to SZA. Jhene Aiko. Beyonce. Jessie J. Katy Perry, Whitney Houston. Those are my biggest influences right now. Men-wise, I love Drake. Chris Brown. Yung Bleu. Ne-Yo.
When did you realize you could do music for a living?
I’ve been singing since I was 3 so I always knew I wanted to do this for a living, I just never really had the right people in my corner or the right connections for it. I recently started to be like, “Okay yeah, I know I’ma do this for sure.” There’s no second job or side hustle, or nothing. I want to take this seriously.”
How would you describe your sound?
A lot of people say my sound is very airy and flutterly, but I have some soul to it. People say I sound like Jhene and Ariana Grande, but then I have a little Beyonce and Whitney to me if I want to switch it up.
Who or what inspired “Decisions”?
I went through a heartbreak so I was in my bag. Over time, I got over that. It’s about being a girl boss and making a name for myself. The title “Decisions” is deciding “okay, I’m over this heartbreak. What do I want to do for myself now? How can I be independent, be a girl boss and do what I gotta do?” I took my time writing “Decisions.” This is one of the records I made before getting into the industry. I got the beat and it took me a week to make it. This is one of the first songs, my first time in the studio.
Your first session?
Not my first session, but my first time being signed under Boom Life Media and We Got Bucks. That’s my first time with everybody, meeting everybody. Benny Boom is a legend, he’s a very famous director. We Got Bucks, that’s who I’m signed to. That’s my production company. Benny Boom has a son, MiniBoom, that’s my producer. So it’s like a big family.
Where did you shoot the video for “Decisions”?
“Decisions” was shot in Long Island City. We shot “Decisions” and “Focused” in the same day. “Focused” was shot early in the morning, then “Decisions” was shot around 10pm. My girls and I rode around in the Rolls Royce for the night. They had a camera on the side of the car door while we were driving, catching the view. It was really cold outside. We filmed it when there was still snow on the ground. I had on heels, freezing and raining, but it was fun. The vibe was so cool. It was my first video shoot. It was really fun.
How was that whole experience?
Since I’ve been singing for awhile, I’ve been in people’s music videos before. I’ve always wanted to be there. I’ve experienced it second-hand but for it to be my music video is crazy. Everybody’s there. The set was there. They had lights, all different cameras everywhere. It was surreal. I felt like a star that day, not gonna lie.
Are you still in school?
I was at St. John’s University for a bit, but I dropped out. That was before I started the singing stuff, I said “No I can’t do this.” I’m actually really good at school. I finished high school with all honors. My grades were intact, my parents did not play but I really wanted to pursue singing. It’s not that school wasn’t for me because it was, but I really wanted to focus on my career. This is what I’ve always wanted to do.
How did “Focused” come about with Busta Rhymes’ son, Trillian?
I love Trill. Love him. I was nervous because everything was so new to me. I come from Queens, which is such a small area in New York City. When I was doing a music video and seeing all these people who are known, Busta Rhymes’ son, I thought “Oh snap, this is a lot.” I was nervous at first but after the video, everybody warmed up to each other. It was still cold that day too but it was really fun. The first take we did, they were shocked. They probably thought I was going to be a little shy because it’s my first music video, but I think I killed it.
What was the highlight from shooting?
Meeting so many different people. It was really cool, I still talk to them till this day. We really formed a bond during those two music videos. My favorite part of filming “Decisions” is when Benny Boom said, “Stick your head out the window!” That’s my favorite part, the highlight. Recently, my best friend, her mother and I returned to the location we filmed “Focused.” It was a really nice brownstone in Brooklyn. We just reminisced on the day of the shoot. It was a different setting for me, I’m not used to all of that stuff.
How did it feel to have “Focused” featured in CW’s Black Lightning?
That was crazy, I watch Black Lightning. I was watching it before I even moved into the music industry. For them to say that my song would be in Black Lightning was unimaginable. It was official when they sent over all the paperwork. Big shout out to Benny Boom because he’s the director for that show. That was really cool, and it was Mini Boom’s beat.
3 things you need in the studio at all times?
Definitely one of my friends so they can tell me what sounds good and what doesn’t sound good. My best friend, I’ll bring her to the studio with me every single time. She doesn’t miss a session. I need a friend there to feel comfortable. I need water, definitely. That’s it. I don’t eat food during my studio sessions. They’ll order mad food for the session and I won’t eat until the end. It messes with my vocals.
Talk about your friendship with Shiggy.
Shiggy is from Queens, he lived in the south part of Queens. It’s crazy because one of my friends that I call my sister named Imani used to be close with him so we connected from there. His vibe’s really cool, he reminds me of a regular goofball. I didn’t look at him as Shiggy. We have a lot of stuff in store, he might get on a verse or two. [laughs]
How did you guys meet?
We met through my manager, but everybody already knew each other so it wasn’t really a hassle to come find him. I now look at him as one of my mentors. We’ve kept in touch after the skit and he gives me advice on navigating the industry. He reminds me that I’m young and to have fun with this. Not to take this stuff too seriously and get stressed out. He gives me really good advice.
What can we expect from your debut EP coming later this summer?
I don’t have a name for the EP yet but the songs I’ve released already will be on there. When you listen to my EP it’ll feel like a whole other realm because it sounds so different from what I’m singing now. You know how regular R&B artists talk about heartbreak and love? I get more into the lyrics, slow melodic tunes are in there but we have some upbeat stuff too.
I have a couple features with some really fire people. @MilesMusic_ on instagram, he’s really good. He’s like another Bruno Mars, he’s making it. He’s Ne-Yo’s artist. I have a feature with Badda The Don, that’s Meek Mill’s manager’s artist. We’re shooting the music video soon. I really upped it a couple of notches when making this EP, it’s different. People are going to be really shocked. I just released a snippet on my Instagram, it’s called “Dreamland.” A lot of people are going crazy, that’ll be on the EP too.
What can we expect from that song?
It sounds different from “Decisions” and “Focused”. You can actually hear it in my voice. That’s just one little snippet of a song, if you hear the other songs on the EP…
Are you looking forward to your performance at the Ballin 4 Peace Celebrity Softball Game?
Yes, definitely. I found out that I was performing off of Instagram. One of my managers who’s also a mentor to me, DKing, hooked me up with the performance. Initially I was just supposed to be playing in the game. I go to their Instagram page and it says that I’m performing. I was surprised to see that I’m going to perform at a celebrity baseball game. That’s crazy. I’m excited, I can’t wait. It’s my first time performing, I gotta kill it. I’m performing “Decisions.”
Any goals you have for yourself at this point in your career?’
Ultimately, I want to get a bag. [laughs] I really love singing, I’ve been doing it for so long but it’ll be even better when I’m able to make money while doing what I love. Especially since I’m a female, I want to make a name for myself. I don’t want to be one of these females in the industry who’s known for being with a rapper. I want to be known as Serena Smart and getting a bag for my singing.