- ALEXA CUDE
Jody Upshaw and Shay Pitts bound into a downtown coffee shop together, so engrossed in conversation they move through the doorframe at the same time. The two teens' laughter trails as they push into a corner booth, discussing how Pitts is newly grounded for the small diamond stud sitting directly under her nose.
They're best friends, clearly, and also frequent collaborators (Upshaw performs a poppy twist on R&B while Pitts raps and sings in a mix of Rhianna and Nicki Minaj). Most of all, though, they're each other's biggest fans. "People at school always try to be all like 'You see how many streams Jody has?'" Pitts begins. "Yeah or like, how many followers Shay has?'" Upshaw adds as they both nod.
"We just get feedback and criticism from each other all the time. She'll call me all the time and be like 'What do you think of this?' And even if we're just talking about regular school stuff, we'll always check in with each other about music," Upshaw says. "Last week, I was shooting a music video with MAJE and my nails were too long. Jody was there and helped clasp all my jewellery," Pitts says.
And, these days, each girl is doing a lot for the other one to cheer on: Pitts' video with MAJE (which Upshaw proclaims looks just like Beyonce and Jay-Z's "Apeshit" clip) drops Friday, while Upshaw is in the process of shooting her own video for her Classified-produced single "Straight Shooter." Upshaw promises her other love—basketball—will feature in the single.
The girls met a little over a year ago, introduced through their dads, and hit it off right away, recording the dance-y, self-love- prioritizing "Glitter & Gold."
"That was really exciting for me to write for someone who, at that time, I felt was so much above me because I had just been starting out—even though she's younger than me she'd already established herself. It was a really big opportunity for me," says Pitts, who wrote, sings and raps on the track.
"I went in the studio and we had stuff already done, but I asked her 'What do you have?' And she said it and I was like 'Yep, we're using that! We're doing that, that's good!' She's a very talented person and it's really cool to see from when she first started a year ago to now,'" adds Upshaw, who's been making sweet, self-assured R&B for about four years.
Though Upshaw is 15 and Pitts is a week shy of her 16th birthday ("Ugh, 15, that's so immature," she says slyly), both girls know music is the path for them. "People ask what I wanna sound like and I always say Beyoncé!" Upshaw says, laughing. "My dad's like 'You should probably think of some other people,' but I'm like 'But she's first, she's at the top!'"
"I'm so in love with albums. I set aside Sunday as my music day, the day where I listen to whatever new albums have come out, because I love the flow of how certain songs come together," says Pitts, whose current rotation includes Nicki Minaj's Queen and Daniel Caesar's Freudian. "Sometimes albums are like stories. I think that's just so beautiful. I'm not at that level yet but I hope to be one day."
"Once I put out my first song I was just like, I love doing this," says Upshaw. "How could I not do this forever?" —MM