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From the barbershop to Hollywood, rapper/actress Bre-Z made a steady rise from her Philadelphia roots to star on the Fox drama Empire, playing the tough MC Freda Gatz. Riding the success of the show, she returned to her first love -- rapping -- with her debut effort, 2018's The Grl.
Born Calesha Murray in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, she was raised by a Wu-Tang-loving mother and a barber father in Wilmington, Delaware. As a child, she'd pursue both family traditions, cutting hair from the age of ten and rapping at various talent shows. Influenced by 2Pac, Jay-Z, Cam'ron, Missy Elliott, MC Lyte, and Jadakiss, she caught the attention of Roc-A-Fella rapper Freeway, who assisted with some of her early material.
In 2008, she moved to Atlanta with her mother, earning her keep as a celebrity barber (Akon and Ludacris were among her customers). After years in the area, she made her move to Los Angeles. Using her barbershop connections, she auditioned for the hip-hop television drama Empire, scoring the role of the hard-edged rapper Freda Gatz. She starred on the show from 2015 to 2017, recording soundtrack selections "Boom Boom Boom Boom" with Terrence Howard and "Shine on Me" and "My Own Thing" with Jussie Smollett. Inspired by Angela Bassett, Queen Latifah, Kerry Washington, and Taraji P. Henson, she added more roles to her acting résumé, appearing on 2017's The New Edition Story and earning a starring role on the CW series All American, playing Tiana "Coop" Cooper.
In addition to her work on the small screen, Murray continued rapping, issuing the single "Best of Me" with Lil' Mo in early 2018. Later that summer, she self-released her debut, The Grl., which featured guests Iman., Robbie Celeste, and RaVaughn. ~ Neil Z. Yeung