Before Bahja Rodriguez could drive a car, she was touring around the country as part of a 2000s teen pop group, The OMG Girlz. Formed by her aunt Tameka “Tiny” Harris, what started as a storyline for the reality TV series “Tiny and Toya” quickly developed into show bookings and some tough love for the aspiring stars.
“It would come off harsh, but I think [my aunt] comes from that era of the industry where they would tell you if you weren’t doing something right, and it’s not always nice,” Rodriguez told REVOLT. “It would be things like, ‘Nah, that looks crazy. You need to fix it. This sounds like a mess. Y’all need to fix that. What’s going on here?’”
In this installment of “Tour Tales,” the singer discussed what The OMG Girlz had to sacrifice to grow up on the road, confronting a Twitter troll after a show, and what’s next for her solo career. Check out our exclusive chat with Bahja Rodriguez below!
Walk me through the beginnings of The OMG Girlz and the earliest performances.
When we first started the group, my aunt [Tameka “Tiny” Harris] and [Antonia “Toya” Johnson] had just started their show on BET, “Tiny and Toya.” Tiny put the group together for the show. It was only supposed to be for an episode. But, when the episode aired, people really liked us so much. We started getting bookings, and people wanted us to do shows. After that, she said, “Oh, we have to do this for real.” Our first show was at South DeKalb Mall. They used to do these events down here when we were younger. Our first major show was in Illinois or something for Pizza Hut, or something like that (laughs). Our first show was probably three months after the episode aired.
How did you all develop your live shows at such a young age?
Zonnique [Pullins] and I were 12. Reginae [Carter] was 9, and Lourdes [Rodriguez] was 10. We were very much children (laughs). To get our live show together, we picked our single that was out at the time, called “Ain’t Nobody” [in 2010]. And then we put together some songs people hadn’t heard before that we recorded. We probably had four or five songs out of the gate.
What guidance did Tiny and Toya provide? Any motivational speeches?
When we were younger, all the moms tried to give us pep talks backstage. Once they started to see what they felt we could improve, they commented on that. My aunt’s thing was for us always to have high energy. She would tell us, “Have a lot of energy; make sure y’all holding the mic to y’all mouth.” When we first started performing, we would be dancing, so we might take the mic away from our mouths for a little bit, and they’d tell us, “We can’t hear y’all if y’all don’t got the mic up to your mouth. It sounds like the track is playing, and y’all ain’t saying anything. Y’all there dancing, not saying anything.” It wasn’t until it became the three of us — me, Zonnique, and Breaunna — that my aunt really started getting into constructive criticism. It would come off harsh, but I think she comes from that era of the industry where they would tell you if you weren’t doing something right, and it’s not always nice. It would be things like, “Nah, that looks crazy. You need to fix it. This sounds like a mess. Y’all need to fix that. What’s going on here?” It wasn’t until we got older that we started to really get into that harsh constructive criticism phase.
What were some shows that helped with the group’s growth?
We had a show where we were going to “surprise” my aunt with this live vocal piece, which was terrible. It was so terrible that she recorded it because she thought we were messing up. She said, “I didn’t know what was going on. Y’all sounded a mess. Why would y’all not run that by me before you did it?” I would say that was probably around 2013.
How old were you all on your first tour?
When we started our first tour, I was 14 going on 15. Our first tour was “The Scream Tour” [in 2011]. It was us, Mindless Behavior, Diggy [Simmons], Jacob Latimore, and the New Boyz. As our first tour, it was insane. It was a phenomenal tour. The kids were so invested in it; we were so invested in it. It was so new and exciting for us. For the most part, everybody on tour was all close. We were literally each other’s only friends because none of us were in regular school or anything like that. So we were constantly going to each other’s dressing rooms or going to each other’s hotel rooms after the show. We would hang out; we would eat backstage. We were really like a family for real. That’s the best way I could describe it. Everybody was super supportive of one another.
Since you didn’t have the typical school experience, what significant life moments did you all share on the road?
We missed out on prom and graduating with our class. We still talk about how we missed out on that. But, what we were doing in place of that was super lit. We also got our driver permits and first cars while on tour. We stayed with our parents until we were out of the group. So, we were always on the road; when we weren’t, we lived with our parents. So, it wasn’t as if anybody was buying homes or anything.
What were the group’s tour hits?
Our No. 1 tour hit was “Lover Boy.” They still ask us about “Lover Boy,” and it’s been 10 or 12 years since we performed that record. There was also “Can’t Stop Loving You” and “Do You Remember.” Some of those songs were dropped on SoundCloud and, literally, never put on any type of streaming platform. But we always performed them. The fans love those records. We also had “Customizable,” another tour hit for us.
What were some notable fan interactions?
We would always get gifts from the fans and stuff. I remember this one girl who came and brought me a matching best friend bracelet. It’s so funny because that girl now dances for Latto. She’s actually one of her backup dancers. I still have that bracelet. But we also had a funny interaction with another person. A fan snuck onto the bus with the people we were having an interview with. The interview people thought she was with us, and we thought she was with them. Our road manager asked her who she was with, and she said, “I’m a fan.” Our road manager told her, “You must get off the bus, but we appreciate the support.”
There was another time we met one of our Twitter trolls in real life. We brought her backstage and asked her, “What all was it you were saying on Twitter?” (laughs). This was probably “The Life of the JetSetter Tour” we did with Diggy. She was one of Diggy’s fans. Back then, Twitter and Instagram were new, so that trolling stuff was just coming to the forefront. I had seen her at the meet and greet. She took a picture with us, and I thought, “Oh, that’s her” (laughs). We told her, “You were talking all of that junk about how you were going to fight us and all of this… But we’re here now.” And she was starstruck.
How did being on the road bring The OMG Girlz together? How did your bonds change?
We were growing up together, so we experienced a lot of firsts together. We all spent our 16th birthdays together. We were growing up together on the road, and that’s what grew us closer. Whenever we had a problem, were sad, or were happy, the other two were there to help us through whatever we were going through. That was the beauty of touring with the girls and getting close to them. They’re still my best friends, but on tour, they were my best friends.
What was the last show you all did before breaking up in 2015?
We had a show in Savannah, and I believe it was Dougie Fresh and us there. It was a one-off show. It wasn’t a tour show or anything; it was just a one-off, and it was pretty cool. We knew we were breaking up at the time, but the fans didn’t know yet. I don’t want to say it had a weird energy around it, but it was a bit sentimental. It was a little sad. I think we all knew that it was, like, our last one.
How is your solo live show different?
For my live show, I do a lot of live instrumentation. I do a lot more singing now, too. When we were younger, we would sing, but sometimes we wouldn’t. Now, I sing my entire show from start to finish. More of a live element goes into it, and it’s definitely more mature than anything else. I remember I had my first headlining show in New York around 2018. I had my band and dancers, and it was a fantastic show. To prepare, I do a lot of rehearsals. I cut out dairy. That sucks because I love dairy, milk, cheese, and everything else. But I had to completely cut dairy from my diet for two weeks before the constant rehearsals. Right before that show, I ended up getting sick. I had the flu. My mom woke me up every two hours, rubbing me with alcohol and giving me medicine. I woke up the following day to catch the flight and felt 100 times better. It felt like I wasn’t even sick, and I could still do the show.
What do you have coming up for the rest of 2023?
I have a lot more shows coming. I have new music and visuals coming. My video for [“You”] is coming out soon. I dropped my single [“All Mine”] on Valentine’s Day. I want to do my own tour this summer. I want to do something like a five-city tour. So we’re working the details out on that. I have a lot of really cool projects in the works that my fans can look forward to.