Brandy is back!
It’s been four long years since the R&B veteran had her last march up Billboard charts. A feat all the more surprising given the singer’s media presence over the time since has by no means diminished.
Tackling TV (‘Drop Dead Diva’, ‘The Game’) and movies (‘Marriage Counselor’), brand Brandy has been on the rebound and at a steady pace.
Now, the ‘Put It Down’ diva is looking to blaze charts once more with her forthcoming effort ‘Two Eleven’. Already reigning over radio with its lead Chris Brown-assisted single, the Vocal Bible is looking to turn a new page on her career and personal life.
Speaking candidly with That Grape Juice, see B-Rocka weigh in on what fans should expect with this album, why she wasn’t feeling her previous two efforts, her relationship with Rodney Jerkins, and more.
Needless to say, it is a must read….
Brandy Shouts Out That Grape Juice!
That Grape Juice: Hey Brandy!
Brandy: Hey! I love y’all. So excited to be speaking with y’all again.
Likewise. So let’s get right to it…
Like many, we’re so excited to see you back! We know you’ve kept busy with reality shows, TV (‘The Game’, ‘Drop Dead Diva’), and the like. But, it’s been four long years since your last album ‘Human’ was released. How did you know now was the time to step back onto the music scene?
Well, I’d been trying to get back on the music scene for a while, but I didn’t have a deal. I really didn’t know what was going to happen. I got a chance to do a show in L.A. and it was there I got the chance to hook up with RCA. It all just fell in place from there. I feel like it was the right time. Everything was organic and so authentic that it made me realize how much it [music] was missing from my life.
Indeed. And, as a result, we have ‘Two Eleven’ (the material from which we’re loving). We’re keen to know: how will this project differ from your previous efforts?
I think it’s just an extension of me. This album is a lot more mature than my past work, but very much rooted in R&B. With this album I wanted to have a purpose and that purpose was to contribute to the genre of R&B. So many people are missing that music that touches the soul. So many of us are doing different things with music and that’s ok, but for me that’s where I come from. I just wanted to help bring that back to the forefront and stay true to who I am.
Speaking of previous efforts, one of the things we love about you is how “real” you keep it. With that, you’ve been quite vocal about your dislike for the ‘Human’ era and to an extent, ‘Afrodisiac’ too. What about those projects didn’t click for you?
For me, I didn’t feel like I was listening to my own voice. I was listening to the voice of my team more so than what was going on inside of me. With ‘Human’, I felt like I wanted to do more R&B music and that’s not what we decided to do on that album. On ‘Afrodisiac’, when different writers and producers came in, it kind of changed the direction of where Timbaland and I were trying to go. When you have something as strong as a creative spirit guiding you, you have to stick with that. You cannot go against it or you will suffer the consequence.
Those albums did not reach as many people as I would’ve liked for them to and I don’t get to perform the songs as much. A lot of people did love ‘Human’ and ‘Afrodisiac’. Some people still say ‘Afrodisiac’ is my best work. So, I guess some good did come out of it.
But, as far as ‘Two Eleven’ goes, you have definitely been quite vocal about the inspiration behind the title – specifically its connection with your mentor Whitney Houston. However, how much of the actual sound of the album was inspired by her work?
Well it really wasn’t the sound, it was more of me staying true to myself. It was one of the last things I told her. I got a chance to talk to her before she passed and she told me “nobody can be you, so always be you. Don’t let people change you or move you to do what they want you to do.”
It’s more in my faith and responsibility to my music and my gut feeling that she inspired me to do. I always hear out last conversation over and over in our head. It’s about what I do moving forward because I want to make her proud with my music and everything I do as an artist.
We have no doubt you will. So, tell us more about the album sonically. What should we expect? Any features?
Chris Brown is the only feature. I really wanted to do without features because I want to reestablish and reinvent myself as an artist. So, I didn’t want to just do collaborations just to do them. We do them for the songs to be special. The Chris Brown [feature] was the only one that worked out, while the rest is all me.
Sean Garrett is pretty much the main writer, kind of like my Rodney Jerkins. Ester Dean, Rico Love, Jim Jonsin, and Bangladesh. It’s great talent on this album. I love working with people who believe in me.
Interesting that you mention Rodney Jerkins. What’s your relationship with him like now?
We’re at a great place. I texted him last week. I wish we could get in the studio again and work together. There is a chemistry and magic there that is undeniable. I have a lot of love for him and owe him a lot. He’s done wonders with me musically and helped me learn a lot about my voice.
I will always have love for him.
What was the overall production process like? Were you ever swayed between making an album geared towards just your die-hard fans or one that would switch on the new generation to you?
Well, it’s both. I always say I want my daughter to be able to listen to my music and love it. I always want to satisfy the fans who have been down for a very long time. Being able to be versatile is a blessing. I can sing songs like ‘Put It Down’ and then switch to ‘Wildest Dreams’ or ‘Have You Ever’. I think it’s about exercising everything I can do that way I can satisfy everyone.
You want the world to love your music and reach as many people as it can. But, you don’t want to go too far off where people don’t understand. It’s about me, yes. But, it’s also about the people I’m trying to create relationships with my music.
Let me you a funny story: I took my daughter to a ’Mindless Behavior’ concert recently. As I was walking in and taking her to her seat, the entire place went crazy. It made me feel so good those 10 and 11 year olds appreciated me being there because when I started making music, they weren’t even born! My eyes began to water!
That certainly had to be a gratifying experience. And I’m sure those fans, as well as your diehards, are looking forward to the album’s next single ‘Wildest Dreams’! We, for one, are certainly feeling its modern take on that’s 90s throwback sound. When can we expect a video?
I’m going to be doing the video this month. You will not have to wait four months for a video to it (laughs). I can’t wait to do it because it’s such a song very true to my life. It has real vocals, real heart, and I cannot wait to perform that in front of a camera.
Speaking of being in front of the camera, we recently caught ‘Put It Down’s’ first televised performance for the MDA. What other promotions should we look out for with this project?
There are going to be a lot of TV appearances closer to when the album comes out. We plan on doing everything we can. But it’s not just me, it’s a team of people working to make things happen. I just want to do everything I can to get this out to the people.
We also LOVED your BET performance. From the choreography, to the hair whipping, to the stellar vocals. Same with the ‘Put It Down’ video. As someone people describe as the Vocal Bible, do you ever feel pressure to live up to such titling?
Oh yes. Because that’s a big title! I just try to sing from my heart and soul. I try not to think of that so much. Before I got the title, I was singing from my heart and soul. So as long as I do that, I’m doing what I need to do. But, there’s a lot of practice that goes into it and so much pressure (laughs).
Ok, Brandy. Let’s do a quick round of five fan questions:
Let’s do it!
Ever thought on doing a live album or a gospel album?
I have thought about doing a gospel album, but not a live album. That would be cool too, but I really want to sing gospel. I love gospel and I would love to see what I can do on that end.
Any touring? You once said a tour with Monica was out of the question due to acting, but recent reports quote you saying it’s back to being a possibility. Which is it?
I really still don’t have my acting schedule completely ironed out and I definitely don’t want to hold her up. I’m doing my thing and she’s doing hers. If it works out, great! If not, I wish her all the best.
We’ve heard you say you would never do reality again. Do you have any guilty pleasure reality shows?
Yes, I do. I might catch a lot of flack for this, but ‘Love and Hip Hop Atlanta’ is my favorite show. I think it is so real and honest. So many people are going through that same stuff, but it’s just that everybody isn’t on TV.
Do you ever get back to Mississippi?
Yes, I love Mississippi! It’s been a while, but when I do go I always feel such a peace of mind when I get back home from there. I still have family there, so I have a reason to visit. Plus, my mom has a lake there. It’s all so serene. There is no place like Mississippi.
Finally, what’s your favorite Brandy song?
‘Always On My Mind’ from the first album. I just love the melody of that song. It’s so pure and so pretty. It’s hard to have one favorite, but that’s definitely one of it.
Ok, thanks so much! We know the fans appreciate that. And finally, you recently teased the potential of a Drake feature for the album. Will that be something we can still expect?
The Drake collaboration will not happen for this album, for sure. I certainly see it for the future though.
And, as we recently commemorated the 11th anniversary of the passing of R&B singer Aaliyah, what are your thoughts on the Drake drama with her music?
I am a huge fan of Drake’s and I think it’s amazing idea that he’s doing the Aaliyah album. I cannot wait for that. I’ve always been a huge Aaliyah fan as well and I’m just happy he’s keeping her memory and music alive.
If approached, would you ever be a part of the project?
I would definitely be a part of that if they approached me.
Finally, when can fans catch ‘Two Eleven’ in stores?
October 16th! For sure!
‘Two Eleven’, the 6th studio LP of R&B singer Brandy, is due in stores October 16th. Click here to pre-order your copy!
Interview by : Q.R. Taylor (That Grape Juice US)