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Brandy will forever go down in history as one of the most legendary R&B singers to ever exist. Getting her start singing backup vocals for teen groups, the then 15-year-old would unleash her self-titled debut album in 1994, which became a staple in not only her own career, but the music industry.
If you’re tapped into the culture in any capacity, you probably saw the recent Brandy and Monica Verzuz in which they emphasized that it was not a competition, but a celebration. When it comes to Black queens, Brandy has consistently used her platform to be a role model for millions of women and girls. Not only does she create incredible music, but her energy contagiously touches the masses.
Most recently, she released her critically acclaimed seventh album titled B7, spearheaded by her single “Baby Mama” featuring Chance The Rapper.
REVOLT caught up with the star to discuss her epic Verzuz with Monica, the masterpiece that B7 is, being a role model, and more. Check out the chat below!
Congratulations on the phenomenal and historic Verzuz! Over 6 million people tuned in. How did you prepare for that?
It’s definitely a divine process that you have to follow. It’s all about the music. I wanted the music to be able to reach everybody. It wasn’t so much me versus Monica or this round, that round, who’s the winner? It wasn’t about that for me. I get a chance to share music that meant something to me, she gets to share music that meant something to her. If we put together 20 of our best songs, our songs will touch people in different ways. You prepare for the music to sound really good, that’s what I did. Go in the studio, make sure my songs were sounding the way I wanted them to sound and edited in the right places, so it could touch people in the right way. That’s the most important thing.
How did you come up with the list and what moved you to share your poems?
Engaging with my fans, seeing and knowing what songs they wanted to hear. A lot of people requested different songs and some of the songs were the same exact song, they wanted one particular song to play. I’ve been writing in my journal for such a long time that I don’t just write songs, I write prayers to God. I write poems. Having my journal there was my safety net, I knew my poetry was in there. Something people could connect with and see a side of me I don’t really show people. I wanted to show [that] people can start writing and feel good because does help with your life when you write.
How do you celebrate such a monumental moment?
I was able to celebrate with my brother. Ray J was so supportive throughout the entire process. He got me flowers, it was really sweet to hear what he thought of the moment and how much it meant to him. He was touched. So, to celebrate with him and my family was really great.
What was the moment of you putting it all together that made you happy about the whole thing?
I invited a few people I completely trust in music by to hear what I was envisioning and what I wanted the songs to sound like — certain parts of songs I wanted the audience to hear. I tested it on people that I knew would tell me the truth, tell me, “Nah, I ain’t feeling that.” I could feel how the room would feel, my first audience to see what the real Verzuz audience would think. If I could convince them and they felt it — they’re musicians and they’d tell me the truth — that the people who listen on Verzuz would like it.
Kamala Harris came on to congratulate you guys for pushing the power to vote. What’d it mean to partner with Michelle Obama’s foundation When We All Vote?
I never saw that happening, never imagined that. It was almost a surprise, it was divine like “Wow!” This is a reminder I can keep the faith, I can have hope. I can make it to the next day, I can encourage people to vote. They’re using this particular moment because of the music! We’re coming together in unity to help people, to have a voice and awareness about voting is huge. My daughter turned 18 this year, she gets to vote. For her to see mommy on Verzuz playing music and teaming up with Michelle Obama and Kamala Harris to encourage people to vote, all while celebrating music, is divine.
The WNBA ladies of Seattle Storm showed you major love with their own Verzuz viewing party and made shirts that said, “Team Brandy.” What perspective does that give you?
When people hold you at a level of respect, it gives you a certain confidence. It makes me feel good that people respect my craft trying to put together great music for people. For people to respect and love it, it makes me feel like what I’m doing is not in vain. This is what I’m supposed to do, especially if people are respecting and loving it — “Yo this reminds me of a time in my life. This song got me through that, it made me feel like this.” That gives me not arrogance, but confidence. This is my responsibility. I need to keep going because there’s people out here that need that.
Congrats on the release of b7! How does it feel to finally have this out after eight years?
I feel liberated because this album was so difficult to make. It was fun difficult, a fun challenge. I had to get these songs out. I had to speak about the things going on in my life. Those were the songs that were coming forth. I had to write those songs, get those melodies out, get that truth out, so I could heal and get to different colors of music. I’m so glad b7 is out, I’m so proud of it. I’m anxious about new music and continuing to do music. I don’t want to wait eight years. Let’s keep moving! Let’s keep going. I want to keep creating. I’m so creative right now.
I’ve seen a lot of talk about a Drake remix of “Borderline.”
Well with the success of this Verzuz darling, he might be available (laughs).
Would you want him to hop on a remix or do something from scratch? You did say it’s time for a Drake song.
It is, but honestly “Borderline” is one of those songs so personal to me. The video’s really about my mentality. That should be left by itself. I could do something brand new and different with Drake. “Borderline” is one of those songs I don’t want to touch, but if he wanted to hop on, what I’m going to say? No?
How was it recording with Sy’Rai and how much direction do you give her in the studio?
The amazing thing about Sy’Rai is I’ve stepped back and allowed her to find her own way. She told me straight out one day, “Mommy listen, I need to find music my own way. I want to find my own path.” I was able to get her into a studio here at the house. She’s found her own process with her own producer, her cousin, and she finds it! I really haven’t gotten a chance to really truly work with Sy’Rai yet. This is who she is on her own without any input with me. I want to work with my daughter, I can’t wait ‘til I get that chance. On “High Heels,” I was watching her come up with what she thought the song needed and I was there to support her. Wow, I’m blown away. She hasn’t allowed me to Lashaun Daniels her yet or vocal produce her yet. I’m waiting my turn.
“Brand New” slapped as well!
Thank you, not a lot of people know that’s me. I’ve played it for a couple people, they go, “Who’s that?” I say “somebody.” (laughs)
Who are the first people you go to when you’re ready to show the music you’ve been working on? How do they react?
I go to Sy’Rai. I go to my parents for sure. I play Ray J my music, my cousin Ryan. Outside of that, I have a few people I respect who are amazing musicians, who I’ll play it for and I know will tell me the truth.
You and Camper without a doubt created a classic album. What’s something you learned from him in this album process?
Patience because he has so much music in him that he can create anything. Watching him find what he thought the album needed, how the album needed to progress and grow, what it needed to sound like, being patient and giving him the space to do that. Watch him turn into this amazing producer who could bring out songs in me that I didn’t even know I could write or hear. He’s a magical guy.
Is there a memory you have with Lashaun Daniels or Rodney Jerkins that you’ll never forget?
So many moments. Lashaun and I were recording “Nothing” (off Full Moon), a very difficult song to sing. I was completely singing out of my range, doing harmonies this one time. I remember always being shy and never ever wanting to sing in front of Rodney, but I could sing in front of Lashaun. Rodney came in while I was cutting the vocals, you could see me go completely out of my zone. “I can’t do it, leave the room!” Rodney never really heard my vocals until they’re finished because I was so shy. He’d always sneak in and I could tell by Lashaun’s face that he’s somewhere hiding. I’ve never told that before.
Will we ever get to hear the “Baby Mama” version with Kehlani?
I’d love for you guys to hear it, but that’s up to Kehlani. The ball is in her court. If she wants people to hear it, then she’ll let me know. I’d love everybody to know what it sounded like with her on it. It’s amazing. It’s how it’s supposed to sound, it’s so good. I want you guys to hear it.
Was it a conscious decision to bring back the original Brandy logo?
Yes, I didn’t know for such a long time where it went. I never liked any of my other logos, I loved that one. It gradually came back around. That’s the winning logo! It was with me at all times. Every picture, that logo. Maybe it’s a little bit superstitious, but I need my winning logo back, so I can break records on Verzuz with Monica! I say it humbly, but I’m proud of that.
Being that you are a pioneer for Black women in the landscape of music, film, and tv, are there any women hip hop artists today who you could see yourself collaborating with or may be a fan of?
Because I’ve been in such a creative zone, I don’t know the artists I know I should know. There’s a lot of amazing artists out there, I have no idea what their music sounds like. Now that I’m not trying to put together a body of work, I can really get into the Snoh Allegras or the new songs that H.E.R put out. I can listen to “Lost One” by Jazmine Sullivan, which is my favorite. I haven’t been able to surrender to dive in yet because I’ve been so consumed with b7 and making sure everything was going right with Verzuz. I’m getting to the point where I can at least listen.
How long does it take you to record a song?
I record a song a certain way: I listen in the car then I’ll go change it. Then, I’ll change it again. I change it until I get it right. Sometimes, I do a song seven times. That eighth time is the one, that’s the vocal. I’m not changing it. Until I get that feeling this is the take, this is the stamp, then I’m okay with it. I’m very, very critical of myself. I’m a perfectionist, I have to try different things just in case. If I’m in my bag and I’m at the take, with backgrounds and building the song, probably 12 hours. That’s leads, ad libs, stacks, all the things I do in a song.
Will we get a full “All My Life”?
Yes, it’s two different ones. I may release both versions. My original one and the one I changed. You get to choose which one you like.
What would 15-year-old Brandy say to b7 Brandy?
Yo, you still got it! Let’s go. Let’s keep going. Don’t stop. If you can still sing your songs, keep singing. It doesn’t matter, keep going. This is all you know how to do. What else you gon’ do? I gotta sing for the rest of my life, I gotta keep going.
Can we expect a deluxe?
Absolutely, the deluxe is going to be fire! I’m working on it.