Brandy Oct/Nov Cover Brandy Oct/Nov Cover

Bran'New

It’s been a decade since veteran songbird Brandy has belted a top-tier single. Currently sitting atop the better half of the R&B/Hip Hop stack, Chris Brown-assisted, whispery cut “Put It Down” has allowed the femme vocalist to revive old fans’ standom and wrangle in a new, younger generation.

“It’s amazing that people still have a love for me and still feel like they can relate to me,” the 33-year-old siren admits on a recent Sunday. “It really does keep me on my toes, just being a role model for young girls, but I am grown. I gotta sing for the grown people sometimes.” Life, though, hasn’t always been sweet for the chocolate-colored chanteuse.

Over the past six years, Brandy has faced an uphill battle against devastating legal woes and dwindling music sales. “I thought it was over. I didn't really have a deal and it seemed like no one was interested in giving me another chance. People were calling me a has-been and it felt like it was over for me.”

Only recently has the award-winning singer found renewed strength to comeback—she credits her affectionately named Stars for that power.

Today, youthfully fresh and ever the powerful songbird, B-Rocka’s return rebuilds the gaping hole in female rhythm and blues. Somewhere between the vocal power of Whitney Houston and the international reach of today’s Pop&B stars, Brandy has etched her signature sound, sitting comfortably next to a diverse class. “I know there are a lot of artists out there that are true to this genre, and I wanted to contribute to that too.”

Unsaturated R&B is a sometimes forgotten acquired taste, yet Brandy is equipped with a fully loaded record and the old hand know-how to make us fall in love again.--Niki McGloster

Brandy

How does it feel this time around? What makes this return to music different from times before?
I had a little bit more guidance that I trusted with this album. It just felt like the beginning of my career; how I felt with Atlantic Records. Having my first A&R on board [Breyon Prescott], I just really trusted them and what my album should be—helping bring back the genre of R&B music.

What was the realization that you were ready to make a strict R&B album?
That's what my fans wanted from me. I felt like that was my way to reintroduce myself to them and introduce myself to people that don’t even know me. They’re supporting me and it feels good. I took my daughter to the Mindless Behavior concert and 10- to 16-year-olds are screaming to the top of their lungs when I’m walking in. I started doing music before they were born! I just remember asking some little girl, ‘How do you know me?’

Early on in your career did you think you’d be at this age and still reaching young girls through your music?
I didn't see it, but I definitely wanted longevity. I can’t believe sometimes that I’m still standing after everything I’ve been through, but I'm here. With the success of “Put It Down” and moving forward with “Wildest Dreams,” it feels like a brand new time but it also feels familiar to me.

The energy is youthful but there’s maturity and growth on this album.
It’s definitely different than any album I’ve done, but you can tell it’s still me.

“Wildest Dreams” is definitely a record true to the Brandy we know.
It’s about me not believing I could find someone who cares about me, because at one time, I gave up on love. I just was like, 'I guess I’m going to be alone.' I’m just going to take care of my daughter and do my thing.

Wow. How did you get to that place?
I couldn’t get it right. I got really close to being married and it didn’t happen. After that, I dated a little bit and it was always something that just wasn’t connecting with love and me. I think it was because I was looking for love to do something for me; to make me happy, fill a void, make me feel complete, and all of these things don’t come from another, it comes from a love of self. I didn’t understand that at the time. I really had to confront all of that. I said a prayer and I waited...and I saw Ryan.

It’s widely known that Two Eleven means a lot to you. It’s your birth date but also the date of Whitney Houston’s passing. What runs through your mind when you recall that day?
February 11th will never be the same. I think about her everyday but that day in particular, it’s different. I didn’t understand. I had just seen her the day before; I just spoke to her a couple days before she passed. It just didn’t seem right the way she passed. I was angry, I was confused, but as I started to process it all, I just started to feel like there was a responsibility that she passed on to me to stay true to [the music]. She gave me the dream and possibility, and I have to do that same thing for other people. This music thing is not just about me anymore. It’s about the people that I’m relating to. People need music.

Do you think that you’ll do a song for Whitney?
I don’t think I’m ready for that yet. It’s really about the overall purpose, which is music. I remember her telling me, ‘Nobody can be you so don’t try to be something other than you. Be yourself and stay true to that.’  That was the last thing she said to me. That was the last time I heard her voice. It’s all a spiritual thing to me. The day, the passing, it’s all…

It’s still affecting you; it’s in your voice.
I never want Whitney’s passing to be about me. She meant so much to me, so I have to take something from it to help me move on and give me a purpose after she’s gone.


Brandy

Not only have you stepped back in the music realm, you’ve been exercising your acting chops as of late. How was the transition back?
It was scary and natural. When I impressed my acting coach [Tasha Smith], I felt like I could go forward. She really helped me rediscover that confidence in my acting. I was blessed with Drop Dead Diva then Chardonnay for The Game. I really had to get in there and do my thing if I was going to fit in with them. I just trusted my instincts, the same way I did with Moesha. To be able to trust that again was great, and I’m happy I get a chance to possibly go back to The Game full-time.

Are you excited to work with Lauren London?
Yes! I’m obsessed with Lauren London because she’s so damn cute. I’m excited to work with her and to see her new character, but I’m going to miss Tia [Mowry]. She was such the anchor and backbone of that show.

Interested in being the lead on another TV sitcom?
That’s the goal, to definitely do another television show of my own. There are some ideas that I’ve had for a long time. You never know what happens, but I would definitely be open to doing another television show.

With the political season in full swing, what you would tell young people about the importance on voting.
So many have gone through so much, especially African Americans, to get the opportunity to vote. I remember my first time voting. My mom took me and held my hand. It gives you a voice on what you want and what you need. I think it’s so important for us to get out there and vote. That's all I can really say about it.

This article was originally published in the Oct/Nov issue of VIBE Vixen Digital Magazine. Now available on iTunes

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SZA Calls For Peace While Receiving 'Rule Breaker' Award At Billboard Women In Music

SZA called for peace and understanding at Billboard's Women In Music event Thursday (Dec. 6).

During her speech for the Rule Breaker award, singer-songwriter recalled today's climate, asking her peers and those watching at home for a little bit of peace.

"I'm sorry for the state of the world honestly, for everybody in this room and I pray that all of us just get through it a little bit easier and just try not to lash out at each other," she said.

The recurring theme of unity among women was also heard on the carpet from artists like Tierra Whack. In addition to her message of love, the "Broken Clocks" singer also thanked her TDE family for rocking with her creative process.

"I'm just so thankful for everybody having patience with me, " she said. Shouting out the key members of her family in attendance, the TDE affiliate gave praise to her mother, father, and grandma. In this brief speech centered around the artist's growth Solána Imani Rowe, known more commonly as her stage name, Rowe everyone for their trust in her.

"I'm grateful for everybody taking the time to have the patience to watch someone grow, it is painful and sometimes exciting but mostly boring. And I am thankful for Top (Top Dawg Entertainment's Anthony Tiffith) for not dropping me from that label. For Peter, who I change my ideas every day and he be like okay I like this," she continued.

Thanking the likes of musical powerhouses like Alicia Keys and Whack, "The Weekend" singer offered her appreciation and condolences to Ariana Grande.

Watch SZA accept the Rule Breaker award above.

READ MORE: Anderson .Paak, Tierra Whack And More Praise Female Artists At 2018 Billboard Women In Music

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Beyoncé, Rihanna, And J. Lo Make Forbes’ Highest-Paid Women In Music List

As November comes to a close, many publications will be crafting their year-end lists for all things pop culture. Forbes released a ranking of the world's highest-paid women in music on Monday (Nov. 19), with Beyoncé, Jennifer Lopez, and Rihanna holding it down for women of color.

Beyoncé comes in at No. 3 on the list with an earning of $60 million as she made most of her money through her historical Coachella performance, the joint album with husband JAY-Z, Everything is Love, and the Carters' On The Run II Tour in support of its release.

Jennifer Lopez made No. 6 for earnings tallying of over $47 million thanks to her lucrative Las Vegas residency, endorsements, and shows including World of Dance where she serves as a judge.

Rihanna follows behind the "Love Don't Cost A Thing" diva at No. 7 with earnings of over $37.5 million. Although she hasn't toured since 2016—thanks to her cosmetics and lingerie lines, Fenty Beauty and Savage Lingerie—the Bajan pop star has been keeping herself busy.

Forbes' annual list (which factors in pretax earnings from June 1, 2017, through June 1, 2018) has placed Katy Perry at the top with over $83 million in profits due to her gig as an American Idol judge and her 80-date Witness: The Tour that brought in an estimated $1 million per night.

Scroll down to see Forbes' full list below.

Katy Perry ($83 million) Taylor Swift ($80 million) Beyoncé ($60 million) P!nk ($52 million) Lady Gaga ($50 million) Jennifer Lopez ($47 million) Rihanna ($37.5 million) Helene Fischer ($32 million) Celine Dion ($31 million) Britney Spears ($30 million)

 

READ MORE: Nas Makes Forbes’ List Of ‘Hip-Hop Cash Kings’ For The First Time

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Kelly Rowland Hops In Her Bag With New Single "Kelly"

Kelly Rowland has it all and isn't afraid to brag about it on her new single, "Kelly."

Released Thursday (Nov. 22), the singer goes the clubby, confident route while rightfully dropping her attributes like her relationship with God, smoldering looks (a.k.a the drip) among other things. With "Kelly" being the first single since her 2013's Talk a Good Game, the singer comes out swinging, reminding everyone of her power in the game.

The mother of one has promised that her new tunes will be edgier and most honest than her past work that included vulnerable tracks like "Dirty Laundry" and massive hits like "Motivation" and "Commander." Speaking with Vogue over the summer, Ms. Kelly disclosed a few details behind the album.

“It’s about love, loss, and gain and whether it’s professional or with family or whatever, it’s just honest," she said. "I had no choice but to be honest and authentic with this record: it’s about friendship and marriage.”

She also explained a drop in confidence caused her hiatus. “I was thinking about pulling back from recording, but I couldn’t help myself: I still wanted to record. I still felt like I was missing something. The third year just came and left so fast. The fourth year I said: ‘I have to get to work’ and now I’m ready to release some music! I felt like I wasted so much time, and it was my husband who actually called me out on it. He said: ‘Babe, as great as those records were, I think you were nervous, you got gun-shy’, and when he said that it was like boom, a gong went off.”

Glad to have you back, Ms. Kelly. Listen to the eponymous record up top.

READ MORE: Kelly Rowland Debuts Smoke x Mirrors Eyewear Collection At Barneys New York

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