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10 Things You Didn't Know About Brandy's Debut Album

The singer's breakthrough album realigned the makings of a pop-R&B star.

Known as on the most important voices of her time Brandy Norwood's unique presence in music is one of a kind. It all started with the release of her self-titled debut album Brandy in 1994 which spawned many hits and a new sound in modern R&B.

Twenty-five years later, the album sounds just a fresh as its debut. With production from Keith Crouch, Curtis Wilson (of Somethin' for the People fame) and Damon Thomas, Brandy was a true teenage dream as it touched on friendships, young love while allowing Brandy to soar.

A Billboard notes, the album delivered two No. 1 singles on the Mainstream R&B/Hip-Hop chart ("Baby" and "Brokenhearted") and hit No. 20 on the Billboard 200. Grammy nominations and endless praise for the project from the older crowd was one thing, but the singer's ability to craft a genuine girl next door quality made her songs relatable to any 90s kid.

True Brandy fans know how her monumental project came together but for the rest, here's a list of things you should know about the album.

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1. "Best Friend" Was Meant To Be A Duet With Ray J

“That was about [my brother] Ray J. It was supposed to be a duet," the singer told Billboard for the album's 20th anniversary. The song also had a different aura as it includes flute solo. It was also the first time the singer sang a song outside of her Christian background. "I loved ‘Best Friend’ because I got a chance to do my own backgrounds. I come from a church where I grew up singing a capella," she said. "So I love playing with different notes and feeling that union with different harmonies and sounds. I love singing backgrounds more than I do lead. And this song was the first time I’d felt that feeling outside of the church.”

2. Keith Crouch Produced Tracks For Brandy And Lalah Hathaway In The Same Year

At 21, Crouch was a busy bee. Kicking his career off at age 15, the producer enjoyed a breakout year in 1994 when he produced and wrote for both Brandy and Lalah Hathaway. Crouch produced a majority of Brandy's self-titled album including the songs "Baby," "Best Friend," "I Wanna be Down" and the touching "Brokenhearted." Meanwhile, he made sure Hathaway's sophomore project A Moment, a true well, moment. Crouch produced tracks like "Separate Ways," "Rise" and "These Are The Things You Do To Me."

3. Brandy Earned The Coveted Best New Artist Grammy Nomination

Following the release of her album, the singer was nominated for Best New Artist and Best Female R&B Vocal Performance for "Baby." Brandy lost out on her Best New Artist nod to Hootie & the Blowfish but would go on to snag a gramophone for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals for "The Boy is Mine" with Monica in 1999.

4. Chris Stokes Wanted To Sign Her

At the age of 11, Brandy was on the path to superstardom. The singer starred in the short-lived ABC sitcom Thea but wanted to pursue her singing career. This led her parents to Chris Stokes and a spot singing background vocals for the Marques Houston-led group Immature. Stokes helped to create her demo which was passed along to Atlantic Records. After slight hesitation regarding her age, then-A&R Darryl Williams signed the singer to the label.

5. Robin Thicke Performed Background Vocals/Co-Wrote "Love Is On My Side"

Brandy called her session for "Love Is on My Side" "vocally challengling." Produced by Damon Thomas with some assistance from a young Robin Thicke, Brandy told Billboard she was intimidated by drums and organs used on the song.

"I needed to give everything to that song," she said. "I had to push myself to give it what it deserved. To see Robin doing well now, and still being able to do his thing and write his own songs, it’s so amazing. He was 17, writing way back when we had some great times as artists.”

6. The Album Remained On The Billboard 200 For 89 Weeks

Brandy's chart takeover was all thanks to her singles "I Wanna Be Down," "Baby," "Brokenhearted" and "Best Friend." The tracks enjoyed spots across the Billboard Hot 100 chart (with many of them in the Top 10). Her self-titled album debuted on the Billboard 200 chart at No. 98 with arguably her best album Never Say Never entering at No. 3. Brandy went on to live on the charts for a whopping 89 weeks.

7.  Critics Constantly Compared Her Debut To Aaliyah's

With Aaliyah's chill demeanor and sweet vocals, it was sadly second nature for critics to pit another young black teen like Brandy against her but both ladies never gave in to the critics.

“I met Aaliyah when I was about 15. I was so excited to meet her because she was the first girl on the scene," Brandy said of their friendship in 2011 with Billboard.  "She came out before Monica and I did, she was our inspiration. At the time, record companies did not believe in kid acts and it was just inspiring to see someone that was winning and being themselves. When I met her I embraced her, I was so happy to meet her. I told her how much I loved her. She said the same thing about me and we connected. It was a great moment I’ll never forget."

She also made it clear to shout her out at the 1995 Soul Train Awards after one of her comments about the singer was misinterpreted.

8. She Heard "I Wanna Be Down" For The First Time At A Taco Bell

Every artist remembers the first time they hear their song on the radio. Most of the time they're at home or in a car but for Brandy, things were a little different. "It felt so good hearing it on the radio that first time at Taco Bell," she recalled. "It felt like it belonged there.”

9. She Rushed Through The Recording Process of "Brokenhearted" So She Can Get To An Amusement Park

She was 14, of course she did!

10. Brandy's First Album Inspired Jill Scott and Erykah Badu's Debuts

It's been said time and time again about the heavy number of vocalists Brandy has inspired. From Solange to Britney Spears, everyone found a little bit of themselves in Brandy's music and style. Fellow icons like Erykah Badu and Jill Scot have sited Brandy's first album as a blueprint of sorts for their respective debuts. "Brandy's first album was one of my inspirations when writing Baduizm," she shared on social media. "I looove that album [...] songs i liked were "I Wanna Be Down" and "Always on My Mind"... nice."

As peers celebrated the singer's 20 years in the business, Scott noted how she listens to jams like "Sunny Day" and "Always On My Mind." There's also the very long list of names like Miguel, Lil Mo, Luke James, Shante Moore, Jordin Sparks, Teyana Taylor, Sevyn Streeter, Elle Varner, Syleena Johnson, Maxwell and many more who have praised her debut album as a major inspiration.

Stream Brandy's self-titled album below.

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Remain Calm: 5 Ways To Curve Negative Effects Of Coronavirus Isolation

Self-isolation during the coronavirus outbreak seems to be best practice in keeping our families and peers safe but it's also a shift in our normal social behavior. As millions of families around the country get adjusted to self-isolation, the state of our mental health and how our bodies react to the practice are changing by the day, especially lower-income and marginalized groups.

Speaking with Wired, John Vincent, a clinical psychologist at the University of Houston, shared how apathetic behavior can rise to the forefront, making space for anxiety and depression.

“People start getting lethargic when they don’t have positive inputs into their small worlds,” Vincent says. “We can expect depression to kick in, and depression and anxiety are kissing cousins.”

But the biggest reason behind the uneasiness isn't the self-isolation but just how long it will last. Details of COVID-19 are changing by the day with the most cases now coming out of New York. Yet, there's still little to no information on what happens next.

“Open, transparent, consistent communication is the most important thing governments and organizations can do: Make sure people understand why they are being quarantined first and foremost, how long it is expected to last,” Samantha Brooks of King’s College London told the outlet. “A huge factor in the negative psychological impact seems to be confusion about what's going on, not having clear guidelines, or getting different messages from different organizations.”

Uncertainty hitting low income and marginalized groups is also a problem within itself. As virtual parties and celebrities opening up on social media happen on a daily, there are people who might not access fun distractions on the web.

“Some people have posited technology as a means of connecting people, but lower-income groups might not even have FaceTime or Skype or minutes on their phone,” Thomas Cudjoe, a geriatrician researching the intersection of social connections and aging at Johns Hopkins University says. “People take that for granted, using their devices can be a strain on people’s incomes.”

To make self-isolation less than a bore or a daunting task, experts suggest creating a schedule to dictate control in your home.

1. Work It Out

Gyms are closed, but your home can be transformed into a personal training center. Use heavy bags for weights and if you can, create a playlist of workouts on YouTube. For those who have memberships for Blink or Peloton, the platforms have streamed their workouts on apps.

2. Mindful Meditation

Meditation isn't about dumping your thoughts, it's about staying aware and mindful. AQUA has developed online that leverages the power of "Mindful Meditation and Mobility Movements" for flexibility and fluidity in the body. Classes are free of charge but feel free to donate.

3. Take It Back To High School

Give your friends a call or indulge in a FaceTime party. Feel free to use the Wifi in your home to reduce the amount of data used on your phone. Lala Anthony held a too-cute FT birthday party for writer Kiyonna Anthony with a 70s theme. You can also find creative ways to hop on the phone with friends and family instead of constantly chatting about 'rona.

 

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We made the best out of our quarantine situation🎉‼️FACETIME 70s Party💃🏽🎉HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO MY NIECE @kiyonnathewriter ❤️❤️💃🏽💃🏽SHOUT OUT TO ALL MY ARIES ♈️ MAKE THE BEST OF IT!!!😘

A post shared by ℒᎯ ℒᎯ (@lala) on Mar 23, 2020 at 7:14pm PDT

4. Start A Journal

Journals just aren't for kids. The practice not only gives you something to do, but it fuels creativity and a new level of self-awareness. Former First Lady Michelle Obama recently developed Becoming: A Guided Journal for Discovering Your Voice, with over 150 inspiring questions and quotes that connect to key themes in her memoir. The journal will also help bring readers to terms with the importance of family and personal reflections as well as the goals they'd like to make a reality.

5. Have a Dance Party or Enjoy Lo-Fi Beats To Quarantine To

If you don't have data or battery power to watch a virtual DJ party, make your own. If you have to pull out your record player, do it! You can also hop on your favorite streaming service and create a playlist all your own.

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From Teen Sensation To Vocal Bible: Brandy's 15 Best Songs

September 27, 2019 marked the 25th anniversary of the multiplatinum self-titled debut album by one of R&B’s greatest voices, Brandy Rayana Norwood, or simply Brandy. She was already well on her way to stardom prior to her debut as a background vocalist for Immature and one of the stars of the short-lived ABC series, Thea. However, it was the album Brandy that set her on the path to tremendous success.

Since officially bursting onto the scene in 1994 sporting her well-known braided crown of glory, she has been a force to be reckoned with. She was handpicked by her idol, the late Whitney Houston, to portray the role of the first Black Cinderella in the 1997 film Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella. Her show Moesha was one of the longest-running black sitcoms. Brandy was also a CoverGirl in 1999 and became a friend of Barbie that same year when Mattel released the Brandy Doll. In music, she’s released six studio albums, sold more than 40 million records worldwide, headlined three world tours, and won more than 30 awards including seven Billboard Music Awards, a Grammy and the Soul Train Lady of Soul Award. Brandy deserves her flowers.

Let’s check out the top 15 songs that helped solidify Brandy as your favorite singer’s favorite singer (just ask Solange) and earned her the title of the “Vocal Bible.”

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In this photo illustration Dollar and Euro notes are displayed, on November 26, 2010 in London, England.
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Money Trees: 10 Tips On Managing Your Finances During The Coronavirus Pandemic

The COVID-19 outbreak has shifted the lives of millions as self-isolation has become a brief normal. With students and some people working from home, many folks have also seen a vast change in their finances.

The latest U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report shows increases in claims for jobless benefits for the week of March 14 with California taking the top spot with 58,208 claims, District of Columbia second at 16,120; Washington state third, with 14,846 and North Carolina rounding out the top four at 14,413.

As the Santa Cruz Sentinel reports, Gov. Gavin Newsom told reporters the state received 80,000 unemployment applications last week. “We average about 2,000 unemployment insurance claims a day,” Newsom said. “Two days ago or three days, we saw about 40,000 applications. After that 70,000 applications. Yesterday, 80,000 unemployment applications.”

But each state, job, and situation are different. One thing that remains the same is staying ahead of your finances the best way possible. Hailing from a community who barely enjoys money talk, I know how hard it can be to work against the forces that include Sallie Mae, rent, credit cards, and UberEats orders. It's why I indulge in the gift that is The Financial Gym. With a fitness-inspired take on finances, the company works one-on-one with each client to ensure everyone gets to one step closer to financial freedom.

Below are some tips from the gym as well as your favorite hip-hop songs to keep you accountable and financially healthy.

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1. Scale Back On Extra Expenses

Non-essentials like to hide in plain sight. If there is a service you no longer need but still pay for, now is the best time to cut the cord and pad your bank account.

2. Create An Emergency Fund (If You Don't Have One)

According to Finder, the US average of savings accounts in 2019 was $16,420 with the median savings account holding $4,830. It can be very difficult to keep a savings account due to unexpected expenses but it doesn't hurt an emergency fund for rainy days.

“If you think we’re heading into a recession and you want to be extra safe, then you may increase your emergency savings to 8 months or longer,” suggests Shannon McLay, founder of The Financial Gym.

If this isn't realistic, adapt to your salary and build from there.

3. Don't Forget About D.E.B.T

If you have to adjust payments to fit your current situation, do so. The one thing that can harm you, is ignoring a bill. It won't go away until you make it.

Also, check-in with your bank. Because of the coronavirus outbreak, banks have waived fees and other costs. For example, Ally Bank is waiving fees for overdrafts, excessive transactions for savings and money market accounts for 120 days with expedited shipping of checks and debit cards. They've also pledged $3 million to help the communities where their employees live and work, with special hometown locations of Detroit and Charlotte.

4. Have Some Talents? Use Them!

If kids can make millions on YouTube by playing with toys, imagine what you can do simply by funneling your other talents. Create a YouTube channel. Make a blog. Get into photography. Start making clothes. Don't allow fear and panic to reduce your creative spirit. You might even make some money out of the deal.

5. Look Back On Life Goals

If you're planning on taking a big vacation or making a big purchase, put it on hold. “If your life goals are between two and five years, then you may want to think about a more conservative asset allocation, depending on your risk tolerance,” says Shannon. “However, if you’re life goals are beyond five years out, then the best thing you’re going to do is avoid looking at your statements, watching CNBC, and doing anything rash like selling at the wrong time.” Sure her sentiments were for facing a recession but the gospel applies here.

6. Sell Gently Used Items Online

'Tis the season for spring cleaning. While you're at it, you should empty your closet and fill your pockets. From electronics to gently worn shoes, clothes or accessories, feel free to turn your possessions into gems for the next person.

Also a tip from The Financial Gym:

Since you want to avoid conducting pick-up arrangements, you’ll want to sell on a platform where shipping is the standard. A few places to sell your pre-loved items online include, eBay and ThredUP, buy-sell-trade Facebook groups, and Gazelle for electronics. Just make sure your listed price accounts for costs, like platform fees, PayPal fees, and shipping.

7. Purge Your Photo Library...For Cash

We take a lot of photos we never share. Instead of letting them collect digital dust, sell your images of that sunset in Bali or crowd photos from Afrochella to sites like Shutterstock and iStock Photo.

8. Take Online Surveys

Platforms like Swagbucks and Survey Junkie provide cash for your time but don't quit your day job. Taking surveys online requires a lot of time so don't dump it all there.

9. Prepare For The Next "Pandemic"

Nipping the excess now only makes you a stronger financial warrior in the future. In addition to securing your pockets, accountability is a great quality you will likely spread to other aspects of your life.

10. Join The Financial Gym

The Financial Gym is currently offering a 20 percent discount to join. To get started schedule a consultation call here. All their events in NYC and D.C. are currently virtual experiences through the end of March.

Learn more about The Financial Gym here.

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