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
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.
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.