“Before my first album, I was doing a sitcom called Thea. I was afraid because you do a show and you don’t know how long it’s going to run, but you hope for the best. But my true passion was music. Growing up, Whitney Houston was it for me. I studied everything she did. I could sing the lyrics to every song she ever made. I actually wanted to be Whitney! I went to Atlantic Record when I was 11-years-old, but they thought I was a little too young and they told me to come back when I was 14. I was in female girl groups and singing by myself. I was doing anything to keep my craft up and running. The more training and development time you have the better you become. I went back to Atlantic at 14 and they gave me the shot they promised. When Thea was canceled I was like, ‘Okay, I can now put all my focus into my album.’
Working with Keith Crouch (who produced much of Brandy’s debut including the career-making singles ‘I Wanna Be Down,’ ‘Baby’ and ‘Brokenhearted’) was very important for me as a young artist. At the time he was not trying to be like anyone else on radio. He was all about his own sound. But what I really loved about Keith is he gave me real music. He didn’t give me teenybopper records. It was age appropriate, youthful records, but it was still real music. We had a great connection.
The hip-hop remix to ‘I Wanna Be Down’ (feat. MC Lyte, Queen Latifah, and Yo Yo) meant the world to me. I’m new…I’m fresh out of the box and these superstars are a part of my first single! They are my mentors and I looked up to them. I was a huge Queen Latifah fan. I’m thinking, ‘Oh my God…I can’t believe this is happening to me.’ I got the chance to vibe with all three of them. They embraced me as a little sister. I was one of the first R&B artists to welcome hip-hop onto an R&B beat. It had never been done before quite like that. Sylvia Rhone came up with that idea, and I just thought it was brilliant. She should get all the praise in the world for that. She wasn’t scared; she just said, ‘This is what we are going to do.’ I knew it was a special record.
I never really thought about album sales or going platinum. I just wanted to be famous [laughs]. I remember when they called my hotel room while my mom and I were sleeping. We woke up and the label told us, ‘Brandy, you just went platinum.’ I didn’t even know what that meant. I’m like, ‘Is that good?’ And they were like, ‘It means you sold a million records.’ All I could say was, ‘Really???’ It was like blah. I just kept going. I never really got caught up in all of the hype. There was so much going on. I was able to go out on tour with Boys II Men, which was big for me as a new artist. But I knew I really made it when I was at this chicken spot in Carson with my friends. One of the cars that pulled up was playing ‘I Wanna Be Down!’ That was it for me! My friends and I were so excited. You couldn’t tell me nothing [laughs].”