Since rocketing to fame in 1994 when her self-titled debut album, Brandy has become one of the most recognizable and beloved voices in the game today. Her new album ‘B7’ is out, and it is arguably her most personable one yet. With topics ranging from single motherhood to mental health being touched on, Brandy is all grown up and discussing issues that are affecting the very fans that have grown up with her as well. I sat down for an extended chat with the music icon and we spoke about her adoration for the LGBTQ community or how both she and her music have evolved with time.
Michael Cook: How was the summer of 2020 for you?
Brandy: You know, the world has definitely changed. I definitely had to adjust to the changes that we have all had to experience. I am really blessed to be able to have new music out now B7, and the fans are really responding well and relating to it. I am back to doing what I was born to do, it feels awesome.
MC: The new music is refreshing and brilliant. The single ‘Baby Mama’ in particular is amazing and you got to work with Chance the Rapper on that one. It’s a very personal track to you also; tell me why.
B: I wanted to do a song professing my love for my daughter and also to the single mamas out there who don’t really get the credit that they deserve. How hard it is to raise a child out there on your own and also hold it down for the family. I wanted to give a positive voice for them. The reason I called it ‘Baby Mama is because that phrase “baby mama” has such a negative stigma that I wanted to be one of the people to change that. Teaming up with Chance was definitely something I am so happy that happened. The collaboration did not seem forced and he delivered such a magical verse. He is also a family guy as well so it just all worked out to be what it should be.
MC: ‘High Heels’ is also a standout track on the album; the track has an industrial sound to it that’s refreshing.
B: Thank you! My daughter is actually featured on that one, her name is Sy’Rai.
MC: ‘By BiPolar’ is such a personal track and so much of your music has historically been very personal. We have seen you have crushes on boys, becoming a mother and now as an adult, we are seeing you going through real life adult issues. Is it ever hard to expose yourself in such a raw way?
B: You know, I feel like it is my responsibility to tell powerful stories in my music and in my art. I feel like that is my responsibly. I have been through a lot of things mentally and spiritually. We all go through things. I think me sharing and opening up my story through my music can help others relate to me and also they can find their story in my story and they can realize that they are not alone. That is definitely the goal.
MC: Mental health has such a stigma and you are bravely speaking out about it. Sometimes someone like you speaking up can even let that one person realize that they are not alone. Do you think that is fair to say?
B: Absolutely. That is why I wanted to open up about mental wellness and mental health. We all are struggling with something. It may not be bipolar for you, it may be something else for someone else. PTSD, trauma whatever it is, we all experience something mental. We all should feel safe enough to talk about it and feel like we have people there for us to help us through whatever our issues are. That is what it is all about.
MC: The Verzuz Battle with Monica was absolutely astounding. What was it like revisiting that time, from the actual song ‘The Boy Is Mine’ to the relationship you have had with Monica throughout the years, to where you are today?
B: You know, I was very very happy to see her. I had not seen her in eight years, Just for us to be able to have a conversation, to get things a lot of our chest that we had not spoken about in a long time just helped the celebration even more. We got a chance to really speak and love on each other before we even got out there. Then when we got out there, to hear the music and to hear the music back and forth, I play one song and she plays another, it just brings back so many memories and so many reasons why I wanted to work with Monica was because of all of the songs that she played. That is how ‘The Boy Is Mine’ even came to be, because of all of the records I heard her playing. I’m pretty sure she would say the same thing about my music, she has always uplifted me and spoke highly about my music. I just had a great time, it just felt like I was at a Brandy and Monica listening party, that’s what it felt like.
MC: It goes without saying that your career, your music, and your story has put you in the same stratosphere as the gay icons we know and love. Have you always felt an affinity with the LGBTQ community?
B: Absolutely. My best friend in ninth grade way gay and he was my biggest fan, so it started right there. To just be accepted by the community it has just been so great. I have had some of my best performances in front of my gay fans. I love you guys; I just appreciate the kind of energy and the kind of support that you guys give. You guys are super loyal to me and I really appreciate that. Y’all aren’t going anywhere and that’s beautiful.
MC: The Disney live action version of Cinderella you did with Whitney Houston remains a classic. What do you remember the most about being the first black Cinderella with Whitney Houston as your Fairy Godmother? You have truly helped pave the way for future Disney princesses looking a little more like all of the little girls out there.
B: At the time I didn’t really understand everything that was happening. I didn’t understand the kind of history that was being made, the first black Cinderella with the first black fairy godmother. Everything seemed to surreal at the time. I remember working really hard and wanting the project to be very special .I remember giving it my all and being in the studio with Whitney Houston. My childhood dream was to become a singer and have a band and meet Whitney Houston. No acting, just be a singer, have your own band and meet Whitney Houston. To be in the studio with her, singing with her, like, she is right there. It was like I was Cinderella; my dreams were coming true right before my eyes. I actually met my fairy godmother, it felt like it was my story, but my name was Cinderella.I’ve never explained it that way…
MC: The video of the two of you rehearing the lyrics to ‘Impossible’ is glorious…
B: I had a blast with her in the studio. I can totally be myself around her an that’s what was so amazing. Here, she is this huge icon, this person that has been a dream for me, and at one point I felt like I could just be myself and make her laugh. She was just like a bid sister to me; I miss her so much…
MC: You have been in the game for decades now, and you have done so much. Looking back on your career, what do you think fame or an individual has taught you?
B: Fame has taught me that fame does not matter; it’s not about the fame. It’s something that comes with being in the limelight, but I have a responsibility to be a vessel, to be someone that sets an example and my music and everything that I do has to be purposeful. It’s not about people recognizing me and praising me. It’s not about that; its about whatever I was put here to do for that work to get out and to touch people and to inspire people. Fame can kill people, fame can hurt people, fame, if you identify with it, can turn you into someone you are not meant to turn into. It’s very hard when you’re young, to be famous when you’re young. I struggled with that; now I am in a great place and I can definitely handle the fame but it’s not about the fame for me. I would do what I am doing anonymously. It’s not about me, it’s about the work.
MC: Getting comfortable in your own skin, and with being heard can be a lifelong struggle for some people. When did you become comfortable with being more outspoken and simply just “being Brandy?”
B: It was very gradual for me. I have been through a lot and have had to endure a lot of different things. I think gradually I just started to really prioritize the really important things in my life. It started with my daughter, my life is no longer just about me. It’s also about this life that is looking for me to guide her in every way. From there, doing the kind work that needs to be done. I journal every day, I write, getting the thoughts and dealing with the clutter. Learning to be honest with myself and listening to your gut; that is the work of your life. That is something that we have to do all the time, we have to work on ourselves all the time. I am still a work in progress, but I am just starting to get comfortable in my own skin. Sometimes I’m not; it’s work, it’s the work of your life.
MC: What do you think the past year and everything that 2020 has brought us, what has it taught you as a person and as a performer?
What I have learned is that, if we really knew what love really was and what love really is, and the power of love and what it can do, we could really change the world. The world can really change if we really got to the true definition of what love is; forgiveness, understanding and not taking things for granted. Every moment that you breathe is a miracle. I just feel like those are the things that I have written in my journal and I say to myself so I don’t forget about the change that has taken place. If we really knew what love was, we would treat each other better and we wouldn’t have the problems that we have today, if we really knew what love was.
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Her latest album ‘B7’ is out now