Brandy is responsible for one of the most pivotal albums in music history.
Resurfacing nearly four years after her sophomore LP, Never Say Never, Brandy strengthened her hold as a stylistic template with Full Moon, a pioneering masterpiece, celebrating 20 years this March.
Working to refine and expand her brand of contemporary R&B music, she paired herself in large part with past collaborators, including Rodney “Darkchild” Jerkins and his elite team Fred Jerkins III and LaShawn Daniels, to name a few. They helped usher Brandy into a new competence: the Vocal Bible.
Full Moon is part of the many reasons why Brandy trended on Twitter ahead of our scheduled conversation on Wednesday.
Brandy’s true intent behind the press run is to support ABC’s Queens, a must-watch hip-hop drama where she is center stage as Naomi, better known as Xplict Lyrics, the frontwoman of the newly revived ‘90s supergroup.
“I love this show,” Brandy tells Rated R&B. “I love being a part of it. I can’t even believe I’m on it, honestly.”
Following the mid-season premiere, Rated R&B spoke with Brandy about what fans can expect from the second half of the series. She also dished on the upcoming anniversary of Full Moon, working with Mariah Carey, the direction of her next album and more.
In the first episode back of Queens, we see that Brianna, played by Eve, is absent for most of the episode, but did make it out of surgery successfully, resulting in you and your bandmates starting all new life paths. As the season continues, how do you think the outcome of Brianna’s situation will help develop the roles you all play in each other’s lives?
I can’t really answer that question in terms of where that story leads. I have no idea. I’m always surprised when I get a new script to see what’s going to happen with the characters. Honestly, I love the writing of the show — how it all flows. I’m sure it’s going to be something that everybody can receive and be excited for. I’m just hoping for the best.
We see you take a keen interest in the career resurgence of your once rival Lady Z, who acclaimed rapper Remy Ma plays. Can you point out one person within your circle who has ever helped you rediscover your voice or passion for creating art?
I would have to say the late LaShawn Daniels, for me. My last project (b7) that I did, he was very much a part of that. He’s given me so much to take with me in my life, music, and also in being a great advisor and a great human being. So he would be one of the ones that I would say. And of course, my dad, who’s always just been there for me, supporting me and teaching me all the time, and he’s always with me too.
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The mother-daughter relationship between your character Naomi and Jojo has been an interesting one to watch. It went from sort of estranged to warm-hearted with the love of music as the backbone. How has their on-screen connection strengthened the bond between you and your daughter as she looks to pursue a music career?
I feel like the relationship with my daughter strengthened the relationship with my daughter on television. It helped me to pull my heart that I have from my daughter [and] put that into Naomi’s character. I felt like that was important for my character to understand that my daughter is the priority and music comes after that.
That’s always been a part of my life, how I balanced my life with my daughter being a single mom. I wanted to do the same thing with Naomi. There are similarities in times when I’ve had to go away and work for periods of time, and I had to leave my daughter with the village, my mom, and people that held her down.
For the most part, our relationship is solid and strong. I’m so proud of it. I’m so glad that Naomi is getting to where I am with my real daughter in real life. Precious Way, who plays Jojo, is amazing. We have beautiful chemistry. It’s almost as if she could be like my little sister or like a daughter to me.
You’ve recorded lots of music as part of the Queens soundtrack, including two covers: Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball” and “Ain’t No Sunshine” by Bill Withers. Has the idea of redoing iconic songs sparked your interest in doing so as Brandy, the artist?
I haven’t thought about what I would cover yet. I am thinking about where my music is going to go next because I did “Somebody’s Son” with Tiwa Savage. It was Afrobeat. I love that kind of flavor.
I want to try different things with my music this next go-round, not just stick to R&B. I’m not just R&B, it’s more in my core. I want to bring it all out. Whatever else I have left, I just want to give it.
Speaking of new music, have you started the process of recording a new album or project?
I’ve been thinking about the project that I’m going to do, but I’ve been filming Queens. That’s been taking up all my time since August. All the music I’ve done on Queens, being able to do music in the studio consistently, it’s inspired me to want to get back, right after Queens, to do my own music. It’s not going to be no eight-year wait next time. I’m too inspired and too on fire in my spirit. I can’t wait.
Before 2021 ended, Mariah Carey hinted at a collaboration that you initiated. What can you tell us about this musical creation?
I can tell you the experience was so beautiful. She’s breathtaking, number one. She has a beautiful soul.
For her to be Mariah Carey, she’s just normal, chill, [and] supportive. When I was in the booth, doing whatever she wanted me to do, it was just beautiful to be coached by her. Like, this is one of my favorite singers — top two. Whitney [Houston], and then it’s Mariah. I’m just glad that she invited me over to just sing with her, and we’ll see what happens. I loved working with her. That was a dream come true.
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I loved your final Instagram post of 2021 about forgiveness and letting it lead the way in 2022. Looking back as a moment of healthy career reflection, what’s one thing, from an artistic standpoint, that you forgive yourself for not doing more of back then that you’re invested into now?
Following my gut. It’s as simple as that — following what I feel about my music. When I didn’t follow what I felt, I started to experience things that I didn’t need to experience, or maybe I didn’t need to, to learn the lesson.
If I would’ve listened to my gut, certain songs wouldn’t have been released, certain songs wouldn’t come out, certain songs wouldn’t ever be cut, certain songs would’ve been cut, albums would come out sooner. But I don’t have any regrets. Going forward, because I know my gut never lies, that’s what I’m listening to. No doubt about it. That’s what I’ve learned—the hard way.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of Full Moon. Can you share one memory that comes to mind from that era?
Well, I was pregnant during Full Moon, and I could hit all of these high notes. I think it was because my baby was in my belly. I remember just being in Miami, working at the Hit Factory with LaShawn Daniels and Rodney Jerkins. Full Moon was happening on one side. Invincible was happening on the other side. Michael Jackson was in the other studio. I’m in one studio.
Rodney’s coming back telling me all of the secrets that I need to do that Michael Jackson is doing. “You need to do this with your stacks. You need to do this kind of harmony this way. This is the Michael Jackson way. If you want to be the greatest, then you better do this.”
To get Michael’s codes, like what he would do with his backgrounds, how he would stack his backgrounds, and just to get that kind of information from the greatest.
Rodney, being one of my favorite producers [and] LaShawn is the greatest, I was just in a beautiful state, just doing that kind of music and then also doing it with my angel with me the whole time.