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Brandy: The Evolution of B-Rocka Part One

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We’ve watched Brandy Norwood grow up right before our eyes. From her early days of wanting to be down to claiming the boy was hers over a full moon, Brandy has been that friend you saw on the regular. Even as Moesha, Brandy was always a relatable individual who never seemed to compromise her values for the sake of the camera. After a rather tumultuous brush with the media over an accident that wasn’t even her fault, Brandy slid away to focus on her life outside of the spotlight. She’s now come full circle – a mom in her late ‘20s ready to return with a brand new album titled Human. In speaking with Brandy, that’s exactly who she is – a human being, mother, daughter, and forever the girl next door. Her new album delivers an evolved sound and a reunion with Rodney “Darkchild” Jerkins. In this two-part vibe session with Brandy, we learn about her family life, her potential rap career, and keeping her head above water, always with a smile. AllHipHop.com Alternatives: So, in coming back out after a brief hiatus…Brandy: Not a brief hiatus; this is long. I appreciate you trying to show me some love. [laughs]AHHA: [laughs] What was it about the industry that you missed more: the singing or the acting?Brandy: I think it was both for me. Singing is of course my first love, and that’s how I release a lot of different things that I go through in my own personal life – singing about them and sharing them with people. So of course I wanted to sing again. Back in the day when I first released my first CD, Moesha came after that, so I kind of wanted to stick to that pattern of coming back out and you know giving the fans the music. Definitely something they deserve and get back into acting later, so I’m definitely back for the long haul for sure.AHHA: Your new single is really an uplifting song, as it’s still the R&B format that people can listen to and get a message out of. What made you decide to come out with that as your first single?Brandy: Well, “Right Here (Departed)” was a song that I could relate to because I’ve been blessed to have so many great people in my life and some new people are in my life that I can depend on and be there for and they’re there for me. When I first heard the song I was like, “Oh my God this is a beautiful song.” It was the first song that Rodney [Jerkins] played me, and it was the first song that reunited us back together. So also I felt like it was a song that everybody could relate to because everybody needs somebody and everybody likes to feel like that they have somebody that’s by their side and that’s gonna stick by them no matter what. It’s so interesting because “I Wanna Be Down” was my first single ever, so that’s kinda like I wanna be down with the person I love too. It’s kinda like a comparison to that, but I love the song and I’m so glad they chose me to do it.AHHA: So, you’re saying you wanna be down with the person you love, so there’s someone?Brandy: No, it’s kinda interesting how “Right Here (Departed)” is a song that means I’m down with the people that I love be it, mom, dad, friend, sister, brother, whatever it is, daughter – of course my daughter. That’s pretty much it but I don’t have a significant other. I was gonna ask you if you had some friends if you knew someone who was single. [laughs] But no, I don’t have a significant other, no.AHHA: You titled the album, Human. Do you feel that being “Brandy” sometimes the media and the whole industry almost dehumanizes you?Brandy: Absolutely. I think that being in the public eye people forget that at the end of the day, the same emotions that regular people go through don’t feel any different to us. Actually it’s a little bit harder because we go through a lot of the things in the public eye and it leaves room for people to judge and be very opinionated on what your life is supposed to be and what they think you should have done and what you should do. So yes, the media does tend to make celebrities superhuman, like we don’t go through those things that everyone else goes through and that’s not true. That’s one of the reasons I named my album Human, because at the end of the day, that’s what I am. I just sing and you may see me on TV, but at the end of the day I’m just like you, I’m just like the next person. AHHA: Do you feel that’s a bit different though because you’ve been in the industry for so long, how old were you when you came in?Brandy: I was about 15.AHHA: Fifteen, so you almost grew up with everybody watching you and whatnot. How was it growing up like that and having certain expectations? I know around the time where you had your daughter and everything, the spotlight was on you and people were looking at you like they expected a certain thing from you. How was it going through that and kind of having step to the back a little bit to be human and do the human aspects of your life?Brandy: Well to address the first question, I was trying to cope with growing up in the industry and taking on responsibilities that adults took on. Like I was working all the time – you know hours and hours and hours of work. I was making money and trying to make decisions for myself, but all at the same time there was this image being created for me where you know the whole good girl. So it’s sorta like it didn’t give me room to make mistakes or people to understand because this entire image was created for me. That got tough you know ‘cause when you make mistakes, you’re judged so tough on that and I just had to just develop that tough skin and understand that I am living my dreams; I am doing what I love to do. I’ve always wanted to be a star and this is what I chose, so I have to accept the responsibilities.But being young, it’s hard and I went through my own personal quiet time when I wouldn’t talk to anybody about it. I just went through it on my own, but I do have family and friends to support me. My mom has always been there for me, I could go to her when I needed to and she would help me out and help me through certain things, but you know at the end of the day I was doing what I loved to do.And my daughter of course you know, having her and doing a TV show around my life and birthing and giving life to a baby…you’re out there and people see you and they may have things to say positive or negative, but at the end of the day it’s in the public eye and sometimes that can be hard of course. It’s still a beautiful thing you know what I mean? AHHA: When you were growing up in the industry and you had an upbringing that was kind of strict. Do you feel that you were spared from a lot of the things that some of these teenage stars are going through now because of that upbringing?Brandy: Well I definitely can say that I have great parents who kept me aware of how great God is and how blessed I am to be where I wanna be and to do what I love to do. I do think just having honest parents and parents who also give you an open mind and give you a say in what you wanna do – it wasn’t so strict where I couldn’t do what I wanted to do, but I had to do it in the means of rules and I do think it helped me stay on track. There are things that I’ve done that I’m not proud of and my parents aren’t proud of, but we all have those things. I think when you set a solid foundation, you’ll come back to that and you’ll realize that’s who you are and you’ll move through whatever you’re going through. AHHA: So with this album, are you considering it a comeback album?Brandy: Everybody is saying that it’s a comeback album because I’ve been gone for so long and I don’t mind that statement at all. I definitely feel like this is an album where I’m reintroducing myself to the world, to my fans that have been with me for such a long time and fans that don’t even know that they’re fans yet, and I’m proud of this album. I’m proud to be back to what I love to do, and I just hope everybody embraces this album and really get a chance to know who I am and who they are through this music.AHHA: Are you doing experimenting with different sounds?Brandy: Well my sound has definitely evolved. I can’t recreate Never Say Never, I can’t recreate Full Moon; those are albums that are set in stone. The first album Brandy and Aphrodisiac, those albums were the albums that they were and now this one has evolved to another sound. Of course it’s a little bit of those elements, but this sound is pop, it’s urban, it’s country, it’s so many different things. I feel like everybody is gonna feel it because it touches on every type of music and I’m so proud of it because Rodney and I were able to get back together and have that chemistry that we’ve always had and really just give our all. What I love about the songs are that they’re message-driven, every song is about something that everybody has gone through and at the end of the day you ‘gon be okay, whatever it is. That’s why I picked the first single because it was just so inspirational and every song on this album is an inspiration. AHHA: The sound has evolved period in R&B. You don’t get the sound that you used to back in the day or a lot of ballads; everything is more pop now. You said your new album is a little bit more pop than what we might be used to. Do you think that’s what they wanna hear, what do you think the market is looking for?Brandy: I think they just want the same type of music that they’ve been hearing. It’s up to the artist to change the music and to give them something different. That’s why I’m here as well, because my album is pop, it is urban, it is all the things that I named. At the same time, it’s not the same type of pop that is on the radio today; it’s not that at all. And like I said, it’s inspirational, I’m here for a message. I can’t fool around with this surface music, I have to really have something to say and have something to give because that’s what people deserve. AHHA: Do you see yourself in some of the newer artists? When asking you who you grew up on, the artists are completely different from someone like Rihanna. Like who’d Rihanna grow up on, she grew up on Brandy. Brandy: Absolutely, I definitely see my influence in a lot of the artists that are out today and it’s so flattering and it’s so beautiful to hear a lot of my background vocals, and a lot of my lines. But it’s just I’m just very proud to be a part of this game again, this industry full of great artists. Like a lot of the people you named I like a lot. I love Rihanna I think her voice is so special and unique. I appreciate every artist that’s out there right now, I do.AHHA: Do you think there was a time when you had a hard time reaching people?Brandy: No, I don’t think that; I think that I wasn’t inspired. I didn’t feel like I had anything to give. I was very very caught up into my personal life and I’ve been doing this for so long. I never really had time to just concentrate on me, and one of things that I’ve come across was a quote. I can’t quote it verbatim, but the end of the day if you don’t have your character in place, if your character isn’t solid you’re not gonna remain successful, your foundation is not gonna be solid. So I had to build that back up; I had to build my character. I had to figure out who I really am as a person and what my purpose is on this planet and how can I be an example for my child. That’s what I was trying to figure out in the four years that I’ve been gone and I’ve gone through hell and back to figure that out, but I think I got it now.AHHA: Has being a mommy changed your approach to music?Brandy: Being a mommy has just changed my life period. Just like being an example for a little person that’s really looking to you to guide her every step of the way. That has completely changed my life. My responsibilities are a lot different, but I can say that everything that I’m doing now is for her to be proud of me and for her to see that she can do anything that she wants to do especially if somebody as close to me is doing it. That’s what I’m here to show her, is that you can do anything you wanna do and don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t. No matter what you do, no matter what people say you can do everything that you wanna do and that’s what I’m showing her.AHHA: That’s really nice. Your mom and your family were instrumental in the business side of your career.Brandy: Still is, yes. AHHA: What are the pros and cons of having your family manage your career?Brandy: Well, the pros and cons are sometimes you don’t know how to separate the two. You know it’s very hard for me to tell my mom that I thought she made a mistake or “mom that wasn’t a good decision.” That’s very hard for me to do, but you know that’s all it is just switching the hats – just being a daughter and being an artist and then her being a mom and a manager that’s very tough. You know I don’t know, but somehow we have managed to make it work and it is great to have her by my side. I trust her and I know that she’s always gonna keep it real with me and tell me the truth at all times and that’s the pro right there. Like I can deal with the rest, you can make as many mistakes as you want to; I can make as many mistakes. As long as we have an honest relationship, and that’s what we’ve always had. I’m so appreciative to have her and I’m glad to work with her now that I’m an adult. When I younger it was different; I wasn’t able to make decisions, and she just made them all based on the guidance that she was given from a higher power just making the right decisions for me. And now I’m able to help her help me, so it’s a good thing; it’s a beautiful thing.Check back tomorrow for Part Two with Brandy where she talks about her name in the media, Ray J, and Brandy rapping!

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