To define anyone by the tragedies they’ve
experienced is a mistake. The world is made up of those who have suffered. The
ones we view as survivors and not victims are the ones who handle tragedy with
Until her life became tabloid fodder, Monica
Arnold was considered one of the successes in this industry – a singer
whose natural talent was discovered early on who was making the transition to
an adult career with relative ease.
Her first album Miss Thang (1995) was a smash
with classic joints like “Don’t Take It Personal” and “Before
You Walk Out My Life” and her second The Boy Is Mine won her a Grammy for
the title track with duet partner Brandy. Then tragedy hit in 2000 when her
boyfriend, Jarvis Weems, took his own life in her presence. (She has a tattoo
on her left arm in his honor.)
A romance with No Limit’s C-Murder also
went awry when he married someone else and then landed in jail on a murder charge.
Despite that, Monica seems more old soul than helpless victim of wayward romances.
Slim and approachably beautiful at 22, she exudes
both serenity and an ease with herself and others that belies her age. Her current
hit “So Gone,” with its 70’s feel, is a perfect fit for her untrained
yet powerful voice. Out promoting her new album After the Storm, we caught up
with her recently in New York.
AllHipHop: When did you know you could sing?
Monica: I was seven and I sang “The Greatest
Love of All” for a king and queen contest for our church and I realized
kind of then that something sounded different. That’s it and that’s
all to it and I sang in church and that was it I enjoyed it and I had fun with
it and after doing the talent show I met Dallas and that was pretty much the
start of all of this.
AllHipHop: How do you give gospel music a secular feel?
Monica: It happens naturally. It happens, because
its so out of my control it comes from one place and that’s my heart its
easy for me to incorporate the two.
AllHipHop: How was it like working with Missy
Monica: We hadn’t worked together before
and it was so weird to have worked with her before and have the kind of relationship
we had in our friendship. It felt normal to go to Miami and work at night and
sleep all day because that’s her schedule. That kind of creativity is something
that you can’t find everywhere. She definitely worked different with some
of the other producers that I worked with but not that I needed adjustment sometime
we’d do two songs a night. I just picked what I felt best reflected me
and what best reflected the album.
AllHipHop: How is she?
She had that easygoing type of relationship with
me. She may have to think about how to word things with other artists, but she
would give me her opinions and we would go from there with no hesitation. If
at any point if it would have been hard I would have really stopped the sessions,
because I didn’t want it to put a strain on our other relationship. People
didn’t know what we were working on [and] we kept everything to ourselves
until we were finished. She likes to do things herself without any outside influence
and by the time you [say], “Where is it?” its ready to go
AllHipHop: What do you do offstage?
Monica: Real relaxed. I love vacations. You have
some people in this industry that are so high strung they don’t know how
to vacation when they have the chance. I’m big on resting and eating well
because of all the change of climates and the travel. I’m never in any
of the pictures in the nightclubs, because that’s not the stuff that I’m
interested in I like the real relaxed environments and I’m a big movie
AllHipHop: Have your views on eating and health
changed these days?
Monica: Yes, I’ve changed my style of cooking
because it was really southern - lots of rice and fried foods. It’s changed
quite a bit. If I get the urge to have something like that I do it but I try
not too my biggest weakness it cakes and pies. I have an aunt who bakes. Both
of my parents are high blood pressure patients and most people think that its
weight that makes you sick but she’s four pounds heavier than me at 53.
Hollywood is obsessed with being thin and though I used to hate (being skinny),
now I can eat and it’s fine. My mom changed the way she eats, my mom doesn’t
even cook anything but turkey and maybe no meat period. My stepfather is a diabetic.
I eat [what I want] if I get in that mood, if I get a craving, but I won’t
overdo it. If I have mcdonalds to day I won’t do fast food for another
AllHipHop: Why you are attracted to the men you
are and do you think current trends make young women believe that it’s
a good thing to date thugs?
Monica: I think for me that it’s become
a trend for some people when I’m attracted to a person its never because
of any one thing. I find things in those people that people never got a chance
to see I think people always use us (celebrities) as a scapegoat for whatever
they believe. If you like this person you consider all the issues that come
with them. I considered that in my relationships with Corey (C-Murder) and in
my relationship with Jarvis (Weems, the drug dealer who committed suicide) and
you see because of the tragedies that happened that I had to deal with the repercussions.
AllHipHop: Are your personal friendships are
more important than business?
Monica: I don’t allow music to affect my
real relationships that I would love to have 30-50 years from now. I guess because
certain things are more important to me. That makes my connection with people
so much stronger. I think its comfortable for them to be my friend and now that
I keep myself so separate and know what they go through a lot for my friends
that aren’t celebrities. I totally disconnect myself from that.
AllHipHop: What place would people be surprised
to see you at in your offstage life?
Monica: Kroger. People are so shocked but I’m
like, ‘What I’m gonna eat?’ Usually they say “Oooh, you
look like Monica, but she wouldn’t be here in Kroger shopping with us.
When somebody sees that you’re approachable, that makes them feel comfortable.
AllHipHop: Could you find love again despite
the trauma of the past?
Monica: I don’t let things deter me although
both situations ended so sadly. I look at it that I have a great opportunity
to not make the same mistakes. I’m not deterred when it comes to love.
You have people 10-15 years older than me and they haven’t had things end
so tragically and they’re still afraid to be in love.
AllHipHop: Why did your write ‘I wrote that
Monica: To touch somebody to help somebody, I’m
not the only person who’s experience all that different. It’s esier
to write it and harder to sing it because that’s when your emotions are
AllHipHop: What is your worse flaw?
Monica: My temperament is crazy I’m not
wishy-washy I don’t switch it up on you but when someone upsets me that’s
really a problem. I don’t take my problems out on everybody
But I think that sometimes I’m direct and that’s not always the best.
AllHipHop: Do you want to be a working wife and mother or will you give up your
career for marriage and a family?
Monica: I gotta be honest I just have to see
how I feel when it happens the connection between a mother and child. It varies
for every woman. Some want to take their kids on the road and some say this
is it this where I want to be.
AllHipHop: How you want to be remembered?
Monica: I want people to be like “That girl
really sang no matter whether the tracks were new and innovative or not.”
You’ll never forget how Chaka sang, how Whitney sang, how Mary J. sing.
I want people to remember my real love of music
AllHipHop: Who are your influences?
Monica: The Clark Sisters, Smokey, Mary Mary,
Al Green. My dad loved that type of music and I would ride with him. I find
different stuff in the south. The most recent thing I did I went to this club
in Atlanta called fuel I want in to the club and they were banging!
AllHipHop: Who would you invite to a dinner party?
Monica: My mom, my best friend, these are two
different people - Rodney Hill. Always Mary J., I would invite her to anything
I do and the President (Bush) so they the other guests could give them a piece
of their mind. I would love to see what Martha Stewart got going on. And my
brother That would be interesting conversation all night long….