Photo: Derek Blanks

Brandy Almost Didn’t Release Her Album & Invites Monica to a Verzuz Battle

The R&B singer opened up to us about the vulnerability behind her new music.

There are artists whose names hold such weight and recognition, and whose music is so universally admired that their songs transcend decades. One such icon is Grammy award-winning artist, Brandy, whose music will forever be cemented in the blueprint of R&B. While it’s been over seven years since she last released music, Brandy has spent the last three years immersing herself in her upcoming seventh album, B7, the first album she has written entirely from her own perspective.

“I felt like, if this was the last chance I get to [make] music, I should just tell my story,” Brandy explains over a video call from her home in California. “Use music in a way to be therapeutic,” she says. It’s evident throughout the 15-track album that she followed her own advice; the songs are raw, vulnerable, and heartfelt as Brandy harmonizes personal stories over melodic riffs. And there is one song in particular that stands out, her duet with daughter, Sy’rai. “It’s just beautiful,” Brandy gushes. “I absolutely love her voice. I love singing with her, and I love the way we sound together. It’s a dream come true, honestly.”

Before I hang up, I can’t help but ask Bandy if she would ever consider doing a Verzuz battle. She answers and also divulges about the song that almost didn’t make the album, and the current landscape of R&B, below.

BeatRoute: Your album release is just around the corner. How are you feeling?

Brandy: I’m excited, I’m nervous, I’m jittery, but I’m truly blessed. I’m very grateful that this is finally happening. I’m really happy for the fans that have been on my case about releasing music. My mom is really proud, my daughter’s proud—it’s a good time. 

I love all the females that are coming out and bringing R&B back to life and I’m happy to be back contributing and joining them.

BR: Tell me a little bit about what that the creative process for B7 was like.

B: Very, very vulnerable. I’ve always been self-expressed, but what would my story look like? When I took that approach, it felt like the lyrics poured out of me. Being under the guidance of LaShawn Daniels, my mentor who is not with me anymore, DJ Camper, and [the] other writers that helped me—they were very encouraging and open to me expressing myself and telling my story. It felt amazing because I was able to heal. Music has a way of getting in the nooks and crannies, the places where you thought you healed. It helps you realize, maybe I didn’t heal right there, maybe I didn’t get over this. I was able to truly get through some things just by expressing myself through the art. 

BR: Do you feel that through telling your own story your sound changed?

B: Absolutely, and that’s one of the things that I truly appreciated because I felt like it was coming from my own heart, from my creative gut, my creative spirit. And not that I didn’t have help, it just felt like it started with me; it started with what I hummed and what I heard in my own ear. That’s one reason I feel like it took me so long because I was trying to figure out what my sound was. Hearing—and I say this humbly—so much of my influence and so many songs that sounded like what I could have done, what I should have done, it was like, well, where is my place in music, what am I supposed to sound like now? Hearing my own music and my own sound helped. 

BR: I love that you collaborated with your daughter on the album for the song “High Heels.” That’s so special.

B: It was so fun to see her behind that mic. That was the first song we ever did professionally. We have a studio at the house, so she’s always singing, but to see her in [there with] everybody killing it and doing well, I was a proud mommy. Like, ‘yeah, look at her go, look at her go’ [laughs]. Then also, being able to give her suggestions. She took notes so well and then she was giving me suggestions. Us harmonizing and blending is a dream come true. Nothing feels like that, and I told her, “Mommy wants to do a whole album with you.” 

BR: Beautiful. Were there any songs that almost didn’t make it on B7?

B: Yes. There was a song, it’s my daughter’s favourite song, called “Rather Be.” It’s a mid-slow song and it’s beautiful—it almost didn’t make the album. I would have been so disappointed because, from my daughter to DJ Camper, who produced it, anyone that heard it, they were calling it an air quotes “Brandy Song.” I didn’t buy into that, but it really is. Victoria Monét wrote it and she writes a lot of songs for Ariana Grande, and Tonio Dickson, who writes a lot with Babyface and Toni Braxton. When you have those kinds of people writing the song with you, you don’t leave [it] off of the album [laughs].

BR: What was your biggest takeaway from writing and creating this album?

B: The fact that I was brave enough to let it all out. And then to actually trust it and release it. I have to be honest with you, I’ve scratched the album a couple times. I had to gather myself, and I realized that these songs are from the heart. The people that I have let hear them, they hear my heart on the songs. I feel very, very brave and hopefully, I can grow more as a writer, as a producer. This was the first album that I ever did this much creating, ever, and this is my seventh album.

BR: What are your thoughts on the current landscape of female artists in the R&B world? The sound has changed so much over the years. 

B: It really has. I don’t know a lot about it because I haven’t been listening. I have been so wrapped up in creating my project and making sure it’s the best that it can be. But I know there are some amazing artists out there. I know Chloe x Halle are out there, Jhené Aiko, Teyana Taylor, Kehlani, H.E.R. I think [H.E.R.] has really made such a contribution to real R&B music. I love all the females that are coming out and bringing R&B back to life and I’m happy to be back contributing and joining them. I’m really proud of all of them, and they’ve all found a beautiful way to acknowledge me in their own unique way and I’m just so thankful for that.

BR: What artists inspired you as you wrote this album?

B: I would definitely say H.E.R. DJ Camper works a lot with her and I think she is absolutely amazing. Jazmine Sullivan is one of my favourite artists ever. I’m still waiting for D’Angelo to come back, [he] needs to hurry up and come back. Daniel Caesar is another one of those artists. He reminds me of Sam Cook; he is an incredible artist. YEBBA, her voice, I just don’t understand. God took time when Yebba was created. I love artists that really take their time to create something special that we can remember. And of course, Adele, I think Adele is one of the most amazing artists to ever grace the planet. 

BR: Would you ever consider a Verzuz battle? 

B: Well, everybody is talking about a Verzuz with Monica and I and I’m definitely open to that. If she is ever open to that, I would love to do a Verzuz with her. It’d be so great for the culture. 

Photography by Derek Blanks.

Listen to B7 here: