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Brandy Talks 20 Years of 'Never Say Never,' Social Media & Her Upcoming Album [INTERVIEW]
Brandy spoke with Okayplayer to Reminisce about two of her most highly regarded albums, 1998's Never Say Never and 2008's Human
Brandy Norwood knows intimately what it’s like to live in the spotlight, under constant scrutiny.
It's the pressure of feeling that you must always be perfect, not flawed in any kind of way. The constant comments on your life from people who think they know you, but have no real clue. The lack of privacy even as you’re undergoing some of the most trying and transformative moments of your life.
For the 39-year-old singer and actress, living life in the spotlight hasn’t necessarily gotten easier, particularly in this age of social media mayhem. But what has changed is Brandy’s perception and understanding of what matters most in her life, and what it takes as a woman to stay sane, protect your peace, and beckon balance. The talk hasn’t stopped — there are still rumors of pregnancy, queries about her love life, and questions about her family and famous people she’s known who are no longer with us.
The questions and comments are a constant, but so is Brandy's determination to focus on the things that matter most in her life — family and her work. She is continuing to embrace her love of acting with a guest starring role on the hit FOX series Star (and the recent announcement that she will be joining the cast for another season as the badass Cassie, sister to Carlotta (Queen Latifah)).
Brandy hasn't forgotten about her musical roots. She’s presently working with Grammy-nominated producer DJ Camper on her upcoming album, her first since 2012's Two Eleven. Whether she’s singing, acting, or just being, Brandy is focused at all times on how far she’s come, and the bliss that’s in store for her.
Brandy recently spoke with Okayplayer briefly. She talked about her life, some of her most memorable albums and more. Check it out below.
Okayplayer: Your album Never Say Never just turned 20 in June, and Human turns 10 this December. Do any never-before-shared stories or memories come to mind?
Brandy: Never Say Never changed the course of my life. I found one of the best producers in the world [Rodney Jerkins] to help me find my new sound. I was so free to try things vocally and the Darkchild team gave me their best work and sweet support.
Human, I was on the fence... I thought it was too pop. And I love pop music, but the entire album didn’t have a balance to my ear at the time. But now when I listen, I’m blown away by it and by the people that have let me know how it helped save their lives.
This September marks the 25th anniversary of the show Thea, which marked the first time a black female comedian had a show named after her. It was also your first television show. What are your thoughts on that experience?
I had a difficult time on Thea because I never dreamed of being an actress. I thought everyone was light years ahead of me. There was one moment where I felt right at home. It’s when I was given the opportunity to sing and dance live on television as Thea’s daughter.
You've interacted with some iconic and hugely successful female figures throughout your career – Whitney Houston, Patti LaBelle, Queen Latifah. What have you learned from those women?
All of these legendary women found a way to tell me in different ways to only be myself. At the times that they told me that I had no clue who I was. I’ve grown and my life has presented so many ups and downs. I’ve hit my head hard because I’m a hard head but now no one can come for my mastered mind because I’ve done the work to appreciate the gift inside of me, which is God.
Singer Brandy performs at Club Inta's in Chicago, Illinois in September 1994Photo credit: Raymond Boyd/Getty Images
Your daughter Sy'rai is 16 now! How do you feel about her being on social media?
Sy’rai tackled a lot of things in elementary. Once she recognized her strength, her beauty inside and out, and her value, she developed a confidence. She doesn’t overdo it on social media. She’s a leader and will let it be known if you cross her. I always say positive and uplifting affirmations so she could veer from the truth, and if she does, she won’t be gone long.
What's next for you in terms of your music and the messages or feelings you want it to convey to your fans and audience? When can we expect the new album?
I feel like a brand new artist with fresh big dreams. Music is who I am and why I’m alive. This next project could be like my first and my last, because the songs I’m singing are not just relatable, they actually happened and are still happening. I finally feel like I’m singing my real songs from the bottom of my real heart.
What don't people know about Brandy that you wish they did?
My heart is gold... I really love people... I see God in everything. I can never do something to intentionally hurt a person first.
Singer-songwriter Brandy and The Roots perform during the Budlight Event 2017 SXSW Conference and Festivals on March 18, 2017 in Austin, TexasPhoto credit: Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for SXSW
You were supposed to perform at the Roots Picnic but it got rained out — how did you pivot and make the most of the day?
I got a chance to reconnect with my cousin Ryan Ramsey, who manages Rich the Kid and has a great future with Maverick. I also went to a party where Questlove was DJ’ing and met one of my favorite comedians, Dave Chappelle. Rain would never stop me, some of the greats have performed in the rain. But when God’s flow is different, you must surrender to it.
Samantha Hunter resides in Westchester, New York and has written entertainment and lifestyle features for Essence, SoulBounce, Inspirer, Haute d’ Vie, Black Westchester, DELUX, and VH1.com. Her family and friends say she’s always going somewhere, but you can find her on Instagram at @Sapodillic.