By Czar Jolie
Brandy stands on the other side of a soundproof sheet of fibreglass at Patchwerk Studios in the new Mecca of urban music, Atlanta, Georgia. She is effortlessly belting out incredibly deep baritone and extremely high sky scraping notes somewhere within her wide four octave range. Between spurts of colourful, textured, emotional recording sessions, she converses with the presiding house engineer and tells her look-alike daughter to “come to mommy.” Her daughter, Sy’rai, is the very spitting image of Brandy. During one particular recording break, Brandy picks Sy’rai up, cradles her in her arms for a few moments and then tickles her with unrelenting fervour and humour. When Sy’rai stops laughing, Brandy asks her daughter rather knowingly, “Do you like mommy’s music?” Sy’rai nods her head with a, now solemn, yes.
And although Sy’rai is undoubtedly somewhat biased and influenced by her familiar relation to the pop star as “Brandy's daughter”, she is not the only who loves her mother's music. For the past decade, Brandy has expertly and seamlessly melded suburban, wholesome pop with safely, but sexily sassy R&B. As a teen media princess, Brandy broke through many generational and racial barriers with her music, all the while maintaining a weekly spot in everyone's TV viewing schedule, playing the role of a feisty but modest Los Angeles adolescent on Moesha.
But after winning a Grammy for the drama on wax called “The Boy Is Mine” with fellow songstress and peer Monica, the cancellation and syndication of Moesha, a physical and mental meltdown, her pregnancy with Sy’rai, a faux marriage to Sy’rai’s father, Sy’rai’s birth, an authentic divorce from Sy’rai’s father, an end of contract with her old label, Atlantic, and a marriage engagement to NBA Phoenix Suns player, Quentin Richardson, she's no longer the naďve, young-minded character she once was and she is far from being “Moesha”.
Back at the ridiculously expensive and extravagant recording studio, she is a grown ass black woman who is fully in charge if her life, destiny and the path she chooses to take to get there. With bulky headphones on, her ears are attentively tuned in to sonic beat maker, Timbaland's, instructions on where the music is supposed to be going and how it should move accordingly. As she listens with the intensity of a glaring ray of light, her top pearly whites bite down into her heavily glossed coral coloured, bottom lip. Her skin is glowing. Her arms are bare; they are the hue of cinnamon. Her tousled, rather windswept hair is the shade of tanned bamboo shoots. Her chinky, exotic and severely sienna eyes could help her pass for being half Asian. Her svelte figure is thoroughly striking, for she is in the greatest posture, shape and size possible. She is in essence, “sitting on top of the word”.
“I feel sexy now,” Brandy says as she sits cross-legged, Indian style on the thickly carpeted floor taking a much needed yoga stretch break. She looks somewhat like the Hindu goddess Shiva with her body bent and contorted in such an awkward but stunning position. “I feel like I don’t have to prove anything to anyone anymore. I’m just being me. I couldn’t continue to be a teenager when I’m 26 years old. That doesn’t reflect real life and that is what I want to do.”
She is now back in the booth, eyes closed, hands punching the air, excitement pulsating, exploding and coursing through her veins. You hear her confidence shine as brightly in her voice as the 6 carat engagement ring on her finger while she sings with a passion of soulful chanteuses past, that cannot be captured by the saccharine sweet bubblegum poppishness of today’s music. Brandy is wading knee deep in a bass-heavy, mid-tempo, almost liltingly lush jungle song called “Hush.”
The slinky, almost erotic and ever-seductive “Hush” (originally produced by Mike City) was initially recorded for her 2004 release, Afrodisiac, which, quite ironically, received an honorary four stars from Rolling Stone Magazine as her “greatest album yet” but failed to reach mass audiences or top any charts. Somehow, during the progress of recording Afrodisiac, a few unreleased songs including, but not limited to “Hush”, “Nodding Off”, “Rouge” and “Oasis” found themselves booted from the final 15 song track listing. When asked why these tracks never found the light she gets serious and almost vindictive when she replies. “They [Atlantic Recording Group] wanted to speak for me. They never wanted me to express myself. It's time to do that now”. She has since then amicably parted ways with Atlantic. She then counters her apparent bitterness with a brilliant, almost ersatz smile and says “Only ‘Hush’ and the groggy pool of glitz called ‘Diamonds’ will make the new album.” Sorry die-hard fans.
It is clear to see that she's been in this environment before and that the studio is her true home. It is evident in the way that she is concentrating on Timbaland's every word and command that she intends on making a vocal masterpiece for her undyingly loyal, fans worldwide.
Up next for her is another sitcom which is currently untitled, a (real) marriage ceremony which will supposedly happen sometime in the next year and a new album on a brand new label which she declines to speak on other than saying, “Its gonna be real music that's about my voice and not about overproduction.” The new album should be a 17 song set of electronic soul but is presently untitled because, as she cleverly quips, “I have to look at this album in its entirety and feel it out. I’ll name it once it’s completely done.”
Upon being asked whether she feels her last album was a failure in her opinion she says,“Promotion is everything and it's something I didn't really get at my last label [Atlantic]. I occasionally check in on my fans on via the net and they're still in love with me and the music that I make, so that's all [the validation] that I need to keep doing this thing and keep doing it right. I’m at a lovely place in my musical journey and my career. I won’t be stopped.” Spoken like a true legend and R&B queen.