Brandy is back when we need her most.
On Friday, the R&B icon returned with B7, her first album in eight years and one of her most personal projects yet. The “Vocal Bible” Zoomed in with Rap-Up while self-isolating at her L.A. home to discuss her hiatus following 2012’s Two Eleven and future plans including a potential Verzuz battle with Monica and a “Moesha” reboot.
“It took me a while because I didn’t really feel safe where my music, just the foundation of where I was,” she said. “I didn’t feel like my music was in a safe place, I didn’t feel like I was in a safe place to create. I didn’t feel like I had creative control that I felt like I deserved or earned. So I wanted to get myself in a better place.”
In between raising her now 18-year-old daughter Sy’rai (who duets with her mother on “High Heels”), she got the “acting bug” and headed to Broadway, where she played Roxie Hart in the musical Chicago from 2015 to 2017. She eventually returned to the studio with a new label partnership and assembled a writing team including DJ Camper and the late LaShawn Daniels (“The Boy Is Mine,” “What About Us”).
“I wanted to make sure that the project that I put forth sounded the right away and it was something that I could truly be proud of,” added Brandy. “It just all added up to eight years.”
One of the most-talked-about tracks on the album is the closer “Bye Bipolar,” which was one of the most difficult songs to write. “It’s more about my struggle in a relationship, my struggle with love, than it really is about bipolar disorder,” she explained. “It’s a metaphor. I just know it was a difficult song to write about, it was a difficult song to kind of sing through, that was like one of the hardest songs to sing through. I had a really difficult time in that experience because I was just confused.”
But the process proved therapeutic. “In writing a lot of the lyrics and singing about it, I was able to come to terms with a lot of things and that’s probably one of my best vocals. I was just able to let me heart sing on that song.”
Brandy also had kind words for her collaborator Kanye West, who has struggled with bipolar disorder. “My prayers go out to Kanye and his family,” said Brandy, who worked with Ye on 2004’s “Talk About Our Love” and 2005’s “Bring Me Down.” “Mental health is a real thing and I just pray that he gets the help that he needs, that he pulls through. It’s just a tough time for him right now, a tough time for his family and my heart goes out to him.”
Brandy’s name has been in the mix for a potential Verzuz with her “Boy Is Mine” collaborator Monica. Brandy says she would be down to participate in Swizz Beatz and Timbaland’s clash series. “I’ve always been open to it, especially if it’s like a celebratory-type of vibe,” she said. “I’m open to it. I think people would love that, just to celebrate the both of us.”
As for Monica, she says, “I believe she’s down for it, but I think for her it’s also something that has to be a celebration as well.”
Brandy is also in talks to bring back her ’90s sitcom “Moesha.” “I’m completely open to it. I would love to experience that,” she said, adding, “I just want for everyone to know that I’m open to it and I’m in discussions.”