Over the weekend, Solange threw a Twit fit about music writers not getting the “culture of R&B.” She took some jabs at trap rappers and ivy leaguers, but the main beef seemed to revolve around the idea that, contrary to some opinions, R&B didn’t just get interesting and experimental in the last year—it’s been that way for a while. Solange’s supporting evidence for this theory? Brandy. As in Snoop Dogg’s cousin Brandy Norwood, the R&B soloist who wanted to “be down” with you in the 1990s.
Solange tweeted, “Like you should really know about deep Brandy album cuts before you are giving a ‘grade’ or a ‘score’ to any R&B artist.” We could not agree more. So here are our top five Brandy deep cuts. Get educated.
This song, from the singer’s 1994 debut album, was Brandy’s tribute to her brother Ray J. Yeah, Kardashian sex tape costar Ray J. The video captured all of the cropped sweaters, big pants and other ’90s fashions you could handle. And as for the song, it showed that this 15-year-old kid could sing throaty verses as easily as she could belt some diva runs. Also, “Best Friend” suggested trendsetter tendencies, as it documented one of the earlier appearances in the decade of the cartoonish, metallic drum boing, which became pretty cool in that era.
“Moesha Theme Song”
You really want to know about the culture of R&B in the world of Brandy? Do you?? Then you need to listen to the theme song to Moesha, the Brandy-starring sitcom set in South Central Los Angeles. Drugs, infidelity, teen pregnancy—Moesha dealt with some heavy shit. And behind that “Mo to the E to the” chant, the show’s theme was pushing the blend of hip-hop beats and sultry R&B vocals into the mainstream, sort of a reversal to the Living Single theme, which put rapping to the tune of a smoother R&B soundtrack.
Brandy’s sophomore album, Never Say Never, came out in 1998, and while the video for “The Boy Is Mine” was kind of fun, the other songs sounded pretty generic. So we’ll skip any deep cuts on that one and go right to 2002’s Full Moon. The biggest hit was probably “What About Us?” but Brandy hit her Mary J. Blige stride on “I Thought.” The funk-style beat bitch-slaps as hard as Brandy’s husky, tell-off lyrics.
On Brandy’s 2004 album, Afrodisiac, Kanye West helped out on “Talk About Our Love,” but the best stuff on that LP resulted from her quality time with producer Timbaland. “I Tried” features dopey lyrics about listening to Coldplay’s “Sparks,” but Timbaland gives it that dark “Cry Me A River” swagger as Brandy alternates between upper-range verse openings (that now sound a little like Usher’s on “Climax,” right? Right.) and pained contralto cries. Oh and that sexed-up, sliding guitar riff? A sample from Iron Maiden’s “The Clansman.” Brandy and Iron Maiden, together at last.
“Let Me Go”
Brandy’s 2008 album, Human, fell way short of Afrodisiac. So despite the fact that Solange’s message was that cool things were happening in R&B prior to last year, we’d rather talk about “Let Me Go” from 2012’s Two Eleven than anything from Human. (Note: “Right Here (Departed),” while a good song from Human, didn’t fit the deep-cut requirement.) The song takes Lykke Li’s “Tonight,” adds a midtempo throb and stutter from Bangladesh (producer of Lil Wayne’s “A Milli”) and chopped-up vocals. When you listen to “Let Me Go,” you might think, “Is this really a Brandy song? Impossible!” To which we say, oh no, it’s possible.