Twenty years after releasing her debut, Miss Thang, Monica has thankfully not walked out of our lives: The 35-year-old R&B diva is back with a new album, Code Red, while juggling her family life as a wife (she’s married to pro basketball player Shannon Brown) and mom (two sons, one daughter). The Grammy-winning singer shares her thoughts on music, motherhood and being a basketball wife.
What was the inspiration behind the title of your new album, Code Red?
I think that R&B music is borderline extinct at this point. Code Red is just me saying, “We’re in a state of emergency as far as R&B music goes.” It’s time for us to get back to fighting for a genre that we all love. I miss music with a message, music with a melody, music that’s just well created with great artists and great musicians.
You collaborated with Missy Elliott again on the title track. You two go way back, so what makes that relationship so special?
Our friendship, our love for each other. And we value all the same things: our families, our music. The state of music is something that really has concerned her for the last eight or nine years. She’s been talking to me about it. I think our friendship really dictates the fact that we don’t do an album without working together.
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You also collaborated with Timbaland on a few tracks, and he’s the executive music producer of Empire, so would you ever go on that show?
If I’m invited! I love Tim, I love his heart. He sent me to a music school where I could sit down and talk with some kids for a day. He’s just a man who really believes in the value of reaching and teaching others.
Your 2-year-old daughter Laiyah opens the new album with you. How would you feel if she or any of your other kids decided to go into music for real?
I’m totally okay with them being in the music business. I didn’t go through all this for nothing! If they decide that this is something they want to do, I’m not going to encourage it and I’m not going to discourage it. I’ll be there for them and help them to go about it the best way possible.
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Is there anything that you wouldn’t sing about or do as an artist because you are a mother of three kids?
Oh yeah, lots of things. I’m very conscientious of that, especially when it comes to the sexuality of things. I have to try and be the kind of woman that I want my sons to marry and the kind of woman that I want my daughter to one day become.
Having followed your husband in the NBA, are you a big basketball fan?
No, and he loves that I’m not. I don’t even look up at the games unless he’s on the court. He knows that I’m really there in full support of him and nothing else.
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Have you bonded with any of the other basketball wives?
Oh yeah. Vanessa Bryant [wife of Kobe] has been my friend for quite some time now. I absolutely love Jada Paul [wife of Los Angeles Clipper Chris Paul]. Our conversations can just go forever. I’ve always loved Savannah [James, wife of LeBron]. She is another straight-up, down-home person who just loves her husband—it’s not about who he is. And of course Gabrielle Union [wife of Dwyane Wade]—I knew her before either of us were with athletes. So we have some great bonds amongst us.
You debut album came out 20 years ago, when you were only 15. Looking back now, do you ever feel like maybe you started too young?
No, never. I think that anything worth having is going to come with sacrifice. I sacrificed being able to have a normal graduation or maybe go to the prom or things of that nature. But I wouldn’t want to trade that for the opportunity to see the world and to work with amazing people and to do what I love for 20 years.
Monica’s Code Red is out now.