For weeks now, fans have been buzzing over Monica and Brandy’s duet, “It All Belongs to Me,” 14 years after their chart topping hit, “The Boy is Mine,” spent 13 weeks at number one. This time around, Monica reveals it’s nothing like it was before. They are truly friends and support each other.
Monica stopped by ESSENCE.com to discuss the details of her ballad-heavy new album, touring with fellow R&B diva Brandy and when she and her husband Shannon Brown plan to welcome a new baby to their nest.
ESSENCE.com The opening track of New Life features a special phone call from Mary J. Blige. Do you talk to her regularly?
MONICA: I put the phone conversation with Mary on there so that other people could hear what I’ve heard over the many years of our friendship. When things have happened in my life, I’ve always called her to seek advice on a lot of different things because I think it’s hard to understand and to know what we feel and go through on a regular basis. But having similar backgrounds, and now the same jobs, I know she’s just a person I can go to for a sincere answer.
ESSENCE.com: It sounds like you dedicated a couple of songs to your husband on the album. Share the significance of the song “Amazing.”
MONICA: I did two songs on the album that were strictly about my husband. One is “Amazing,” and “Without You” is the other. I told Jermain Dupree that I wanted the song title “Amazing” because that’s always what I would say when I talk about my husband. I didn’t think certain things were possible. I didn’t think a relationship without turmoil or love, or without heartbreak, were possible. I thought these things came together because that’s the way I experienced them. Of course he’s still a human being, but he’s one that cares in a way that I had not experienced before. He’s truly amazing and that’s where the song came from.
ESSENCE.com It’s been 14 years since you and Brandy recorded “The Boy is Mine.” What was working together like this time around, and are you going on tour?
MONICA: This is a totally different time and a totally different space. In 1998, my first time meeting Brandy was when I walked into the studio to record the “Boy is Mine.” A lot of people don’t know that. I think it’s natural sometimes for people to put females against one another. At that point, us being in high school and not knowing a lot about the industry, we kind of fell into it a little bit. We never promoted it, we only performed the song one time and that was for the MTV Video Music Awards. This time it’s totally different. She’s my girlfriend. It’s different when you’re working with someone that you care about and that you know about. In these 14 years, we’ve experienced some of the same things.
We are working to put the tour together now. We’re looking for a promoter who really understands what this type of tour needs. I would love for it to be all female where you can come out and see women do their thing, every night. We’re looking for other people to go out with us as well.
ESSENCE.com: You were very close to Whitney Houston. Tell us about your relationship.
MONICA: I’m grateful for the two days we shared together before she passed. We were able to talk about some things and share some things that I’ll be able to carry with me for the rest of my life. It’s hard to describe that kind of pain. She didn’t get peace in the midst of her life here on earth. I think that it’s best that she get that peace in her death and always get that respect that she deserves in the end. Two weeks later my uncle passed. Real life is happening every day and I try to stay encouraged, I try to seek the positive in things.
ESSENCE.com: You’ve been married for a little while now. Are there any plans to put a bun in the oven?
MONICA: Absolutely! My husband wants them now. So, we’re working on it. We have three boys between the two of us. We have a lot of fun in the house. There are two four-year-olds and a seven year old, so it’s pretty exciting in the house as it is. Shannon definitely wants more children and so do the kids. That’s a decision we have to involve the boys in, too. We never exclude them in the decisions we make. We’re looking forward to having another child really soon.