Interview: Brandy on ‘Two Eleven,’ working with Chris Brown and Frank Ocean

The last time Brandy reached No. 3 on the Billboard R&B chart was in early 2002 with “What About Us,” George Bush was president, the Winter Olympics were held in Salt Lake City and NASA sent Odyssey to probe Mars” surface.

It has been a lean chart time for the R&B singer since then, so much so that Brandy wondered if she still had a career in music, but this month the answer came back a resounding “yes.”

“Put It Down,” a a sultry stomp featuring Chris Brown, reached No. 3 on Billboard”s R&B chart earlier this month. The track is from Brandy”s album, “Two Eleven,” out today.

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Brandy has nothing but praise for Brown: “He”s just the sweetest guy ever. He has so much respect for me and my team and really, really wanted to support me. He didn”t have to.”

Though Brandy says she knew “Put It Down” was a hit from the first time she heard the Sean Garrett song, just as it was about to be released as a single, “I started to doubt… I just kept hearing that voice, ‘Remember how you felt in the studio. That”s all you need to remember”.”

Brandy had a hand in writing a few of the songs on “Two Eleven” (so named because her birthday is Feb. 11), but she relied primarily on a phalanx of songwriters and producers for the material, including Breyon Prescott, Timbaland, Garrett, Jim Jonsin, Frank Ocean, and Mario Winans. She didn”t cut a track unless she felt she could make it her own. “It”s important to be able to relate to what you”re singing because if you don”t feel it, you can”t go in depth and pull that vocal out and really be creative,” she says. “The connection with the writers and producers was the most important thing for me because that”s where you are able to respect the creative force that comes through all parties involved so you can give the best work you can give.”

On of the album”s most poignant songs is “Scared of Beautiful,” co-written by  Ocean. The two have been friends for a long time: Brandy recorded a song of his for her last album, 2008″s “Human.” Though Ocean didn”t co-write “Beautiful” specifically for her, Brandy says she owns it now. “It”s on my album, I got a claim…”Frank Ocean, you wrote that song for me, you just didn”t know it”,” she jokes. “It”s really about self and self-growth and talking to yourself and not being afraid to be great. It speaks volumes to me.”

Brandy had her 10-year old daughter, Sy”rai, in mind when she recorded “No Such Thing as Too Late,” a tune about waiting until you are in love before sleeping with someone. Though she hasn”t played it for her daughter yet, she will when the time is right. “But at 10, they know what”s going on,” Brandy says.  “They”re already on the human body at school. I”m like, ‘Girl, if you ask me one more question about the human body, we”re going to have to get you another place to stay” because it”s hard for me to come up with analogies,” she says with a laugh. Brandy jokes that she”s instituted a “five-minute freak out” clock with her daughter: for Brandy, not for Sy”ria.  “I love that she can come to me and communicate with me about everything. I”ve told her, ‘Mommy [is] allowed a five-minute freak out. I promise it won”t last over five minutes.” She says, ‘Mom, you”re overreacting,” and I”ll be like, ‘I”ve got 30 more seconds and I”ll be back to normal”.”

Brandy started as an actress and she still continues to find success in that medium. She stars in the BET series “The Game,” and until recently had a recurring role on “Drop Dead Diva.”  “I think they done rolled me out of ‘Drop Dead Diva.”  My closing scene was me and my son going to Canada. I don”t think we”re coming back,” she says.  She also appears in Tyler Perry”s upcoming movie, “The Marriage Counselor.”

Up next for Brandy will likely be a tour. Though rumors ran rife of a potential co-bill with this summer with Monica (the two released a new song, “It All Belongs To Me” this February. The track, which failed to crack the top 20 on the RB chart, is not on “Two Eleven”) Brandy says she”s now thinking about going out on her own. “You will see a tour soon from me,” she vows, adding she expects it to happen in early 2013 after she”s wrapped the current season of “The Game.”