Monica’s name may take you back to hits like “The Boy Is Mine” and “Don’t Take It Personal” that dominated airwaves in the ’90s, but the truth is, she never stopped working. The 35-year-old mom of three has been putting out albums consistently over the past decade, and her latest, “Code Red” (out December 18) features more collaborations than ever.
Sonically, the album has the smooth R&B beats the singer has been known for in the past, but tracks produced by Timbaland and her cousin Polow da Don would feel right at home in the club. Missy Elliott, Lil Wayne and Akon also help amplify her sultry vocals. Here the Grammy-award winning artist talks growing up with no regrets and keeping her friends close.
Monica was just 12 when she got signed, but when she looks back on it, she has no regrets. “I don’t feel like anything was missed or taken away,” she says. “I felt like I was living my dream.” She says her mom always told her she could quit music whenever she wanted to, and made sure she had a life outside of the industry.
“That really gave me confidence to feel like if this ever becomes too much I could walk away,” she says.
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Keeping her friends close
For her new album, Monica chose to collaborate with people who are not only chart-topping superstars, but who have known her for a long time, including Missy Elliott, who is featured on the album’s title track. “Our friendship creates the music,” Monica says. “That open forum of conversation allows for [us] to create personal songs.”
Monica says the story behind her 2011 song “Still Gone” with Elliott is one of her favorite memories of their friendship. The singer was in the studio recording when a call from Elliott came in. The two got deep into a conversation, not realizing Monica’s mic was still on. “Missy wanted to turn it into a song,” Monica says. “She told me, so many people have felt this way. And she created ‘Still Gone’ from that.”
Another friend, Lil Wayne, is featured on her song “Just Right For Me,” and Monica says the music video was filmed as his personal skate park. “He understands music on a lot of different levels,” she says. “He’s going to be remembered for many years to come, not just as a rapper, but as an artist.”
The “Code Red” tour is nonstop and what little time Monica does have between shows, she spends with her husband ex-Miami Heat basketball player Shannon Brown and three kids, who are tagging along on the tour. It hasn’t given her much time to keep up with “The Voice,” which she was a guest judge on in 2011, though Monica says she’s a huge Gwen Stefani fan and is still a big supporter of the show.
“I love it because of the fact that you don’t get a chance to look at the person. You really are just listening to the voice,” she says. “That’s what it should be about.”
If you go:
Dec. 13, 8 p.m.
The Gramercy Theater
127 E. 23rd St., 212-614-6932
Follow Emily on Twitter: @EmLaurence