Brandy Still Has Pipes and Here’s a Receipt to Prove It

#FreeBrandy

By: Michael Arceneaux

Nearly a month ago a rep, speaking on behalf of Chameleon Entertainment Group CEO Breyon Prescott, had this to say to TMZ about Brandy comparing her contract with the label to slavery. CEG deemed the suit “a desperate ploy to drum up publicity instead of facing facts — her best days are behind her.” The rep claims that Prescott took a risk “signing an artist that hasn’t had a chart single success since the early 2000’s.”

By now, most are aware that Brandy’s baby brother, Love & Hip Hop: Hollywood star, Ray J, recently married his longtime girlfriend and co-star Princess Love. Judging from the videos and images that leaked out on social media the wedding was quite the affair. Of course, what stuck out most for fans of the now legendary star is the video on TMZ of Brandy singing Etta James’ “At Last” for the couple’s first dance as husband and wife. The fanfare surrounding the clip is a testament to Brandy’s enduring appeal.

When Brandy signed with Chameleon Entertainment Group in 2011, a subsidiary of RCA Records, it looked as if the singer-actress had finally found a home that would help her net the musical comeback she had long pursued throughout the previous decade. “This is truly a blessing,” she explained in a statement. “Breyon Prescott, Peter Edge and Tom Corson [RCA Music Group’s president and chief operating officer] believe in me and have introduced me to a home that also believes and knows exactly what to do with the type of music I’m doing. Breyon and the team at RCA/Chameleon are creative and forward-thinking and I am thrilled to be working with them.”

In hindsight, this deal turned out as well as a date with an Instagram cutie. In person, without any filters, things didn’t turn out to be what they appeared. Nearly five years later, B-Rocka filed a lawsuit against the label, claiming CEG was barring her from recording or releasing new music. In response, a spokesperson for Prescott claimed the singer hadn’t “generated any meaningful revenue” from her last album, Two Eleven, and that if he wanted to, he could’ve pulled her single, “Begging and Pleading” from iTunes.

Well, Two Eleven was mishandled for varying reasons. One, after scoring a hit with “Put It Down” featuring Chris Brown, the follow up single, “Wildest Dreams,” came too late. Two, the Mike WiLL Made-It produced “Do You Know What You Have?” probably should’ve been the second single. Yes, some of us partake in the game of laptop label head.

In defense of the CEG, one can’t ignore the reality that Brandy has had so-so relationships with record companies for over a decade now. After the disappointing sales of Full Moon and Afrodisiac, Brandy parted ways with her label of 11 years, Atlantic Records. She then signed with Epic Records to release Human in 2008 but distanced herself from it when the album did not perform well.

In an interview with Out, Brandy said, “To hell with that album!” She said as much in a separate interview with the Los Angeles Times. She cited label politics, creative process and promotion as the reason for not reaching peak success– sentiments echoed back in 2004 when Afrodisiac failed to perform better than anticipated.

What’s most interesting about Brandy is that throughout all this time, she released some of the best R&B music of the past 25 years. Music that has been highly impactful and influential even if it’s not reflected on the charts. Perhaps labels did struggle with how to properly help Brandy, whose commercial peak occurred while she was a teenager. Maybe part of the problem is the artist herself wasn’t able to tap into a new stream of fans. One could argue that it was a combination of the two with blame to be shared by both sides.

Whatever it is, though, the most recent comment by Prescott doesn’t read as 100% accurate and to give a statement about a contract dispute to TMZ doesn’t seem like the best way to do business.

So, let’s put some things into perspective. It was and continues to be very difficult for R&B acts – notably female ones – to gain radio airplay the way they used to. Again, despite the statement to the contray, Brandy did score a hit in 2012 with “Put It Down.” She’s also actively working as an actress, which in and of itself is an added boost to any musician trying to score attention in the days when record labels often continue to work on a pork chop manager’s sale (i.e. they’re about to go bad by the end of this sentence) budget.

In response, Brandy’s rep said if the label feels that way they should, “release her from her contract.” It’s the sort of professional drama that would make for a great storyline on Love & Hip Hop. Her rep has a point. Brandy is a legend, regardless of what’s happened since Full Moon. There’s a certain level of respect that ought to be afforded to her. It’s a pity that many of the sounds she hopped on first enjoyed greater success by those who came after her, but that doesn’t mean she can’t land a hit again.

Brandy’s still touring around the world. She still receives the utmost respect from her contemporaries. There is still a path there; just not with her current label. So, if CEG thinks she’s a walking episode of Unsung, so be it… but then give her the opportunity to prove otherwise.

Hear about how Ray J proposed in our VH1.com exclusive interview with Princess from season two’s reunion.