By Terrance Turner
May 25, 2022 (updated June 26, 2022)
Tonight, singer and actress Brandy made a surprise appearance at the BET Awards, joining rapper Jack Harlow in a performance of his hit song “First Class”. Brandy performed a live version of her blistering freestyle rap, released last month in response to an interview where Harlow revealed he didn’t know who she was.
Imagine being an R&B/hip-hop artist and not knowing who Brandy is.
Just weeks ago, rapper Jack Harlow demonstrated just that. During an interview with the station Hot 97, Harlow was asked to identify artists based on snippets of their music. When the hosts played him a clip of singer Brandy’s ‘angel in disguise’ — on which Brandy’s voice is instantly recognizable — Harlow was stuck.
“She had a TV show,” one co-host said, offering a clue. Harlow was stumped.
“Her brother had an amazing sex tape,’ host Ebro Darden said, referencing Brandy’s brother Ray J and his infamous recording with reality star Kim Kardashian.
“Who’s Ray J’s sister?” Harlow asked. When informed the voice was that of Brandy, he asked, “Brandy and Ray J are siblings? Nobody’s ever told me that in my life.”
Harlow was roasted online for his ignorance.
For the uninitiated:
Brandy debuted in 1994 with her self-titled album, which sold six million copies worldwide and spawned three top ten singles. ‘I Wanna Be Down hit number one on the R&B charts for four weeks. The next single Baby also went number one. Singles ‘’Broken Hearted’’ and ‘’Best Friend’’ also were successful. In 1995, Brandy contributed to the soundtrack of the film “Waiting to Exhale’’ and was rewarded with one of her biggest hits yet. “Sittin’ Up in my Room” hit No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and the R&B charts.
In 1996, Brandy starred in her own show, Moesha, in which she played Moesha Mitchell, a teenage girl living with her father, brother, and stepmother in L.A.’s middle-class Leimert Park neighborhood. The sitcom became UPN’s most-watched show, according to the New York Times, and ran for six seasons. The next year, she played the title role in the ABC television special Cinderella, alongside her musical idol Whitney Houston. ”I grew up watching Whitney. To meet her and to work with her was just like a dream come true,” Brandy told Complex. ”Like to look at her and to talk to her and realize that she was a real person was so surreal to me.”
With her starring role, Brandy essentially became Disney’s first Black princess — a groundbreaking portrayal that laid the groundwork for films like The Princess and the Frog. The special featured a star-studded cast that included Victor Garber, Whoopi Goldberg, Bernadette Peters, and Jason Alexander. The special garnered 60 million viewers, becoming one of ABC’s highest-rated specials in years, and won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Television Special.
In 1998, Brandy scored her biggest success to date when she released her second album. Never Say Never. The album garnered critical acclaim and went multiplatinum, selling over 16 million copies worldwide. ”Have You Ever” written by Diane Warren, became Brandy’s first-ever solo No. 1 single. ‘’The Boy is Mine’’, a duet with Monica, was number one for a staggering 13 weeks, becoming one of the most successful female duets in history, and won them a Grammy for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group.
Brandy continued to turn out quality music in the 2000s, with critially acclaimed albums like Full Moon, Afrodisiac, and Human. From 2012 to 2015, she was a cast member on BET’s rebooted series The Game, playing Chardonnay Pitts. In 2015, she made her Broadway debut, playing Roxie Hart in the musical Chicago. “I had never felt so inspired the way I felt when I was on Broadway,” she told Rolling Stone. “I felt so free every night when I was performing.” Her run was later extended through 2016. That same year, she landed a role in the FOX musical drama Star, which ran through 2019.
In 2021, Brandy returned with B7, her first album in over eight years. It was released through her own label, Brand ‘Nu, making the album her first independent release. The album debuted in the top 10 of Billboard’s R&B Albums chart and garnered praise for its rich, layered vocals on songs like “Borderline”.
Today, Brandy responded to the controversy over Jack Harlow with a blistering new freestyle. Rapping over Harlow’s own instrumental from “First Class”, she reminded him (and listeners) of her impact and legendary career. “Allow me to introduce myself/My name is world-famous, one of the greatest/Living legend. Did I mention my resume is amazing? The game need a breath of fresh air and I’m breathtaking/ Painting pictures, Cinderella scriptures/ But that don’t mean Jack in the streets/Jack of all trades, now i’m here jackin for beats/’Queens’ canceled/But you can never cancel a queen.
“Crown concrete, stone, an angel in the sky/I roam the earth, God-like, the son of Jehovah’s own/I bear witness to my second coming/100 miles I’m running/So get money from mo to the – I overdone it/Over 20 years and I’m still a topic/A picture’s worth a million and I’m feeling philanthropic/ 43 and feeling like a kid with millions watching/Popular, and now I’m popping sh-t for those who’s out of pocket/Went diamond, guess I’m still a gold mine shining/This black excellence at its finest/Don’t call me Brandy no more; call me Your Highness,” she raps.
‘’You woke up a beast. Now it’s madness. Singer-slash-rapper. Rapper-slash-actress. I’m richer for the crown/You might get a handful of thorns/Or maybe you just wanna be down/I put on for my women, boss chicks and kings/Put respect on my name; I was here before memes/Skinny jeans, dope fiends high on lean/I’m high on life, and most times that’s all you need.’’