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Monica R&B Singer

Monica

Atlanta vocalist Monica debuted in 1995 with the platinum Top Ten singles "Don't Take It Personal (Just One of dem Days)" and "Before You Walk out of My Life." After appearing on LL Cool J's Mr. Smith later that year, she recorded another killer duet with Brandy on "The Boy Is Mine," which spent several weeks at the top of the singles charts during summer 1998. Her second album, also titled The Boy Is Mine, was released in July 1998. She scored a few more chart successes through the following spring, but a long period of silence marked time between albums. The much-delayed "After the Storm" album finally hit stores in the Spring of 2003.


Monica: It's different now

By the time she was 15, Monica had a #1 R&B hit, toured with the likes of TLC and Keith Sweat, and released her first album, the triple-platinum Miss Thang.

By age 18, she teamed with fellow teen star Brandy on "The Boy Is Mine," one of the most successful duets in history, and spent 13 weeks at the top of the Billboard Hot 100. Her second LP, titled after the single, also went triple platinum, spawning monster hits like "Angel of Mine" and "The First Night."

So you can forgive the singer, who'll turn 21 in October, for wanting to take her time getting to her third album. Her latest single, "Just Another Girl," has been climbing the charts since it came out in January, but Monica isn't in any hurry to start working on a new LP.

Her personal life comes first these days, in the wake of the July suicide of Jarvis Knots, her ex-boyfriend and best friend. Knots left behind a daughter from a previous relationship, whom Monica is raising. Though the singer still is in mourning, she says Knots' daughter has been her best therapy.

She also took the plunge into acting, starring in the MTV movie "Love Song" and auditioning for other parts when she gets the chance.

Monica recently talked with Elon Johnson about acting, coming to terms with Knots' death and getting beyond the "child star" mentality.

MTV: Tell me about "Just Another Girl," the single from the "Down to Earth" soundtrack, and how that came about?

Monica: It was originally planned that I would do the title track for "Down to Earth" after the movie had been finished. I had come in at the last minute. I did one song with She'kspere [producer Kevin "She'kspere" Briggs] that they decided not to use, then I had to do another one with [producer] Ric Wake. Everybody loved the record, but it was being held for my album. So there were some issues about getting the song, and once we did, we actually worked through the Christmas holidays recording it, then shot the video the day after New Year's.

MTV: Tell me about the video. Where was it shot? What was the most difficult part of it?

Monica: The video was shot in California, which is a long stretch for me, living in Georgia, but I was really excited about being able to look different and come with different imaging, because I think I've grown a lot as a person. I did moves that were comfortable for me.

We had our ups and downs as far as the video shoot was concerned, because coming out of the holidays, people weren't really in work mode. The very first night a water main broke. ... Black smut covered everything, but you'd never know looking at the video.

MTV: You did an MTV film, "Love Song." Do you have any other acting plans?

Monica: I try to be optimistic. I try not to get into the mode where people only look at me as one type of artist or one type of actress, so the things I do I try to be really picky about. "Love Song" was actually written for me and ['NSYNC's] Justin Timberlake, and when he couldn't do it, I didn't see any reason why I couldn't. I'm auditioning for ["The O.Z."], which is the hip-hop version [of "The Wizard of Oz"]. I want to continue being a part of some things that were really unique. I'm definitely looking at everything. The only opportunity I missed that I really wanted to be a part of was "Save the Last Dance," but at that time I was doing the video and preparing for this song, so I had to sacrifice one for the other.

MTV: Do you favor singing over acting?

Monica: No, I don't favor one craft over the other because either way it goes, no matter how much you love it, you get tired of it at some point. Just like if you love being a secretary, at some point you want some days away from that. Acting gives me time away from music, and music gives me time away from acting, even though I love the two.

MTV: You dealt with a tragedy in your life recently [boyfriend Jarvis Knots' suicide]. Did that have anything to do with you being out of sight for a while?

Monica: Oh my gosh, yes. Jarvis' death had everything to do with me not working. I was not able. I still can't carry the workload I used to. I was working all these hours after it happened, [but] I realized in the midst of everything, I couldn't handle it. I'm not ashamed to say that I decided to step back and get the help I needed to really come from within.

I think some of the best therapy for me was his daughter. All the things that surrounded me when he was alive that weren't taken away from me when he was. It's like I found a way to balance it. I'm now able to talk about it, whereas before this I couldn't get the words out of my mouth. I think I have a testimony to other people, because whether it's homicide or suicide, death is death. You know, someone passing is very different than seeing someone take their life, or if you're there when someone else has taken their life. I think those situations make me the person I am today. My music is totally different. My sound is totally different.

"Just Another Girl" doesn't pertain to the stage in my life I'm in, so I'm really waiting and looking for material that will take you to some of the depths in my soul. It was very difficult to juggle all of those things and then try to be a family for his kids at the same time. I don't think there's that many people that could do it. We met when I was 14; he was older than me. He would have been 25 now, and I'm only 20. So, from 14 to 20 years old, I basically played a role a lot of young women take on. I'm hoping to be an inspiration to a lot of young women who have no interest in music. I don't care what their goals are in life.

I just want them to be able to say, 'If she can make it through a situation like that' ... people would never expect some of the things I've experienced and some of the things I'm not shy to talk about. Whether it was talking about the police and his lifestyle or me trying to deal with my lifestyle. Having the #1 record when they were coming in our house looking for him. So you know I talk about those things and hopefully everybody will get a good grasp on it through my album and learn from it, because I think artists are blamed for other people's mistakes. "Well, my daughter heard that Monica was ..." Well, if your daughter heard that, your daughter can look at my situation now and know why it is one you do not want to live your life in, no matter how much you love somebody. Help them get out. That's basically what this album should portray.

MTV: You mentioned helping to inspire other women through things that you've been through. What have you learned from that time?

Monica: I knew business as well as the streets. But for me, life's biggest lesson was we take people for granted. I looked at my life like Jarvis would always be there and I'd always have him to fall back on, but now I'm having to carry all the weight on my own, with the help of my mother, and it's a real wake-up call. Now I don't hesitate to tell you, "I love you." My brother and I had this unspoken love. Now I can't allow it to be unspoken.

MTV: Jarvis was your best friend?

Monica: He was my very first love. I never had any dealings with a guy besides him until I was a part of the industry.

MTV: Who are some of the people you intend to work with on the new album?

Monica: I wanted to work with people who have experienced similar things. [Rapper] Mia X is my best friend, and her children's father's death was difficult for her because of her children's attachment to him. I was able to be there and watch her experience, and she was there to watch mine, so I'd like us to work together. ... I'd like to do something with R. Kelly. ... It doesn't have to just be we sing together or they rap on the record. They can produce on the record or write something, because I think they have some insight on it.

I am going to do records on the good things in my life [also], because there are so many good things that have happened and so many blessings that have fallen into my life. I've learned to take all of my burdens and leave them with the Lord, and then when I wake up in the morning it's so much easier for me to go through the day. I'm definitely going to do one gospel record and ... I'll talk about being a child celebrity. No privacy, everything. I just don't want to leave anything out. It's just like when I look at Mary [J. Blige], she takes me inside herself.

I don't think many artists do that. There's a lot of people I've been watching and following, but I think for me the growth will show on this album. My first two albums were fun and really light-hearted records, because there weren't many trials and tribulations at 15 and 16, but it's very different now.

MTV: Have you started writing the music yet?

Monica: I haven't written anything and I haven't accepted any music. I know people probably think it's crazy because "Just Another Girl" is out, but I have to do things at a moderate pace.

Monica Sees What It's Like To Be DMX's Mistress On Likely Next Single

Singer eyeing 'Don't Gotta Go Home' as third offering from After the Storm.

This time the boy is not hers.

Monica, who famously sang "The Boy Is Mine" with Brandy in 1998, is eyeing the infidelity tale "Don't Gotta Go Home" as the third single from her album After the Storm.
"It talks about something that I have never actually experienced — it's about a woman who's in a relationship with a married man," Monica said at the recent Vibe Awards. "She is the mistress, as you would say. And it just tries to tell the story from her point of view."

"Don't Gotta Go Home" features DMX, who alternates lines with Monica, rapping lyrics such as, "Baby, it's like I love my wife/ But we going through things and I ain't going home tonight." Later, Monica responds, "Baby, I can treat you better than she can/ It doesn't make sense to keep on loving and keep on trusting/ When in return all you get is nothing."

"X, of course, he delivers because he is quite an energy," Monica said. "We had a good time doing it because we have one of those types of relationships that makes it easy for us to work. We have an understanding for each other, so it came out really good."

Monica will ultimately let "the people" choose the follow-up to the Missy Elliott-produced "Knock Knock" (see "'Knock Knock,' Who's There? Monica And Missy Elliott, Bringing The Heat"), but she thinks they too want to see a video for "Don't Gotta Go Home."

The singer is hoping to launch a tour in early 2004, and in the meantime has been working on another element of her career.

"I've been kind of sneaking around [Hollywood], taking some meetings and seeing what's going around," said Monica, who starred in MTV's "Love Song." "I am looking forward to doing another movie."

And if acting doesn't work out, there's another job she can perform in front of the camera: She recently hosted the American Music Awards pre-show with 'NSYNC's Lance Bass.

"I must admit I had a good time interviewing the artists because I feel like they feel more comfortable with me," she said. "They don't feel like they are being questioned, they just feel like they are talking and socializing, so it was cool."

'Knock Knock,' Who's There? Monica And Missy Elliott, BringingThe Heat

'Knock Knock' said to be literal, thematic follow-up to singer's first single, 'So Gone.'

Monica will follow up her "So Gone" single not with a bang, but a knock. Actually, two of them.

" 'Knock Knock' is ... like a follow-up to 'So Gone,' just saying that, 'All right, we went through all that stuff,now for you to get lost, the singer said.
" 'This is the end of the road for you.' So, it's kind of like a 'get back' record."

Like After the Storm's first single, "Knock Knock" was produced by Missy Elliott .

"She doesn't have any fear," Monica said of the producer. "When she goes in the studio, her goal is to be creative and to give something new and she could care less what else is current. And she creates new trends by doing that."

Elliott's help on After the Storm, which was originally set for release last fall with a different title and without the help of the "Work It" star, helped the singer score a #1 debut on this week's albums chart (see "All Eyez On Monica As She Nabs Top Chart Slot ").

"It's a blessing," Monica said. "To just be at home, doing your work and trying to give all that you got, you never know what the outcome will be. But they always say you give what you want back. And I just wanted people's love and for them to be receptive to my music now, and I'm thankful."

Monica's Next Album Showcases Her Newfound Potty Mouth

Singer's penchant for singing songs in bathroom contributed to many tracks on Monica.

Monica has spent a lot of time in the bathroom lately.

"Strangely enough, that's where it happens for me," the 21-year-old singer said of her latest talent — songwriting. "I'll be sitting in there in my own world and I'm singing, and then I come out and when the pen touches the paper, it doesn't stop until I'm done."

Monica wrote or co-wrote all but three of the songs on her third album, Monica, due August 20. Her bathroom sessions yielded intensely personal material, beginning with her first composition, fittingly titled "I Wrote This Song."

The ballad, produced by longtime collaborators Soulshock and Karlin, is about witnessing her ex-boyfriend commit suicide.

"To talk about it first made [writing] the other songs a cool breeze, like a day on the beach or something," Monica explained during a break in filming the video for her first single, "All Eyez on Me." "I'm extremely strong, and I feel like he left me here to be responsible for certain things, whether it is his daughter or whether it was to teach me certain things. And I don't cry anymore. I put things in a better perspective. I make positive out of the negative."

Since her ex-boyfriend's death two years ago, he has appeared in many of Monica's dreams, sometimes guiding her career. In one dream, an angelic choir accompanied his voice.

"The next thing I know, here I am at Lisa ['Left Eye' Lopes'] funeral, and the choir there was singing to the point where I could barely catch my breath," Monica said. "They had my total attention and chose the perfect songs to bring comfort in that situation. And that same choir agreed to come back and do an inspirational record with me."

The ensuing track, "Searching for the Answers," is Monica's gift to those who lost family and friends on September 11, a morning she spent on an airplane that had left New York.

"I tried to find a way to bring comfort to them and not just do a song called '9/11' or something like that," Monica said. "I wanted to touch the people who are in their homes, now that the publicity part of it is over, who are still suffering."

Monica and producer Jermaine Dupri co-wrote one of the songs, "U Should've Known," about her experience in a relationship that seemed to be going well until the man was incarcerated. (She declined to reveal his identity.) The album also includes the heartbreak tracks "Hurts the Most" and "Breaks My Heart," however, they were not penned by the singer, who said she has been blessed with great relationships.

The single "All Eyez on Me" is one of the album's most lighthearted tracks — a party jam produced by Rodney Jerkins that samples Michael Jackson's 1983 hit "P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)."

Monica is a longtime Jackson fan, so she was delighted when the self-declared King of Pop handed over the original masters of the song with his blessing.

"My first concert ever was the Bad tour," said Monica, who is hoping to tour herself this fall. "I was absolutely mesmerized. I've always been a fan of Michael's for the simple fact that what he's done no one else will really be able to do. And that's something that makes you legendary."

Although the title may imply it, the song is not about being a celebrity. "It's not one of those vain, stuck-up songs, like, 'Everybody's lookin' at me,' " she explained. "When you go out and have a good time, if you get dressed up in the right thing, all eyes will be on you — it doesn't matter if it's Monica or whoever else."

The song's title is also a nod to Tupac Shakur, whose influence is even stronger on the track "You Deserve," which samples his "Hail Mary."

Daron Jones from 112 appears on that track, although unlike past Monica albums, which have included appearances from Usher, Brandy and Outkast, there are no other high-profile collaborations on the new release. Monica did work with her usual stable of producers, which also includes Dallas Austin.

Monica's next single will likely be "Cry No More," a mid-tempo track about a girl who falls in love with someone who has a family that he never discussed. For now, though, she is concerned with "All Eyez on Me" and with finishing the second day of the Chris Robinson-directed (Alicia Keys, P. Diddy) video shoot by the projected time of 3:30 a.m.

"The theme of the video is me just getting up, going about a normal day," Monica said. "I got a chance to just go shopping and stuff like that, but this scene is more of me dancing and having a good time, like the song says, in the club. So that's basically the whole theme of it. Just to have a good time. You just see me happy, which is how I am now."

Monica Brings New Perspective To Third Album

Singer has been through a lot of growing up since 1998's The Boy Is Mine.

A couple of weeks ago Monica Arnold was three songs away completing her third album, due in July. But her reemergence into the music scene wasn't the only change she was going through. She's not the same girl that sang "The Boy Is Mine" with Brandy four years ago. She has more depth now.

Yes, her voice is a little deeper, and with the help of producer Rodney Jerkins and his Dark Child crew, she's discovered a new talent for writing songs. But her greatest growth comes from how she now sees things. The 21-year-old singer says persevering through a life-altering tragedy has given her more insight.

The first cut she penned for her new album was "I Wrote This Song," dedicated to ex-boyfriend Jarvis Knots, who killed himself two years ago. Monica is now raising a daughter he had from another relationship.

"It's not often that people at the age of 25 are no longer there anymore when you've been around them for a long time," she said. "After that situation, I wrote that song directly towards that incident. I chose to write it because he actually committed suicide. I refuse to speak on why, what or when. If you don't get it from the song, then you won't get it at all."

For another track, "All Eyez on Me," Monica merely wanted to sample Michael Jackson's 1983 hit "P.Y.T." but ended up getting the man himself. Jackson hand-delivered the recording and wailed away on her probable first single.

"He was extremely helpful," she said. "I know his relationship with Rodney helped, but as an artist I was really honored he took that much of an interest in it. He really could have FedExed the stuff and been through with it. Then his ad-libs at the end, he was fine with that. It was a lot of stuff that made me feel confident in it. The same way that 'P.Y.T.' was, I was hoping 'All Eyez on Me' would be — more relaxing and you could have a good time. It's not based on anything emotional or anything sad. It's a feel-good song for the summer."

Monica said Tupac's song of the same title was somewhat of an inspiration. "I always liked the idea of 'all eyes on me,' even from his perspective. Because sometimes that's what our life becomes. I thought that would grab the attention of a lot of people."

She won't be dropping jaws by singing about "Catchin' cases at a fast rate, ballin' in the fast lane," or sending cowards "straight to the depths of hell," though, like the rap legend did in 1996. In her version, she's not even the centerpiece of the song.

" 'All eyes on me,' that's the hook. Some people may think its focus is on me," she said, but "what I was trying to portray on the song was I like to have a good time. If we go somewhere, 'All eyes on me, let's have a good time together.' That was the idea of the song."

To say she had a good time in the studio would be an understatement, especially when it came to recording with producers Soulshock and Karlin, who first worked with her on "Before You Walk Out of My Life," when she was 13.

"It's really like 'Comic View,' " she said about working with the duo. "We go back and forth the entire session. We still get the work done, 'cause we know Clive [Davis] is waiting on it at the end of the day."

Monica has a strong relationship with all the producers on her album, which include Jermaine Dupri, Jerkins and Dallas Austin, who first signed her to his now-defunct Rowdy records.

"I think I've been lucky," she said. "Most of them look at me like their sister. If you meet somebody 12 years old and here I am now 21 years old, that's a long time to create a certain type of bond with each other. Jermaine and I, we discuss everything, whether it's relationships or music, and that makes it easy for him to create things, even when I'm not there."

Monica: Jingle Jamming

A platinum-plated R&B songstress branches out into acting... sound familiar? Not when it's Monica, who'd rather take a choice supporting role than grab for the spotlight her first time out. That's what the low-key diva did for her upcoming screen debut in the Freddie Prinze Jr. flick "Boys & Girls." The part has even led to a meatier role in an upcoming MTV movie alongside a co-star who also happens to be in 'NSYNC.

Monica's also got set her sights on the follow-up to 1998's "The Boy Is Mine," but first she's got another gig to take care of: the year-long Jingle Jam Talent Search for Oscar Mayer, which combs the country for the new singer (and lyricist) of the classic hot-dog ditty. As part of the grand prize, Monica will record the revamped tune with the winner.

As Monica told Roger Coletti of the MTV Radio Network, it's a project that's very close to her heart. She's even got opinions to spare about the company's new Wienermobiles. Oh, and she dished a few choice tidbits about her next LP and movie plans in the process...

MTV Radio Network: How did you get involved with the Jingle Jam Talent Search?

Monica: My start was very similar to [this] atmosphere, and I just thought it was interesting that kids would get the opportunity to not only have fun, but reap the benefits of something that would be beneficial [toward the] college cause. We all know it's very expensive.

MTV: Where does your involvement go from there? Will you record something in conjunction with the contest?

Monica: Exactly. I will continue with Jingle Jam until the end. What happens is they will rewrite the Oscar Mayer hot dog song, but they'll have to rewrite it to the original melody. Once they write it, whoever wins, I will sing their lyrics [to the new jingle].

MTV: That's pretty interesting. You were talking before about how important talent shows were to you. Is this the sort of thing you would recommend to new artists?

Monica: I think so, for the simple fact that talent searches make you more comfortable with audiences. I went from singing in church to singing on talent-show stages, and it was a very different jump. A lot of times, especially if you sing at family churches or something, they will be nice, because they feel like they have to. But at talent contests, you get some extreme feedback. And if it's good or bad, you kind of take it, and you move along with it, and you better the things that people may have criticized from the beginning. You better yourself even before you meet record executives. A lot of times, they have their eyes on you through talent searches.

MTV: Aside from this project, what are you working on now?

Monica: Right now I'm preparing for the movie I am about to do. It's an MTV movie, and it's kind of a takeoff of "Love Story," but we're calling it "Love Song." It's myself and Justin Timberlake of 'NSYNC. We basically took a lot of issues that were within "Love Story," and we put them in "Love Song," but we modernized it by bringing music to the table. It's being filmed in New Orleans. [There's also] "Boys & Girls," which I did a really small part in. It's a Freddie Prinze Jr. movie. It comes out on the 16th of June. Those were the things that I worked on, and I'll go into the studio in probably three of four weeks.

MTV: Do you want to do more movies in the future?

Monica: I would love to. I think one thing about me is, I didn't mind taking a small role if it's good quality, or a big role if it's good quality, because I think what I needed is a really good supporting cast. I don't feel the need to be a spotlight hog, for lack of better words, just for the sake of it. I wanted it to be really good.

I hope that people really like it, because I am trying to establish two totally separate people. I don't want them to accept it because, "Well, Monica's album was good, so we like the movie." I would rather it would be they like me the way they like Jennifer Lopez when she acts, with her singing being totally separate.

MTV: Are you going into the studio to start a new album?

Monica: Yeah, definitely. More than likely I'll have out a single by October.

MTV: Who are you going to work with? Any producers in mind?

Monica: Oh, yeah. Dallas Austin, Rodney Jerkins, David Foster, Daryl Simmons, of course Jermaine Dupri, and that's it. Those were the same ones I worked with on my last album. They say, "If it's not broke..."

MTV: Do you hope to have this album out this year?

Monica: No, early next year, between January and February, after we find a grand-prize winner [in the Talent Search]. It will be something for me to look forward to, just knowing that someone else will get the opportunity to show their talent to the world. I'll get back to me in the beginning of the year, or maybe late, late winter.
MTV: You did a video recently for "I've Got To Have It" from the "Big Momma's House" soundtrack. Jermaine Dupri told us that the video was a lot of fun to make.

Monica: Yeah, and what's good about this particular song is the fact that Jermaine and I have a relationship with each other. It made it easy to work, and it's a lot easier to work when I am not carrying the weight by myself. That was different for me, because I hadn't been in a group or in a setting where others would have to carry some weight. I probably could work two hours, and kick back, and then work two more hours.

MTV: After doing the whole acting thing, do you approach videos any differently now? Do you prepare for it like you do for a movie, or do you approach movies and videos as totally separate things?

Monica: Totally separate! For me, singing came real easy. Acting is extreme work. I feel work whenever I step into a project, so it's totally different. In videos and stuff, I'm really relaxed. I just perform.

MTV: Going back to the Oscar Mayer contest... what do you think of the new hot dog mobile?

Monica: It's actually very, very nice. It is extremely nice on the inside. I think it takes very strong human beings to pack up and get in the hot dog for a year. That's pretty much what they do. It's, like, six weenie mobiles out and about, traveling the country.

MTV: It's amazing how much you actually know about this contest. [M laughs] No, seriously! We cover a lot of events where there are artists who are spokespeople for events, and they come over and shake a hand and really have no idea. It's nice to see how you are really behind this and believe in what they're doing, and that you're involved in the contest.

Monica: I think it's good for the kids. I mean that. I think they will [enjoy the contest], whether they like hot dogs or not. [RealAudio] Having the opportunity for people just to hear them, just to experience that -- it's so important.

Monica just growing up

This can't be the same baggy-clad, fourteen-year-old tomboy who sang "Don't Take It Personal," can it? Well, the real Monica hasn't changed. She's just growing up in public and doing it with style.

Last year, the video for her duet with Brandy, "The Boy Is Mine," revealed a new Monica to the world: still sassy, but suddenly sleek and sophisticated. Her sought-after look has developed over the course of the subsequent videos, "The First Night" and "Angel of Mine," and a lot of the credit goes not only to her stylist, Derek Khan, but to Monica herself, who is about as far from makeover-shy as possible.

"Never thought I'd be afraid to trust/somebody that I love so much," Monica sings on "Street Symphony," the lead-off track on her smash second album. It's the plea of a frightened young woman devoted to a guy who's more devoted to "the profession," and an ambitious selection for her next single. Then again, it's the kind of move we've come to expect from Monica.

The song's dark, cinematic drama is translated to the small screen by Darren Grant (who directed "Nobody's Supposed to Be Here" for Deborah Cox and "Anytime" for Brian McKnight), and stylist Khan helped Monica make her latest and most dramatic physical transformation yet.
Monica invited MTV News to L.A. and allowed us to eavesdrop as she talked "Street Symphony" with Khan. We got the scoop on the song's real-life inspiration, her contributions to the video concept, her excitement about her latest (and blondest) look, and her decision to reveal a choice piece of body art.

Derek Khan: So, Mo, how did "Street Symphony" come about?

Monica: Well, "Street Symphony" was actually a song written from a phone conversation of mine. Dallas [producer/songwriter Dallas Austin] and I have a relationship that is indescribable, I mean, I can't put it in words. But for him to sit down and listen to me and write this song made this song a lot closer to me than the others.

DK: So he heard this conversation and then --

M: Oh yeah, and I would always talk to [Dallas] about how I felt about that particular person, and that's what he wrote this song around.

DK: Is it correct of me to say this is your favorite song on the album?

M: Yes, it is.
DK: When you were going to do the whole change for "Street Symphony," with your hair and your whole new makeup and image, what was going through your mind?

M: I was very comfortable. I was the only one who wasn't afraid [that I would be] going blond and wearing different things [like] leather, which are things that I like and I enjoy personally, but people have seen me for the last three videos in something totally different. So I was more excited. I wasn't nervous in the least bit.

DK: And you do have a few tattoos. Why did you choose to allow us to show the neck tattoo?

M: For the simple fact that this video will keep things true to the music I love and true to what I know, and it's a song that basically talks about several elements of my life.
I am an adult now... even though tattoos can be very influential upon children, I think at this point you have to establish some rules and guidelines the same way my mother did. Once you're of age you can make those types of decisions, and that's just one I made.

DK: Your high heels and tight skirts and all of that... is that comfortable? We first started with "The Boy Is Mine" when you never wore skirts, and we tried to change that whole feel...

M: Right. I wanna change. So that's one thing that's different for me than other artists. Most artists find something that works and they stick with it. But I had no problem trying different things.

I enjoyed doing the skirt [in "The Boy Is Mine"], 'cause that was, like, for shock value [Laughs]. You know, that shocked a lot of people to see the skirt with the slits in it, and my hair was long, I had gone from short, short hair and baggy clothes to fitted outfits and long hair.

It was something that was a natural progression for me. As I got older, those were things that I liked. So it was real comfortable.

DK: And now the public is going to see you dance a lot in this video.

M: [Laughs] Yeah.

DK: Which is great!

M: It's an Atlanta dance that we do a lot. It's funny. It's hilarious. You have got to see the video. And Darren Grant was a very good director --

DK: Darren was wonderful.
M: He was a great director. I think he took this video in more of a direction of a film, and that's what I wanted. Throughout the video, you'll see that [the man I'm singing to is] living a very illegal life, and I'm begging him to change his ways because I fear for his life. But you'll see all the things he's giving me, all the things he buys me, the way the actual condominium looks. So it's a real in-depth story, and it's a big reality check for a lot of young women who are living that actual story right now, that feel like it's okay. I show a positive ending, but there could be negative ones.
DK: How have you felt you have changed since we have been working from "The Boy Is Mine" up to now? This last video was a longer, much more intense shoot than we've ever done --

M: But I was still more comfortable.

DK: You were totally at ease. We were the ones who were slacking off! Why is that?

M: Because it was things that I wanted to do. I chose my hair color. I chose the clothes. And working with you is easy for me, because we have a comfortable relationship.

DK: Definitely.

M: There's never, like, pressure coming from you... and normally we agree.

DK: We always agree.

M: It's always like, "You like this?" "Oh, I like that! I like it a lot!" It's never like, "Derek, I don't want that!" "No, this is hot! This is over the top!" We never have that problem, which is just a blessing, 'cause it could be the opposite. But I just really feel like the main thing [was having] the opportunity to say, "You know what? This is not gonna work."

DK: "What do you want as an artist?"

M: Right. I chose the storyline. I chose Darren. It was something that was closer to me. Normally it's: "Derek knows what I like." "Derek, just bring me the outfits." I wasn't involved in picking them out because I know [you know] me, but this time, I felt like everything should be done together, because that's how the song was created.

DK: And I think we did achieve that.

M: Mm-hmm. [Laughs]

DK: And I think everybody will be extremely excited to see that new look and feel.

M: Yeah.

DK: And the haircut. It's rather drastic for Mo. I mean, we're going where nobody has ever gone before.

M: Yeah.

DK: And the tattoos. Everybody is going to be talking about that. Did they hurt?

M: Yeah. They did. They hurt. Don't do it. [Laughs]

Monica ring tones


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