In the words of the late Natina Reed, “Blaque is back again!“
The protegé’s of TLC‘s Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes, Blaque (Believing in Life and Achieving a Quest of Unity in Everything), are gearing up for the release of their 3rd studio album, ‘Torch‘, on all digital platforms on May 31, 2019 to mark their 20th anniversary since their debut in 1999.
To celebrate the release this week, group member Brandi D. Williams sat down with The SoulBack R&B Podcast to discuss the making of ‘Torch’, her feelings on the music industry and what the future holds for Blaque.
Thoughts on the debut Blaque album
I can’t believe it’s been twenty years! It blows my mind when we even say that. One of my fondest memories was just actually buying the album when they had record stores twenty years ago! Shamari and I went to — I think it was Blockbuster Music or something at the time, we ran in and bought the album. It was an exciting time.
Working with *NSYNC
They’re like our brothers. Not just on the song (“Bring It All To Me“) — we were fortunate enough to tour with them. So, our very first tour was opening for them. Just to be able to gain their fanbase, and then we were able to release a record with them, it was just incredible. We had the same management at the time, Johnny Wright, so we were like one big family. They really embraced us. When the album went platinum they sent us roses, we were grateful to be a part of their lives and careers and same, they were a part of ours.
‘Blaque Out’ album
We love the ‘Blaque Out‘ album, that was one of our favorite albums that we recorded! We executive produced that album, so shout out to the ‘Blaque Out’ album! It’s crazy that “Questions” isn’t on the Spotify/iTunes version of the album. We actually wrote it, which is another song our fans love and adore. We’ll have to look into that because I didn’t know that.
Inspiration behind socially conscious songs
We were very conscious young ladies growing up. We always wanted to bring people together, just love and give love and show love, and show people that that’s what this world is about. So, we wanted to make sure that was being conveyed on our album when we put it out.
Blaque’s vocal chemistry
Shamari is incredibly talented and I learned a lot from her. Just being able to grow with her and watch her as an artist and her vocal ability is crazy. I’ve been watching her since I was twelve years old. I come from a long list of entertainers. My Dad taught me how to become an excellent person to hear harmonies and just have a strong ear, so if I was doing background or a lead that they were strong, present and felt. So, hopefully I accomplished that.
It’s about a puzzle. A group is a group. It’s not about one person. It’s not a ‘I’, ‘me’ show. It’s not the Brandi album, it’s not the Shamari album, or not the Natina album, it was a group. So, we all knew how to play our parts and positions. When it was time for somebody to step up and do something different, we all had to back each other up. That’s what it takes to be a real group member, is to know where you fall in line. When it’s time to step up, you step up, but don’t forget that it’s a group, at the end of the day.
Relationship with Shamari
We’re sisters, for sure. It doesn’t start or end with Blaque. We’ve been in each others lives since I was twelve years old. She’s the best big sister I could ever have. She’s married and had two adorable twins. I’ve learned a lot from her, as a woman and a vocalist. I’m the godmother to the boys and we’re a real family.
Shout out to the Blaque fans because they have been riding with us for twenty years! So, we are thankful and grateful for them. We will forever be grateful that they still care and wanna hear and see and champion for us. We could not do this without you guys, at all! They could have been like, ‘been there, done that‘. They could look at us like one hit wonders or whatever, but they don’t! They feel like we made an impact in our time and they still wanna hear us, see us, love on us and continue to support us. And we love them. We hope we’re making them happy and proud. We’re continuing to move forward and putting this ‘Torch’ album out, and I hope that they love it.
Favorite Blaque songs
It changes through the years, I guess. My very first favorite song when we put the album out was “Leny“. I love “Rainbow Drive“. “808” is probably my favorite right now because I just love how the drums are on the track, it’s incredible. I had to learn to appreciate that song, I didn’t really like it when we first recorded it, I felt like it was super urban and really wasn’t us, but it was a big song for us, and we’re thankful for it, and I love it, now.
The ‘Torch’ album is actually the very last studio, label album that we recorded with Natina. So, this is pretty much the last album you’re gonna get with the three of us, which is super special. We recorded this album when we were signed to Elektra Records. Sylvia Rhone was the president at the time, and some things happened over there. Label heads got changed, and she was the person looking over our project. So, when she moved to a different company, they decided to drop a lot of her artists, and we were one of them. But the blessing of that situation was that they gave us our album, so we actually own the album.
Losing Natina, and trying to figure out what to do next, our fans just kept saying, ‘hey guys, we really want this album’, they put a petition out, like ‘hey can we get this album?’ and Shamari and I was like, instead of putting out an album with just the two of us, let’s give the fans what they’ve been asking for, for the last ten years!
They’ve been asking for this album since before Natina passed away, it’s been crazy. We were like, our 20th anniversary is coming, what better way to give our fans what they’ve been asking for, forever and celebrate with them with this album. So, we’re really excited!
Thoughts on the ‘Torch’ sound
I’m really nervous about it. It’s not our favorite, it was really driven by Sylvia and the label. They picked a lot of the producers and writers that we worked with, so it’s not like we had a big hand in creating it. But now when I listen to it, it’s not as bad as I thought. Everybody loves it that’s heard it, so far. They’re like, it sounds like you guys recorded it today and it doesn’t sound as old as it is. So, that makes me feel good about it. I just can’t wait to see what happens on the 31st (May).
Why ‘I’m Good’ isn’t on ‘Torch’
We had a couple of strong singles [in 2003], like ‘I’m Good‘, which is actually not a part of the album, but they used it like an introduction, like ‘here’s the new Blaque, we’re gonna put a single out through ‘Honey‘ [movie soundtrack]’, then they dropped ‘Ugly‘, which Missy Elliott did. I think it would have set us up to do more great music in the industry [if ‘Torch’ was released in 2003]‘. It would have set us up on another level. But for people to feel like this album sounds like we recorded it today, means that it was God’s plan that it should come out now and not then, so I’m grateful for that.
Music evolution with new generation
My sister, Kodie Shane, is a part of the new generation of music now, and I watch her record and it’s a different process. How the song is structured and how they sound. But, different is good! It’s evolving, and it should not be how it was twenty years ago. A lot of people are like it’s not real music, but it’s their music, and it’s our music, so we should embrace that, instead of trying to keep hold of what was. We have to embrace what is. I appreciate that they are taking where we started and laid the foundations to, and turning it into what they want it to be. That’s what you do, that’s how growth happens.
New Blaque music
We will definitely be releasing some new music after we’ve had a good run with ‘Torch’. But first we really want to do this first. I feel like our fans would be like, ‘okay, we love this new stuff, but where is Torch?’ So, we just wanna give them what they’ve been asking for, then say okay you’ve got what you want, now here’s some new stuff!