In 2002 at the age of 23, Brandy, six months into her pregnancy, sat down with Oprah and revealed her secret marriage to the rest of the world with a blissful smile. The big reveal proved to be an equally big lie. She was never married. Twelve years later, when reminiscing about her “big fib” with Oprah, she instantly got emotional. “At that time, being pregnant out of wedlock was not a trend. It was not something that people praised, you know. It was…it was, it was a sin.”
Fast forward to 2020, “Baby Mama”, her latest single released ahead of her first studio album in eight years, is a triumphant comeback. As a social reality of marriage and family planning for many African American women, single motherhood, drowning in the ocean of “baby mama”, the long stigmatized papier-mâché in popular culture, gets to breathe out of water for a moment thanks to Brandy’s autobiographical sketch. Inspired by her daughter, the song starts out with her claiming the parental devotion in full force. Autonomy and independence are celebrated, as collective effort is acknowledged (“It takes a village to raise ’em/We don’t do it all by ourselves”). She gets defensive about public scrutiny, but chases after a higher purpose in spreading the inspiration. Preceded by a catchy chorus, the most liberating part of the song finds her unfiltered with her womanhood. She refuses to be objectified, diminished or compromised. And she is having a good time out of it (“I’m thinkin’ maybe I’ll just chill tonight/Stomp up in some heels tonight”). Chance the Rapper then hops in with a cheeky verse, welding his new-found wife-loving persona to the animated energy of his early works.
Truly a match made in heaven, Hit-Boy’s upbeat, vibrant production amplifies the positive message of Brandy’s story-telling by simulating the sonics of a marching band. In recent years, from Lizzo and Normani’s glittering pop culture moments, to gigantic events like Beyoncé’s Coachella takeover and Kanye West’s Sunday Service, marching bands of HBSUs, historically black colleges and universities, are making a loud wave with their profound cultural heritage. The horns and the trumpets of “Baby Mama” have set the correct tone for Brandy as a black single mother with a matured perspective and a better life to celebrate.