Fourteen years ago, Monica and Brandy were the two biggest names in R&B and when they joined forces for the chart-topping "The Boy is Mine," it was pop music perfection. But the warring divas persona they played up in the #1 hit song — about two young women fighting over the same man — turned out to be the case outside of the recording studio as well. But over the years, the feud mellowed and the two ladies, who are now both in their 30s and mothers, have become close friends — with a new duet, "It All Belongs to Me." "Over the process of 14 years, she and I both experienced a lot of the same things: love, losses, becoming parents, a lot of the things that brought us full circle," Monica, 31, tells omg!. "Six years ago, she said, 'Monica, I want to do another song together, you and I as adults, let's make it happen.' The hard part was actually finding a song that made sense to the both of us because we didn't want people to think we were trying to tamper with the history of what 'The Boy is Mine' was. We were trying to make a continuation … where you could hear that we were reunited and we had grown as women and as artists … because we kind of stand together in this song."
With that said, it was a long, painful road to friendship. For Monica, it was the suicide of her boyfriend Jarvis Weems in 2000, and the quickie divorce from rapper Rocko — the father of her two sons Rodney, 7, and Romelo, 4 — in 2009 after she discovered he had cheated on her. During that same time, Brandy, 33, had given birth to her daughter Sy'rai, now 9, with producer Robert Smith. The two split in 2003, and it was later revealed they had lied about being married. She then had another failed engagement to NBA player Quentin Richardson. "We were only seeing each other in passing as we were working doing different things," says Monica. "But I think as I experienced certain stuff, she did as well, and we started having these real in-depth conversations, especially once we had children … that really brought our friendship full circle. Now, we're spending regular time together, so we can talk about what our kids love, joking and friendly, which is something we never had the opportunity to do before. So in promoting this record I think there's been a great friendship established."
"It All Belongs to Me" is the lead single off Monica's latest album, New Life (available today, April 10), which celebrates the singer's, well, new life now that she's happily married to NBA player Shannon Brown of the Phoenix Suns. The two said "I do" not once, but twice: first, in November 2010, five months after they met, and again last July in front of friends and family. She explains that this album is a continuation of her last — 2009's Still Standing — which she says "was about being in the midst of gathering my thoughts and really just making it happen as a mother and as an artist, really just trying to figure everything out. New Life is about me embracing the different things in my life that have changed and embarking on newer things and being fearless about it."
Of course, Monica credits Brown, 26, as her muse for many of the songs on New Life. Her favorite track about her husband, "About You," was brought to her by her cousin and producer, Polow da Don. "I think for him, he wanted to help me find and create a song that would say exactly how I feel about my husband," she notes. Her other favorite? "Man Who Has Everything," which she says "speaks volumes to the fact that nowadays people are so hung up on being materialistic. They think material things make you complete. This song just says you can have everything, but the one thing that is most important is the one thing money can't buy, and that's love. You don't have everything if you don't have that."
Now that Monica does have that, she's enjoying every minute. She says she hopes the newlywed phase never diminishes, just like it hasn't for her own parents. And she also plans to have "several" more kids. She and Brown, who split their time between Atlanta and Phoenix, have a blended family: her two sons from her first marriage and his son Shannon from an ex-girlfriend. "I think what makes it great is that our youngest two are the same age," she tells omg!. "We have two 4-year-olds in the house and my 7-year-old, Rodney, is the oldest, so he acts very much like the big brother. The youngest two, they have a ball with one another. The boys are all in close enough age that they enjoy the same things … They recognize that we love them, we don't pay attention to who biologically belongs to who. They all belong to us."
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