The Tribute Is Theirs: Lila Iké and H.E.R. Honor a Nineties R&B Touchstone

On "He Loves Us Both," H.E.R. and Lila Iké take inspiration from Brandy and Monica's "The Boy Is Mine." - Credit: RCA Records
On "He Loves Us Both," H.E.R. and Lila Iké take inspiration from Brandy and Monica's "The Boy Is Mine." - Credit: RCA Records

As decades pass, it’s become clear that Brandy and Monica’s 1998 stare-down, “The Boy Is Mine,” wasn’t just a ubiquitous song and video in its day. (It was Number One on the pop chart for an astounding 13 consecutive weeks.) Its legacy has extended way beyond that era. Contestants covered it on The Voice, Ariana Grande remade it on Eternal Sunshine, and the debate over whether the two singers in it were really in a feud or not is a movie waiting to be made.

But a new single and video, bringing together two contemporary artists — H.E.R. and Jamaican new-reggae queen Lila Iké — truly reveals what a generational touchstone that song has become.

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A preview of Iké’s forthcoming album, “He Loves Us Both” is a glistening slow-jam duet (produced by Protoje) with a gentle reggae pulse that reminds you of Iké’s dancehall-leaning records to date. But from the start, the song harked back to an earlier hit. “I remember working on this song on my guitar and thinking it needs a feature with a really dope female artist as it reminded me of ‘The Boy Is Mine’ collaboration,” Iké says in a statement, adding that the two met during the early Covid era and initially worked on a H.E.R. project. “The first time I played this song for her she immediately got in the booth and so effortlessly made it into the masterpiece it is today.”

As in the Brandy and Monica song, “He Loves Us Both” finds the two singers trading warning shots over a guy. “See that’s just the thing ‘bout love/You can’t choose what you feel,” sings Iké; H.E.R. shoots back, “The man I love the most/Was just holding you close.”

That alone conjures the back-and-forths in “The Boy Is Mine,” but it’s the song’s video, directed by child., that really brings it back home to the days of Nineties R&B. Iké and H.E.R. trade verses at a party where the object of their mutual affection — Joey Bada$$, taking the role of Mekhi Phifer in the “Boy Is Mine” clip — is also in the house. And as in “The Boy Is Mine,” they too unite against their newfound common enemy. What better way to honor an iconic pop culture moment?

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