Singer Monica Arnold has come a long way since she burst onto the scene in 1995 as a sassy 14-year-old with a grown-up voice. Over the past 11 years, she’s released three platinum albums and is preparing to drop her fourth, “The Makings of Me,” on Sept. 19. The voice behind “Don’t Take It Personal,” “The Boy Is Mine” and “So Gone” talks to BET.com about what makes her new album different from the rest and how the new man in her life has changed her.
Tell us about your new single, “Everytime Tha Beat Drop.”
Monica: My first single is produced by Jermaine [Dupri], and we’ve been friends for a long time. We’re a real representation of what Atlanta is like. I wanted to bring something on the scene that talks a little bit about Atlanta culture, how we dance and a lot of little things that the world is starting to see, and incorporate snap music into that, so we came up with “Everytime Tha Beat Drop.”
Tell us about the album’s title, “The Makings of Me.”
Monica: It was hard to name the album, but this was the best title for it. It’s a diary of the last 11 years of my life, so it’s hard to group that all into one thing that makes sense. The second single is called “Dozen Roses,” and it was produced by Missy. It has a Curtis Mayfield sample in it that’s called “The Makings of You.” I felt like everything that I’m talking about, whether it’s in the now or the past, were the makings of me, how I am, who I am and what I represent. That’s where the title came from.
Who did you work with on the album?
Monica: I worked with people who are friends of mine and a couple of new people. Sean Garrett, Tank, Bryan Michael Cox, Jermaine, Missy and that was it. It was a nice small setting of people I could really allow to listen to a lot of different things about me. A lot of my songs were written off poems that I had written at different periods of my life. A lot of the things we pulled from are personal, which is why I didn’t work with a lot of producers.
It’s been three years since your last album. Is there any apprehension about returning to the scene when it seems like artists drop albums nearly once a year?
Monica: I’m a firm believer that we all do what we do; everybody has their own time. I watch people put out albums back to back, but that’s never been my way. I think I’ve always loved to keep a certain sense of normality, so when I’m not working, I like to be able to go back to Atlanta and have things be really normal. It keeps you humble and it keeps you appreciative.
As far as the break that I took for this album, it was kind of mandatory because I was pregnant. I was still performing at five months, and I don’t think anybody even noticed. By the time I had my son, I just dedicated myself to that first year of his life because I felt like he needed that undivided attention from me. That is my main concern every day when I wake up; everything else is secondary.
Has becoming a mother affected your subject matter or how you dress?
Monica: My son, Rodney, completely changed my perspective on everything. First of all, I find that it’s easier for me to work and take things in stride because I don’t sweat the small stuff anymore. On top of that, I think it makes me more conscious of things that I do. Like I’ve always had quite a rowdy temper — as a lot of people probably know [laughs]. But I have two sides, and I’ve kind of narrowed it down to one side because I’d like for him to feel like I’m setting an example. Also, I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my life, but I’ve also made a lot of good choices. I think me being able to go through a lot of things, work in this industry and still be able to adapt to a lot of different things will allow me to share that with him.
What are some differences fans may notice between this album and your previous ones?
Monica: This album has more storytelling than the others. I think that now, since I’m able to understand some of the things that have taken place in my life, I’ve been able to put enough stuff in perspective and find a way to tell a story in three minutes. So as you go through the album, song by song, I walk you through the last 11 years, step by step. I think that’s the biggest difference. It’s not just random songs on the CD. It’s really a story that I’m telling from beginning to end.