I Wanna Be Down

Album: Brandy (1994)
Charted: 36 6
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  • "I Wanna Be Down" was the first single for Brandy, who was just 15 and best known for her role on Thea, a sitcom that lasted only one season. The song is age-appropriate, with her letting a boy know she has feelings for him. To be "down" with someone means to hang out together and feel their vibe, at least in this context.
  • The song was written by Keith Crouch and Kipper Jones, and produced by Crouch. In a Songfacts interview with Jones, he explained how it came together: "I'm writing with a few different people around town, still living in Los Angeles, and one of the people I was writing with is my dear friend Keith Crouch. I went by his apartment this one particular day, and this track he was playing, I was just, 'Oh my God, that is mesmerizing. What is that?'

    He says, 'I don't know man, just something I'm working on.' So I went and got my book and came back in and came up with the line, 'I wanna be down.' So, Keith, his brother Kenneth, the soul legend Rahsaan Patterson, and a bottle of Hennessy were just traipsing around the room singing 'I wanna be down... with what you're going through.'

    We were like, 'Yeah, that's great.' I said, 'I'm going to step in the other room and try to write some verses right quick.' I went in the other room and came up with, 'I would like to get to know if I could be...'

    I just wrote one verse, went in, put the verse down, and Keith just stopped the recorder and we all looked at each other like, 'This is special.' It was a really dramatic pause, like, I think we got something."
  • After writing this song with Keith Crouch, Kipper Jones thought they would pitch it to Vanessa Williams, who had established herself as a star thanks in part to some songs Jones worked on: "The Right Stuff" and "The Comfort Zone." But Crouch had gotten involved in Brandy's album and thought it would be perfect for her. He had to convince Jones that pitching the song to an unknown 14-year-old (at the time) singer was a better play than sending it to Vanessa Williams, which wasn't an easy sell.

    Crouch convinced him to let Brandy demo the song so he could hear for himself. "He takes her in, they cut the record, and he let me hear it," Jones told Songfacts. "I literally said, f--k me, because there was no way in the world this voice was 14 years old."

    Brandy turned out to be the real deal. The song was a #1 R&B hit, the album sold over 4 million copies, and Brandy became a teen sensation, getting her own TV series, Moesha, two years later. Vanessa Williams' 1994 album sold just a million, as she had shifted her focus to acting.
  • When Brandy's label, Atlantic Records, heard this song, they not only pegged it as her first single, but asked for more songs from the writers. Crouch and Jones ended up supplying the next single as well: "Baby," along with two more tracks for the album: "Movin' On" and "Brokenhearted."
  • The video is very innocent and a good look at teenage courtship in 1995. We see Brandy call the boy she likes (on a rotary phone!), then meet up with him later along with a group of friends. They all just hang out, listen to music, and do some dancing. She's down with that.

    It was directed by Keith Ward, who also did TLC's "Baby-Baby-Baby" and Arrested Development's "Mr. Wendal."
  • The hip-hop heavyweights Queen Latifah, MC Lyte, and Yo-Yo each dropped verses on a remix that's far less innocent than the original (a line from Latifah: "I'll be your sexual chocolate bar") but connected Brandy with the rap community.

    In the US, the remix was only available on Brandy's next single, "Baby," which went to #1 on the R&B chart and sold over a million copies.

    There was also a video made for the remix version directed by Hype Williams and starring the three rappers along with Brandy. The video shoot was the first time they were together, as they recorded their parts separately. Williams also did the "Baby" video.
  • Brandy performed the remix version live with Queen Latifah, MC Lyte, and Yo-Yo at the 2014 BET Awards, coinciding with the 20th anniversary of the album.
  • Brandy wanted her first single to be "Best Friend," which she liked better, but "I Wanna Be Down" served her well. The first time she heard it on the radio, she was in the drive-thru at Taco Bell, and the DJ introduced the song, saying her name. "It was like, 'Thank you God, this is everything for me,'" Brandy told Billboard. "It felt like it belonged there."


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