Victoria Monét is that girl.
On Aug. 15, the R&B star released the music video for her critically acclaimed bop, “On My Mama.” A nod to the early aughts, it brilliantly blends Y2K fashion with dynamic camera shots, slick choreography on cars, and an infectious attitude. Directed by Child., the video pays homage to iconic artists like Ciara and Destiny's Child with her style choices and visual aesthetics, and even features a cameo from Chalie Boy, whose 2009 hit "I Look Good" is sampled in “On My Mama.”
The video swiftly nabbed the spotlight on social media, with fans lauding Monét's meticulous attention to detail, seamless fusion of retro aesthetics with fresh elements, and homage to the past while carving her own path. The track itself has surged to over 2 million views on YouTube, serving as a teaser for her highly anticipated upcoming album, Jaguar II, which is slated for release on Aug. 25. This album marks her debut studio album and a follow-up to her acclaimed 2020 EP Jaguar. While “On My Mama” is performing well, she tells Complex viral success wasn't her sole aim for this project.
“My goal is always just to express myself,” she says. “Music is an outlet for me. I didn't have any siblings growing up. So it was always just there to go through experiences with me and narrate some of my experiences for me. So I've always wanted to be authentic and say what I really mean no matter if it's trendy or top 40 radio. So I feel like I've done that with this project. I'm very proud of it—the tracklist, the features, the collaborators, production wise. Now that it's out of my hands, I'm interested to see what people feel.”
Victoria Monét is aware that fans see her in many different lights, though. Her songwriting genius gained her widespread attention in 2019 when she contributed to Ariana Grande's Grammy-nominated album, thank u, next. Since then, she's continued to pen hits for industry giants like Chloe x Halle and Blackpink while pursuing her solo career. Monét welcomes recognition for her songwriting and singing alike, as long as it comes with the understanding that she's an artist of many facets.
“I think it's always been important for me to be multi-hyphenated as a kid. One of my favorite things to tell my grandmother was I want to be a triple threat,” Monét reminisces. “I want to be a dancer, actress, and a singer. I didn't have writing on the list, but I think when I said singer, it was all encompassing, as a creative.”
Victoria Monét spoke to Complex about Jaguar II, how motherhood has changed her vocal tone, and more.
How have you evolved or grown in the past year?
A lot of my growing up has to do with my daughter, Hazel. It's really interesting how you can learn so much from a 2-½--year-old when you’re supposed to be the person teaching them everything. I've definitely learned a lot of time management. I've learned a lot of patience. I've also learned to appreciate the little things that maybe I've taken advantage of. Because everything is so new to my daughter, it makes me remember how cool some things are, like rain or certain foods, tasting them for the first time. Like yeah, ice cream is pretty awesome, lollipops are fire. She's taught me a lot.
You mentioned previously that having a child has changed your vocal tone. Can you elaborate on that?
Having a child changes a lot about your body, but one thing that changed for me was my voice. Growing up, I had a high pitch and was soft spoken. Having my daughter, I feel like I went through puberty, because my voice is a little bit deeper and more round if I was to describe it now. It's just been really interesting. It's still new for me. So I just try to learn and work with it and do what feels right for my voice now. Some songs that I used to sing, I'm like, ”Can we lower the key?”
Artistically, what is the biggest difference between Jaguar and Jaguar II?
My confidence. Also, having a bigger team behind this project feels really awesome. Jaguar was a really amazing body of work that found its way to certain people, slowly and through the pandemic. People shared it organically. But I feel like Jaguar II has a lot more eyes on it, because people have navigated with me through the past three years. I'm really going into the project knowing that I'm going to have a tour right after, so I think the intention and the excitement is even leveled up for me. I'm really excited for people to take a dive into the album.
What was your goal going into this album?
My goal is always just to express myself. Music is an outlet for me. It's always been like a friend of mine. I didn't have any siblings growing up. So it was always just there to go through experiences with me and narrate some of my experiences for me. So I've always wanted to be authentic and say what I really mean no matter if it's trendy or top 40 radio. So I feel like I've done that with this project. I'm very proud of it—the tracklist, the features, the collaborators, production wise. Now that it's out of my hands, I'm interested to see what people feel.
What’s the significance of a jaguar (the animal) to you?
When I think of a jaguar, I know that their habitat is the jungle. I know that a lot of times they are not seen, but they're there, they exist. I know that they have a very strong bite; I think it's one of the strongest bites of the jungle. And they have this very amazing way of hunting and getting what they want. If you've ever seen a jaguar walk toward a camera, it's very intentional and with a little bit of seduction. If I was a jaguar, I'd be like, you're hot. So there's a little bit of sexuality there. But for me, I felt like the music industry has been my jungle, and I've been the black jaguar. I wasn't always seen, but I've always felt like I've been here existing amongst the leaves and the trees. And now with these projects, it's my time to come through, step into the light and bite some shit.
There are a lot of retro, ‘70s influences on this album. What about that era inspires you?
I actually am drawn to lots of eras: the ‘60s, even the ‘20s. I love Dorothy Dandridge and Motown music, the ‘70s, you know, just the fusion of music bringing more freedom and Black art to the forefront. But when I think of the ‘70s, specifically, I think of lots of live instrumentation. I've really admired musicians who practice their 10,000 hours. It's not like it's something that you could just pick up and do. From birth, you really have to work at it. I just respect the craft a lot. And I love hearing [the instrumentation], it feels like a warm embrace. It's also very nostalgic for me when I think about family reunions, weddings, or barbecues. There's just some really good vibe. So I tried to do my due diligence of incorporating the things that I love about other music [eras] into my music. And one of the things is having live instruments all over the album.
"I've always wanted to be authentic and say what I really mean no matter if it's trendy or top 40 radio."
What was your creative process like on this album and how has that changed from your previous ways of doing things once you factor in your family and artistic changes?
The biggest difference for me making this project versus any other project before is really limited time. If it were up to me, I would live in the studio and put a kitchen in there. I could make a studio at my house but I'd rather bring my house to the studio and be in an oversized onesie and make new things all day and all night. So I think the hardest thing for me was just time management, making sure that I was being equally invested in family life and friend life and promoting the music. I have to divide my studio time into little segments of my life versus just being able to camp out and go glamping in the studio. So that was really difficult for me. That's the only reason why I would want to clone. But I'm grateful because the time that I've spent studying and rehearsing and doing certain things allows me to do them quicker. I felt that about making songs, it's like I need to make things just as great but faster. So shoutout to people who have been studying their craft and doing their thing. Now they're able to do the same quality work, but in a much more time efficient way.
The tracklist includes a feature from Earth, Wind, & Fire. It’s clear you are a student of music, but many of your fans are probably not familiar with the group. So, why did you want to include them on the album?
I'm getting any Earth, Wind & Fire anything. Even if I bought a T-shirt, I'd feel really fucking cool. Earth, Wind & Fire has been a part of my life since as long as I can remember. Their songs just feel good. Whatever situation you're going through, you can play them and it’ll level up your day. So it's really an honor to be collaborating with people who I idolize. I'm so inspired by them, and it's really crazy to say, but it was lovely that they're a part of one of the ending songs of Jaguar II. It's like a nice exclamation point to the album. I'm just thankful. And they're on a song with my daughter as well. So it feels like a full circle moment that’s just so beautiful.
Did you record with them in the studio?
I recorded the song first and then brought them in. Philip Bailey came in one day and sang his part. And then Verdine White came in on a separate day. So it's almost like I got to collaborate with them twice. I brought Hazel and Verdine was nice enough to let her sit by him and watch them play the bass and he wrote down the notes, which is really dope because some people play by ear, but he plays both. He can read and write music and then also sound things out. So he wrote the notes, and at the end of the session, he was about to put the paper in his Birkin bag. And I was like, “Can I have that?” So now I have a laminated note signed by Verdine White. Awesome.
Your daughter doesn’t even know she’s a part of history.
No idea! But she does know when her part comes on. The part on the song is actually from when she was almost four months old. She's 2 ½ now. So just seeing her grow up, and the song still isn't out is wild. It just kind of shows you what time does in human form. She's quadrupled in size. She's saying things, so much has changed in her life in that amount of time.
Did you really slide in Buju Banton’s DMs for a feature?
So, I slid in the DMS, but in the most platonic, appropriate way. And it was really out of character for me because I'm very shy. But I went to his page, and I realized that he already followed me. So it was like, OK, maybe I should do it because maybe the feeling's mutual. He's a fan and I'm a fan. Plus, I had a little tequila first. That made things a lot smoother. And it was great. He reciprocated the love. He's been a great friend to have in this process, always giving me great advice. He's the kind of person that when you speak to him, you're definitely learning something new. It's not just no basic conversation.
Are you interested in doing any rap collaborations in the future? If so, who would you tap for a feature?
I would like to collaborate with Drake. I say this anytime anyone asks. I'm such a huge fan. I think he's brilliant. The ability to consolidate your words is actually really hard. But if someone asked you to describe your life in one word, I feel like Drake could do it just because he's really good at shaving off the excess fat and saying exactly what needs to be said. So yeah, I would love a Drake feature. Also, even without me, Drake and Sade, I would like to hear a song with them.
What song do you feel captures the essence or the soul of this album?
I don't think that there's one song that can capture the entire essence of Jaguar II, because it's a very dynamic album. I go from talking about smoking weed to heartbreak to self confidence to going out to the club to being enamored, and completely in love to reflecting on the way of the world. I would just request that everyone listen to it from top to bottom. We've made some transitions in there that are seamless. So don't shuffle through, please. We spent a lot of time working on the tracklist and seeing what flows and feels right.
"I felt like the music industry has been my jungle, and I've been the black jaguar. I wasn't always seen."
What are your thoughts about sampling popular Y2K and ‘90s songs in music today, what is the best way to go about using such notable records?
I feel like it makes a lot of sense. I see why people [sample]. There's lots of songs that are my favorite songs ever that use samples. So it's not even a matter of sampling so much. It's just that people don't want it to be as obvious as it is all the time. I think what sampling does for a lot of people, it just makes it a little bit easier for them to be played. If you're thinking about radio, specifically, sometimes because the song was already big, radio programmers can take a chance on it, because they know that it's something that works already. And then kind of gives the artists a chance to collaborate with something that we know already worked. So I really don't have a problem with it. I don't want people to be afraid of it, but also don't depend on it. We want to hear what your take on things are. I also find that covers are really cool. Some covers that people have done have been even bigger than the original.
It seems like people are embracing Victoria Monét the solo artist, but you will always have the legacy being Victoria Monét, the writer, because your penmanship is so strong. How do you navigate those two different sides of you?
I think it's always been important for me to be multi-hyphenated as a kid. One of my favorite things to tell my grandmother was I want to be a triple threat. I want to be a dancer, actress, and a singer. I didn't have writing on the list, but I think when I said singer, it was all encompassing, as a creative. I always looked up to people like Missy Elliott who have built a whole world as an artist, but you still respect them as a songwriter and are still discovering some of the things that they were a part of. I like having some depth, like a Smokey Robinson or The-Dream or Ne-Yo and Keri Hilson, so, I'm not mad at people who connect me as a songwriter, as long as they also realize I am also an artist.
People often tap you when they're trying to write new music, but do you ever find yourself calling on anyone in particular when you have writer's block or want some feedback on your music?
I like people's opinions. I like to ask my team what they think of certain things, not during the creative process, because I want to get the idea out and get it to where I want it before. But one of my absolute favorite things to do is press play on my music for the first time for people and see their reactions. I really wish I could have a worldwide listening party and be there when everyone hears it for the first time.
What's the most important thing you want people to know about Jaguar II?
I think a lot of people can find different parts for themselves with an album. We're such complex creatures and so multifaceted. So there's so many themes that maybe we feel one day, or one season that we won't feel the next. Jaguar II spans across so many of those that I hope that throughout life you keep revisiting it and find yourself all over again. So now until forever, I hope that people keep revisiting it and it becomes a strong soundtrack to their life, the way that Earth, Wind & Fire's music was to me, the way that Beyoncé is music is to me.