Two Eleven is Brandy's sixth studio album and her first album with Chameleon Entertainment & RCA Records after leaving Epic Records after the release of her fifth album "Human."
The album was released on October 12, 2012.
Brandy began working on the album with her then-record label, Epic Records.
Amongst those to record with her were songwriting and production partners Tricky Stewart and The-Dream.
In early 2009, songwriter Amanda Ghost was appointed the president of Epic Records which ultimately leading to speculation around the future of Brandy's record contract and its eventual termination as confirmed by Tricky Stewart.
Soon after, it was reported that Brandy had been dropped by Jay-Z's management company Roc Nation, something which her team refuted in July of 2009 by stating:
"They [Epic] have not dropped her. We are trying to get a release from them. We’re in waiting" & that "Brandy and Roc Nation parted amicably."
New Record LabelEdit
Brandy's joint record deal with RCA and producer Breyon Prescott's Chameleon Records was finalized in late 2010.
However, it was not announced to the public until August of 2011 when it was also confirmed that her sixth studio album would be released in 2012.
After she was signed in late 2010, the professional recording and submissions for the album began.
Much of the earlier material recorded under Epic Records was left with the label and allocated to other artists such as Jennifer Lopez.
Speaking of her new record deal during an interview with Rolling Stone magazine, Brandy commented:
"I'm reinventing myself and I feel fearless, [Two Eleven is] mature, it's gritty, it's edgy. RCA reminds me of how Atlantic used to be, they really believed in my vision as an artist when they signed me at 14, RCA welcomed me and Breyon Prescott and Peter Edge showed such passion for what I wanted to do."
Before Prescott worked with Brandy, he sought the permission of her long-time collaborator and friend Rodney "Darkchild" Jerkins.
Prescott told Rodney that he wanted to work on making an R&B record with Brandy which he agreed with & gave him his blessings.
Brandy began recording the album in early 2009 with her then-record label Epic Records.
Amongst those to first work with her were Ne-Yo, Stargate and production & songwriting duo Tricky Stewart & The-Dream.
The duo produced the song "Louboutins" for Brandy, but after she lost her record deal, the song was re-recorded by singer\actress Jennifer Lopez for her 2011 album "Love?"
Another song that Brandy recorded under Epic Records was called "Decisions" (which was produced by StarGate) and featured guest vocals from American R&B singer-songwriter Ne-Yo.
The record was reclaimed and eventually recorded girl group RichGirl for their 2011 debut mixtape "Fall in Love with RichGirl."
By late 2009, Brandy resumed recording, this time with a duo called The Chase (consisting of Kadis and Sean).
In early 2010, she stated that she wanted to work with Will.i.am and Akon.
Throughout 2010, Brandy continued recording independently with a variety of musicians, including producers Danja, Clinton Sparks, The Jam, Corey Gibson and songwriter Stacy Barthe.
Some of this was chronicled on her VH1 reality series "Brandy & Ray J: A Family Business" which originally aired from April of 2010 to February of 2011 and spawned a soundtrack in 2011 (on which some of the tracks were included).
During early conceptions of the album, Norwood had wanted to re-unite with Rodney "Darkchild" Jerkins – her long time collaborator who had executively produced her album "Human."
However, midway through 2009, during an interview with Out magazine, Norwood refused to talk about Human, telling interviews "to hell with that album" when questions were asked about it.
It wasn't until 2010 when Brandy would break her silence during an episode of her VH1 reality TV show "Brandy and Ray J: A Family Business."
During one of the episodes when her brother Ray J announced that he wants to work with Darkchild, Brandy reveals that she felt Darkchild "did not put his all into the album" and that "was a personal issue between me and him."
Elaborating on what she meant, Brandy replied:
"You know what kind of chemistry Rodney and I have too, but on some personal issues, he doesn't deliver.....I don't want the same thing that happened to me, to happen to you."
In September of 2010, producer Bangladesh confirmed that he had been commissioned by Brandy to helm the production of the entire project even though she later expressed her intent to further connect with several producers including producers Jim Beanz, WyldCard, newcomer Kevin McCall, Lonny Bereal, Rico Love, production collectives The Woodworks & The Runners and singer Sean Garrett (who worked on a total of nine songs for the album).
Hit-Boy (who had previously worked with Frank Ocean on Brandy's album "Human") returned to production on "Two Eleven" on the ballad "White Flag" which discusses "emotional defeat," but it was excluded from the final track listing.
Brandy's collaboration with Drake was a song written by James Fauntleroy and produced by Noah "40" Shebib, but it failed to come to fruition.
A press release from RCA Records announced that Breyon Prescott was overseeing the album with productions by the aforementioned producers as well as Mario Winans and writing from Ester Dean.
Despite Breyon stating that Timbaland was in the studio crafting a song for the album, Brandy revealed on August 29, 2012 that the album was completed & that time didn't allow her & Timbaland to work together.
Album Inspiration & DevelopmentEdit
In the fall of 2009, Brandy introduced her rap alter ego "Bran'Nu" on Timbaland's 2009 album "Shock Value II," the result of artistic experimentation with the musician, who had tapped her for her rhyming ability after seeing a video on YouTube that Norwood had uploaded and showed her rapping freestyle.
Brandy (who had initially thought of rapping as a hobby and fun for friends) felt encouraged by Timbaland to write and perform her own verses on at least three tracks for his album, two of which eventually made it to the track lisiting.
In December of 2009, Timbaland revealed his intentions to reteam with her on her next project, producing the bulk of an album that he envisioned to be “half singing, half rapping.”
Brandy confirmed his idea in an interview she held at the release party of "Shock Value II":
"What I'm doing on the [next] album is a little bit different than what everybody knows me for. Timbaland endorsed that [...] He really gave me a shot to be different and be versatile. I can't thank him enough for that. This is a wonderful opportunity."
Even though Brandy went on to record several other rap songs the following months and hoped it would eventually lead to a signing with Timbaland's Mosley Music Group, plans for hip hop-oriented album under his imprint were eventually abandoned as she felt the sound would not aim at her core audience.
Approached on the subject, Brandy later dismissed the idea of recording a rap album, stating that “it was a hobby. I was convinced to do it professionally, which I never should have listened to that advice.”
After Brandy unveilled her new record deal in August of 2011, she finally revealed that she had found her sound for the album, stating:
"What I'm truly excited about is how the album is all about R&B and figuring out the new sound of R&B, and that was the challenge for me. I wanted to do something different – I didn't want to just sing about love over regular beats."
Brandy also stated how Frank Ocean inspired her on this album:
"We've always had that great chemistry, and we both understand music in the same ways, to work with him on this album was great as well, and I hope I can get in [the studio] with him some more because his music is just so moving; I'm inspired by him. I think he's a great artist and he hasn't even touched on what he will touch on in the future."
Speaking to Billboard magazine, Brandy said:
"I think the fans have been very patient with me, but I just wanted to make sure that this album was right – the right type of music, the right core. I feel like we're getting to that point where I felt comfortable with putting something out."
Speaking about the types of records she was making, in a separate interview with Rap-Up, Brandy compared her album to previous records, stating:
"It’s just gonna be a different album, but of course expressing the love that I feel now and the struggles and different situations that I’ve gone through in the past,... My music always tends to be the soundtrack to my life and definitely inspired by what I see other people go through as well—gritty, edgy, different."
Then touching the subject matter of songs on the album, Brandy said she felt like the past failures in her life should be addressed, stating:
"The evolution of Brandy is crazy, I've gone through some things that I haven't yet sang about....From the break up with my ex-fiance, to the struggles since the car accident, and then Human not performing well at all, and then to being cheated out of Dancing with the Stars; it's like failure after failure after failure......I'm bringing everything i got. Everything I have to this project. I honestly feel like and i'm not trying to get emotional but i really feel like this is my last chance....This is time away from my daughter."
- Intro (0:57)
- Wildest Dreams (4:25) (written by Sean Garrett, Justin Henderson & Christopher Whitacre; produced by The Bizness & Sean Garrett)
- So Sick (4:31) (written by Sean Garrett & Shondrae Crawford; produced by Bangladesh & Sean Garrett)
- Slower (2:57) (written by Chris Brown, Brandy Norwood, Breyon Prescott, Amber Streeter & Dave Taylor; produced by Switch)
- No Such Thing as Too Late (4:01) (written & produced by Rico Love, Jim Jonsin & Danny Morris)
- Let Me Go (3:17) (written by Shondrae Crawford, Sean Garrett, Lykke Zachrisson & Bjorn Yttling; produced by Bangladesh & Sean Garrett)
- Without You (4:12) (written by Eric Bellinger, Courtney Harrell, Brandy Norwood, Breyon Prescott & Harmony Samuels; produced by Harmony Samuels)
- Put it Down (feat. Chris Brown) (4:06) (written by Dwayne "Dem Jointz" Abernathy, Chris Brown, Shondrae Crawford & Sean Garrett; produced by Bangladesh,
- Hardly Breathing (3:55) (written & produced by Rico Love & Pierre Medor)
- Do You Know What You Have? (3:28) (written by Sean Garrett, Brandy Norwood, Breyon Prescott & Michael Williams; produced by Mike Will Made It & P-Nasty)
- Scared of Beautiful (3:46) (written by Christopher Breaux, Warryn Campbell & Breyon Prescott; produced by Warryn Campbell & Christopher Breaux)
- Wish Your Love Away (3:19) (written by Brandon Ramon Johnson, Tiyon "TC" Mack, Ryuichi Sakamoto & Mario Winans; produced by Mario Winans & Brandon Ramon Johnson)
- Paint This House (3:59) (written by Rico Love, Eric Goody II & Earl Hood & Medor; produced by Rico Love, Earl Hood & Medor)
- Outro (0:57)
Deluxe Edition Tracks
- Can You Hear Me Now? (5:00) (written & produced by Rico Love & Nathaniel "Danja" Hills)
- Music (4:19) (written by Mike City & Breyon Prescott; produced by Mike City)
- What You Need (3:08) (written & produced by Shondrae "Bangladesh" Crawford & Sean Garrett)
One week after its release, "Two Eleven" debuted at number three on the US Billboard 200 and topped Billboard's official Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart, with first week sales of 65,000 copies (less than Brandy's previous album "Human" which had first-week sales of 73,000 copies).
However, this marked her fourth domestic top ten album on the Billboard 200 as well as her second number-one album on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart following her 2002 album "Full Moon."
In its second week, the album fell to number 10, moving 22,000 copies.
By November of 2012, the album had sold 110,700 copies in the United States and went on to finish 52nd on Billboard's 2012 Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums year-end chart.
In October of 2013, Sister 2 Sister magazine confirmed that the album had "sold around 180,000 copies."
At Metacritic (which assigns a rated mean out of 100 from mainstream critics), the album received a score of 77 (which indicates "generally favorable reviews").
Andy Kellman of Allmusic rated "Two Eleven" four out of five stars.
He felt that Brandy "took something of a risk by breaking from her norm and working with numerous songwriters and producers" and remarked that the strategy "paid off," adding that "months after scores of music fans went bananas over an opportunistic resuscitation of a deceased peer's studio scraps, Brandy, a superior vocalist ignored or disregarded by many of those same people, released one of her best albums. She should not be taken for granted."
Steve Jones (writing for USA Today) considered the album Brandy's "most impassioned album in years. Whether she's overjoyed with a new love or ready to be shut of an old one, her heart seems like an open book."
Mesfin Fekadu from the San Francisco Chronicle stated:
"Not many singers have released six consistently amazing albums. Brandy has. Her newest is a collection of R&B songs that are personal, flavored and fantastic. The album doesn't miss a beat, as Brandy's raspy-yet-earthy tone weaves into each song's beat nicely to create outstanding tracks that will have you listening again and again."
People declared the album "her best work since 2004's career high Afrodisiac" and wrote:
"full of subtle, sensual pleasures, the album unfolds at a slow-to-midtempo pace and stays there for most of the time, even when incorporating hip-hop or electronica beats."
The magazine gave the album three and a half out of four stars.
Andrew Chan from Slant Magazine commented that while the album was "touted as progressive R&B, it doesn't exactly redefine the singer as a visionary. What's refreshing about this new work, though, is how it clears a place for her in the realm of forward-thinking urban music while also reaching back to clarify her distinctive position in the diva pantheon."
He called the record "the clearest portrait yet of Brandy's instrument," praising the "unusual tone [of her voice], its strange mix of warmth and cold, hard edges" and felt that the album revealed a "contradictory admiration for [...] Drake, Frank Ocean, and Kanye West circa 808s & Heartbreak."
Ken Capobianco of The Boston Globe believed that with the album:
"Brandy delivers one of her better sets with these songs tracking love’s mysterious ways [...] Unlike some past efforts, which sounded like musical wallpaper, there’s swagger to the club tracks and real soul in the ballads."
Andrew Hampp (writing for Billboard) felt that the album "features some of her freshest beats since 2004's experimental, critically adored Afrodisiac" and summed it as "a collection of old-school R&B songs with a modern, often futuristic twist with no trend-chasing experiments with EDM," calling it "her most focused album since 1998's Never Say Never."
Entertainment Weekly's Tanner Stransky started his review by pointing out the album's lead single "Put It Down" was actually the weakest song on the album, saying:
"It's one of the weakest offerings from an otherwise well-crafted for-the-fans album. Ignore what's pushed to pop radio. Brandy scores when her raspy-sweet voice soars during ballads and slow jams, and that's what stands out on this intimate, often ethereal collection."
He gave the album a B+ rating.
Sarah Godfrey from Washington Post complimented the songs on the album and wrote that the album "serves as a fine tribute [to friend and mentor Whitney Houston], in part because it is a testament to the fact that, despite whatever trends are happening in popular music right now, a good voice always shines through."
Vibe noted that "experimentation can spell struggle for some artists, but Two Eleven finds Brandy cruising fluidly past the predictable. Swinging from OVO-worthy emo-ethereal reflections to quirky up-tempos, the 18-year vet deviates from overdone slow-tempo production."
Rich Juzwiak from Gawker felt that the album "doesn't sound any younger or older than Brandy is. It's not obtusely hip or desperately serious. It just is, it's just now and it's just right."
Elliot Robinson (writing for So So Gay) dismissed Chris Brown's appearance on the album, but praised the tone of it, writing:
"When Brandy hits the old school R&B sound she was aiming for, the tracks are simply stunning."
Less enthusiastic with the album, Noah Berlatsky from The Atlantic felt the songs on the album were "worse than the largely ignored Human, but better than the beloved-yet-boring 2002 Full Moon" and added that "but such parsing seems mostly beside the point. If you're one of the dwindling number of fans of this '90s style, you know what you're getting; if not you'll probably skip it anyway."
- Breyon Prescott – album producer, executive producer
- Ryan Ramsey – artist management
- Brandy Norwood – vocals, background vocals
- Dwayne "Dem Jointz" Abernathy Jr. – background vocals
- Chris Brown – vocals
- Rico Love – background vocals
- Sheika Daily – make-uphair
- Gomillion & Leupold – photography
- Erwin Gorostiza – creative director
- Kimberly Kimble – hair
- Ashley Sean Thomas – styling
- Jenke Ahmed Taily – creative director
- Dwayne "Dem Jointz" Abernathy Jr. – programming
- Tony Aliperti – guitar
- Brandon James – instrumentation
- Eric Goudy II – keyboard, programming
- Earl Hood – keyboard, programming
- Jim Jonsin – programming
- Pierre Medor – keyboard, programming
- Danny Morris – keyboard
- Frank Romano – guitar
- Harmony Samuels – instrumentation
- Mario Winans – instrumentation
- Diego Avendaño – assistant
- Nathan Burgess – assistant
- Shondrae "Mr. Bangladesh" Crawford – producer
- Tha Bizness – producer
- Warryn Campbell – producer
- Alex Dilliplane – assistant
- Sean Garrett – producer
- Conrad Golding – producer
- Francis Graham – engineer
- Trehy Harris – assistant
- Matt Huber – assistant
- Carlos King – engineer
- Dave Kitch – mastering
- Rico Love – producer
- Fabian Marasciullo – mixing
- Robert Marks – mixing