“IRunThis” is a weekly interview series that highlights Black women and femmes who do dope shit in entertainment and culture while creating visibility, access and empowerment for those who look like them. Read my Teyonah Paris interview here.
Victoria Monét arrives for our interview amid what’s likely her busiest project rollout to date. Her team buzzes around to primp and prime the songstress by fixing the slightest stray hair or crooked collar. We joke about her not wearing her signature chocolatey brown and instead opting for a trendy denim two-piece. She notes that she’s feeling more vibrant in this chapter and wants her wardrobe to reflect it. At last, Monét is releasing a debut album after nearly a decade in the music industry.
The R&B singer has a gentle, steady glow and subtle glimmer about her. She knows how to flip the switch effortlessly between when it’s time to put in work and show the hell out like fireworks on the Fourth of July whenever she hits the stage. This moment in Monét’s career is a testament to how much of a virtue patience is. And that’s on her mama.
If you feel like you’ve never heard of Monét, you probably have heard her work. She’s written for Ariana Grande, Nas, T.I., Lupe Fiasco, Fifth Harmony and more. She even sang on Grande’s “Monopoly” and wrote and recorded an original song for “Insecure.” However, her 2020 EP “Jaguar” grew her fanbase and put her on a new level as a singer-songwriter. Now, with nearly 7 million monthly listeners on Spotify, she’s gearing up to release “Jaguar II” on Friday and headline her first tour — which is completely sold out — two weeks later.
“There were a lot of times that I wished for moments like this,” the 34-year-old said, dubbing this her “light era.” “I’ve just seen so much darkness and been alone in a lot of the process and doing my work and my due diligence in the dark, like rehearsals and investments and the business parts. So I feel like the curtains are opening. It’s showtime; the lights are on.”
“Jaguar II” puts listeners in a time capsule to tour the sounds of different eras but roots a lot of her sound in the 1960s and 1970s (apparent on the triumphantly groovy horns blaring on her hit single “Smoke”). She added that there’s some futurism on the album, too.
“I like that it kind of covers a lot of bases, but you can still kind of uncover that the root of it all comes from earlier music in the ’60s and ’70s,” she said of the sound on her upcoming album. “Even though you may hear the early 2000s influencing ‘On My Mama,’ you can still connect back to the ’70s because of the horn lines, and it feels like when Earth, Wind and Fire would use their horns. So I’m excited to take people on that journey from top to bottom, just whatever they want to relate it to whatever area you could probably find just multiple, you know, timeframes to relate it to.”
For the album, she tapped Earth, Wind and Fire, Lucky Daye, Buju Banton and Hazel Monét, her 2-year-old daughter with boyfriend John Gaines. Monét reportedly started dating Gaines after shooting the “Moment” video from her 2020 EP. She told radio personality Angela Yee that a day after Gaines asked her to make it official, Monét found out she was pregnant with Hazel. She said while expectant and eager to give birth, their daughter taught her about the value of being patient.
“It taught me a lot about the timing and the right timing of everything, which applies to my career as well. Because as much as I wanted it to happen nine years ago, it all happens at the right time, in the perfect time, and in God’s timing,” she said.
Nine years ago, Monét believed that her career on the stage was gearing up to take off when she signed to Motown with a girl group called Purple Reign. Growing up in Sacramento, she had always tapped into her passion for the stage. Reluctant to lean into her voice as a shy kid initially, she honed her dancing skills, starting a drill team in middle school and attending a performing arts school for high school.
Monét, who had grown up singing in the church choir, began studying songwriting and production, which led her to add Rodney “Darkchild” Jerkins as a friend on MySpace. When he invited her to Los Angeles to audition for Purple Reign, she packed up and decided to take a leap of faith toward her dreams in music. Within a year of being signed, however, the group was dropped from the label without even being able to release the album they had been working on.
She said breaking that news to her family was “really hard.” They were supportive and offered for her to return home to Sacramento, but she knew that wasn’t an option for her.
“I refused. I didn’t have a plan B. And a thing in Black families is you gotta have a plan B. And I think, because I didn’t have a Plan B, Plan A has to work, and it has to work, and it still has to work,” she said. “So I’m just still planning the journey of it all.”
Singer Victoria Monet performs on Day 2 of the Sol Blume Festival 2022 at Discovery Park on May 1, 2022, in Sacramento, California.
Her first songwriting placement came on Diddy Dirty Money’s “I Hate That You Love Me,” which opened the doors for her to write for other artists. Her friendship and working relationship with Grande led to her getting the opportunity to open up for the pop star on Grande’s Dangerous Woman Tour. She released her debut EP “Nightmares and Lullabies Act 1” in 2014 under Atlantic Records and went on to release three other EPs. During this time, Monét was strategically collecting infinity stones, so to speak, and honing in on her sound before releasing “Jaguar” as an independent artist.
“Being an independent artist allowed me the space to really deep dive and find exactly what I wanted to say and the sonics I wanted to use with no upperclassmen telling me, ‘No,’” she explained. “I just did what I wanted to do. And luckily, people were receptive to it. I think it’s really important to just be your authentic self, even if it’s a little bit different and left of center than what’s going on in mainstream or what you’ve been instructed to do.”
The finesse and artfulness that Monét writes with can’t be replicated. The soft power of her voice harnesses a sensuality and divineness that puts you in a trance. And the energy in her dance style makes it impossible to deny your body its seemingly instinctive desire to move with her.
“I always really felt like this was what I was meant to do,” she said. She compared her journey to “The Wizard of Oz,” traversing her way to Oz after a storm and picking up the experiences and skills she needed to succeed. She admits that she may not have been ready to take center stage before, but now she certainly is.
“Now’s the time. Now, I’m mentally mature enough. Now, I’m confident enough and unapologetic enough to kind of do and experience some of the things that I’m experiencing now that maybe it was best that I didn’t have these things early on,” she admits. “It all just makes sense in retrospect, and you know, it’s really hard when you’re in the middle of a tornado to see outside and be like, ‘No, this is for a reason.’ Everything leads to where it’s supposed to be, so if you’re on a journey, don’t question it. There’s a reason for everything, and you’re gonna make it right on through to the other side.”