The time has come – the music world has birthed a true nightingale whose artistry distinguishes her from the industry’s current herd of wannabe R&B/pop phenoms. This chanteuse doesn’t adhere to conformity and defines her music freely. The artist is Brooke Valentine.
A native of Houston, Texas, Valentine ups the ante for creative expression with her Subliminal Entertainment/Virgin Records debut disc CHAIN LETTER. A melodic pilgrimage through the perils and joys of a young female life, CHAIN LETTER is refreshingly skimpy on gimmicks and ample on innovation. Valentine’s diverse musical tastes create the album’s universal pulse by serving a delectable stir-fry of R&B, pop, alternative and rock – offering something for all music lovers. Only 19 years of age, she explores the kaleidoscope of human emotions – the good, bad and sometimes downright ugly. “When you’re listening to my album, I want you to know that things happen and eventually you get over it,” she declares. “CHAIN LETTER takes you on a ride as you go through the different phases in your life.”
The journey begins with the ‘rhythm & crunk’ party-starter “Girlfight,” produced by self-described ‘King of Crunk’ Lil’ Jon and featuring Outkast’s Big Boi, which cleverly brews tension between two groups of women that finally festers into an all-out street brawl. On the hypnotic ladies anthem “Taste of Dis,” Valentine delivers the kinetic energy and seduction that listeners will immediately grasp. Amid syncopated beats she encourages women to celebrate their sex appeal and tap into their ‘inner diva.’ Valentine also invites us inside her more satirical persona with the cleverly macabre ode “I Want U Dead,” which shares her morbid thoughts of revenge on an ex-beau, from poking holes in his condoms to running his car in a ditch – no punishment is too great to avenge heartbreak. The hip call-and-response track “Blah, Blah, Blah,” featuring the late, great Dirt McGirt (aka Ol’ Dirty Bastard), is about a woman who feels smothered by her man and wants her freedom without giving up her relationship. On the flip side, Valentine expresses a woman’s vulnerability on the melancholy “Tell Me Why Don’t You Love Me,” about a woman’s insecurity in a challenging relationship, while her feathery vocals on the beautifully harmonic “Cover Girl,” addresses a woman’s need to always be her man’s sole object of desire.
Unlike many new artists, Valentine co-wrote her entire album in just four months with her executive producer Deja, CEO of Subliminal Entertainment, an independent label and production company. Because of their around-the-clock work ethic, they were very selective when recruiting their dream team of producers. “It was important that this album was an accurate reflection of me,” she explains. “We worked with producers who didn’t try to change that.” Deja reached out to the industry’s producing elite and before he knew it the collaborations developed with the speed of a real chain letter, with several
producers and artists wanting to be involved with the project. “The vision for the album was to choose producers with versatility, but who could work without boundaries,” says Deja, who has been producing since the tender age of 16. (His production work has been included on several albums that have collectively sold over six million copies.) “All the different musical styles make sense, like listening to a great film soundtrack.”
CHAIN LETTER’s production henchmen include Soul Diggas (Destiny’s Child, Missy Elliott), Heatmakers (Lil’ Flip), BloodShy (Britney Spears, Christina Milian), Bink (Jay-Z) and Tricky (Britney, TLC). All their contributions produced an impressive archive of 200+ songs. Collectively, that catalogue reflected Valentine’s eclectic musical tastes and influences, which include artists as diverse as Janet and Michael Jackson, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Alanis Morrisette, Blondie, Pat Benatar, Sade, Angela Winbush, Anita Baker, Faith Hill, Shania Twain and Linkin Park.
As a youngster, Valentine, the eldest of three children, entertained herself by singing along with the radio. It was a fifth-grade solo debut during a schoolyard recess that inspired her to hone the talent she knew she possessed. A timid, 10-year-old Valentine mustered the courage to join her classmates as they sang a capella during recess, unleashing her surprising pipes upon her peers and teachers. Adding to the admiration she received at school, Valentine’s grandmother acknowledged her God-given talent and began putting her grandbaby on the spot for impromptu solos at church. “I would sit in the back at church every Sunday trying to hide,” she laughs. “And just when I thought I’d gotten through the service without her calling on me to sing ‘His Eye Is On The Sparrow,’ she’d always call me up.”
Between school and church, Valentine began fine-tuning her instrument whenever she had a free moment. Just when her singing career seemed to be turning into a dream deferred, Valentine met Deja, the first person outside of the schoolyard that had taken time to really hear her voice. After an impromptu audition for the burgeoning producer, Deja teamed a 14-year-old Valentine with two other girls and called them BKS (Best Kept Secret); they began performing shows from state to state. After graduation, the girls forged ahead on different career paths, but Valentine remained committed to her craft. “I was so used to being in a group, I thought that’s how it needed to be until Deja asked me to perform one night at a showcase. I realized that it felt very natural performing solo and we decided right there that’s how I’d continue to perform.” In 2002, Valentine decided to follow her executive producer and mentor to Los Angeles, where she began the grueling process of her artist development – writing and performing locally in hopes of securing a record deal. That big break came in 2002 when Deja gave a demo to a Virgin executive; the rest is musical history.
Despite the music industry’s saturation of carbon-copy soulsters, this southern belle’s debut is sure to set a precedent among her peers and shepherd the new wave of artists into a utopia where originality and free creative spirit is
the norm. Be on the lookout for Brooke Valentine and her brilliant CHAIN LETTER.