Monie Love burst onto the scene in the late 80s accompanying her Native Tongues crew on a couple of hit singles. She soon followed up with her own release, 1990’s Down to Earth, which featured the hit single “Monie in the Middle” — a song that continues to be referenced in countless rap songs. After the release of her sophomore album, “In a Word or 2” Monie took on a different career path becoming a radio host at different stations throughout the country.
Despite her day job, Monie never hung up the mic. Love participated in group projects, dropped singles throughout the years, and continued to perform live. Now the London born rapper is gearing up for the release of her first solo album in nearly 30 years. In preparation for the release of the album, Monie released a single that is “an ode to the matriarch of the family.”
The first release from Monie’s forthcoming album is called “Divine.” Divine is produced by Baby Paul and Tone Mason and features appearances by TUFF and Skyzoo. Divine comes courtesy of iKnonic Entertainment Group.
TheRealHip-Hop.com had the great pleasure of talking to Monie Love about her new single, Divine, the chances of a Native Tongues reunion, and her upcoming full-length album.
TRHH: Your new single “Divine” pays homage to the divinity of the women who raised us. Why was this the right time to share this message with the world?
Monie Love: Honestly, it was all very organic the way it came around. For one, TUFF recently lost an aunt, who was pretty much the matriarch of his family in the month of August. My other homie who is on the record, Skyzoo, his grandmother passed away a year ago. The matriarchs of my family are gone already. I didn’t have anyone that went recently, but I had a period of time, especially during the pandemic, where I really felt the need, the with, the want, to be back close to them again. I was lucky enough to spend a lot of my childhood spent between my paternal and maternal grandmothers. I consider myself very lucky about that. During the pandemic I felt many moments where I wished I could be close to them again. So, I think that kind of pedaled me into the space where I wrote the song. I put the concept of the song together and then it just organically fell into place ironically that Skyzoo was in a similar headspace and so was TUFF.
TRHH: You mentioned TUFF; what’s the creative process like when you’re making music with your significant other?
Monie Love: Honestly, super-easy with him because he’s a creative. He’s a creative that I don’t have to coach. I say that because he’s twelve years younger than me, I’ve been in this business since I was 16-years old, so, that’s a hell of a head start. Considering all of those things, he absolutely falls into place as a creative. There isn’t any coaching that I have to do and we have conversations. We talk shop a lot. He’s been very instrumental in a lot of the decisions that I’ve made in the time-span of my career that he was a part of. Never officially any manager or anything like that, because I don’t believe in that. I think it’s a jinx and a curse to have your significant other manage you – I just don’t like the concept. Informally, yeah, it’s been very instrumental and influential in the decisions that I’ve made during the time-span that he and I have been together.
I say all of that to say, it’s super-easy to sit down, listen to a beat, and vibe to a song with him. It’s a no-brainer. Once I decided what I wanted the concept to be his lyrics just came like fluid. It was super-easy. When I reached out to Skyzoo he was like, “Oh hell yeah, Queen. I’d love to be a part of this.” I did respectfully and politely tell him what the concept of the song was about, because you never know where somebody else’s healing process is at, and he recently lost his grandmother. So, I didn’t want to push him into a space or even be pushy in wanting him to be on a song with that vibe, topic, and subject matter if he wasn’t ready to do that. He was like, “No, I’m ready. I can say a ‘lil something. I’m comfortable.” It was really, really painless and super-vibey. I loved the creative writing process of that song.
TRHH: Why did you two decide to appear on the TV show Marriage Bootcamp?
Monie Love: They reached out to me, which I was like, “Whoa, how did I fall on their radar?” I spoke to TUFF about it because we’ve had issues and we have areas that we just can’t seem to get past. I was like, “Would you be interested in going on this for the therapy aspect?” To be quite honest with you, the fact that I saw Styles P on it before, that’s a core emcee that TUFF and I respect and feel like we have more in common with, because he’s just a core person, that’s really what allowed us to entertain the idea. Like, “If Styles was on it and they seem to have some real engaging and tool-getting moments.” When I say “tool-getting” I mean going into therapy and getting the tools to kind of get themselves through whatever was hindering them or pulling at them as a couple. Us looking at Styles P and his wife, Adjua, and they’re in an awesome space now, we were like, “You know what, based on that, all right, we’ll give it a shot.”
TRHH: Going back, you dropped your first album “Down to Earth” about a year after your appearances on Ladies First and the Buddy remix. You had two monster singles with “Monie in the Middle” and “It’s a Shame.” Take me back to 1990 and ’91; how crazy was it for you having hit records and also expecting your first child around that time?
Monie Love: Honestly, it was all fun. It was all happening so fast, but I remained grounded. I was just very excited about everything that was happening. I was very forthright in mentally planning for myself what I was going to do. “Okay, I’m pregnant, I’m going to have this baby. How is this going to work with the fact that there is a brand new single out and it’s picking up steam and I’m going to have to do a lot of performances and appearances?” This is me talking to myself. “Yeah, I’m going to do all of these appearances. I’m not turning anything down. I’m going to put the work in. So, yeah, I’m going to Showtime at the Apollo, yeah, I’m going to do the Arsenio Hall Show, yeah, I’m gonna go on the Triple Threat tour with Bell Biv Devoe, Keith Sweat, and Johnny Gill and open up for them. Yeah, I’m going to do all of this.
How long am I going to do this for? As long as I remain healthy and continue to go for my check ups to do with this pregnancy, and what have you. I’m going to go until probably about seven months and sit at home for my last trimester.” I had this whole conversation with myself because of the fact that things were taking off like they were and it was a head spin for me like, “Wow!” In addition to that, I’m about to give birth. Give forth new life! I did have this conversation with myself – a very cognizant conversation of knowing what I had to do, what is expected of me, what I expected of myself, and I what I needed to do for myself and my baby health-wise at that time with my first child, who is 30, by the way, Sherron I’d like to tell you [laughs].
TRHH: I know [laughs].
Monie Love: So, that’s basically what happened in ’91, what my mindset was, and how I coached myself through it. All in all, it was very much a pleasant ride as challenging as it may have appeared to the outsider, because I didn’t kid myself and I didn’t enter under any false pretenses as far as expectations from outsiders toward me, and expectations I had for myself.
TRHH: For such a young age that’s very mature.
Monie Love: Nah, that’s what I’m trying to tell you, Sherron. I was super-grounded. I was a super-grounded kid. I’m glad to sit here and have these things to say about my childhood. My parents didn’t divorce until I was old already. I was 18-years old when my parents divorced, and honestly, I had left England and had started pursuing what was going on with my career in the United States. So, I had my entire childhood with both parents and was brought up in a very vibey, peaceful, and organic household. I think those are the things that really groomed me to be the grounded person that I was at such a young age. I’m still that same person and I passed that forth to my children to inherit that wholesome, grounded-ness type vibe. I’m very lucky and I’m very appreciative that my parents instilled that in me. That’s definitely why I was grounded at such an early age.
TRHH: Your second album “In a Word or 2” dropped and had production from Prince of all people. How much pressure was there on you to deliver with that album after the success of Down to Earth?
Monie Love: There was so much pressure to deliver with the second album. The second album was a large takeover by the label and the A&R people. It was very much like my say so was being shined over. I think I had more say so with my first album than I did with my second album. Again, it was a learning process. I don’t look back at anything like, “This is horrible and that is horrible”. My second album didn’t do tremendously well. Both my Grammy nominations came from my first album. My second album did okay, but didn’t do as well as the first album and there was a lot of pressure. There was a lot of pressure for me to allow things to take place that I was skeptical about taking place. However, the one thing that I didn’t want to take place that took place anyway, which was the entire influence of Prince. “I don’t want that!” Which is crazy to say, right?
TRHH: Yes. Very [laughs].
Monie Love: No, because I’m being honest. At the time I didn’t want it, but my god, I am so fortunate that I did not wind up cutting my nose to spite my face. I am so fortunate that I yielded and stopped putting up a fight and allowed myself to go through that process, because I learned so much from that man it’s not even funny. There was so much artistic integrity that I learned from being around that man at Paisley Park for the length of time that I was. And then, when we were there recording my stuff he had me writing for Carmen Electra’s album. And then on top of that, I thought we were going to be done working and he was going to have to fly to England because he had a bunch of shows at Earls Court in London — like a good week or two in London. No, this man flew me to London. He was like, “No, we’re not going to stop working. You’re going to fly to London with us. Because when I get off stage every night we’re going to go to a studio in England and continue working on what we worked on here in Paisley Park.”
His work ethic was incredible. These are all parts of my takeaways from being around him and being under his artistic supervision for that period of time in my life. I look back at it and whatever day it was and whatever time it was that I decided to yield and stop being a spoiled little brat, because I was on something. I was really posturing my Hip-Hop self like, “Nah, I’m Hip-Hop! What I look like working with a Prince?!? What?” That was my posture. I was like, “We gotta protect Hip-Hop!” I was going to cut my nose off to spite my face and I’m glad I yielded and stopped being like that. I was like, “All right, let me just go do this.” You can’t buy that process, being around Prince, and that learning. You can’t put a price on that, and I had that. So, I’m very fortunate and lucky to have had that time and that experience.
TRHH: I last saw you perform live in 2012 on the Hip Hop Gods tour and what stood out to me was your charisma and ability to control the audience. Where did your live performance abilities come from? Did you watch a certain act coming up or did someone show you the ropes?
Monie Love: Oh, this is really interesting. So, I came up under the Cookie Crew in England. The Cookie Crew were three girls – a DJ and two emcees. They’re from South London, also, and I’m their little sister. I came up under them. I went to their shows, watched them on stage, and watched them command audiences in England and in Europe. I learned the ropes – the initial blueprint to being on stage and learning how to be comfortable, and learning how to be conversational with your audience in between your songs, and learning how to segue into your songs with the use of conversation and dialogue with your audience, and you can ease your way into your songs that way. I learned all of those blueprint things from the Cookie Crew. It grew from there. The more experienced people that I was around I picked up more Cliff Notes, so to speak.
TRHH: In recent years you formed two different groups, Heresy and The Alumni. How did those unions come about, and will we see more from them in the future?
Monie Love: Definitely you will see more in the future, because I’m a big fan of that. Heresy came about because I was living in Miami at the time. I’m a big fan of the girls that don’t get looked at as much as some of the other girls. I’m a big fan of the underground, in the trenches, girls. I seek stuff out on Instagram, I seek stuff out on Twitter, and any of your social network platforms. I found these three girls, Carolina Dirty, obviously from South Carolina, MyVerse lives in Orlando, and D Larue from Columbus, Ohio. I sought them out and I hit each of them individually and asked if they would be interested in doing a project with me. I wanted to do a girl group project, so, I introduced them to each other. They all met at the same time from me messaging them. We put this whole project together and it was awesome.
The whole process was awesome. We went out to Columbus to do it. The whole thing was just super-cool. DJ Buka helped to put the group together, he’s from Ohio as well, along J. Rawls. If you think of Charlie’s Angels, J. Rawls is Charlie. DJ Buka is Bosley. You used to see Bosley, but Charlie you didn’t see but he was the “head” head. The “head” head is J. Rawls. He was in charge of the production, the vibe, the mood, the organizational aspect – it was his label, the logistics of getting us all together and having us fly out. We even performed at A3C in 2015. J. Rawls had us come out and do that, and it was just awesome. That whole experience was awesome. I’m still in touch with the girls. Each emcee is tough! They’re crazy! All of those girls are lyricists and they’re all awesome in their own right.
The Alumni is less of what I did with Heresy. With Heresy, we were all on records together. We rhymed together and performed together. Alumni is more on the performance end of things. There is no music that we’ve all done together, but we’re all individual classic artists in our own right with our own hits. We perform a mash-up show. The entire show is integrated into each other. We get booked as Alumni. It’s not that Dana Dane gets on stage and does his songs and gets off and whoever else does their songs and gets off, no. There is a whole lineup of how the songs go and how the show flows. We’re all on stage and pretty much hype men for each other once we get on stage. It’s really awesome. The show is like an hour long and very interactive, very audience engaging, and very hype [laughs]! We have gone all over the country and out of the country with that ensemble. We still do it. I got a couple Alumni shows coming up. It’s always fun. Special Ed and Dana Dane are the two that always wind up creating something new and different to deal with. Sometimes Dana will have his cranberry and vodka before we get on stage, and that always makes the show interesting [laughs].
TRHH: I have to see that [laughs].
Monie Love: Yeah, it’s definitely a ride. The Alumni show is definitely a ride.
TRHH: The crew you’re most famous for is Native Tongues. I have to ask, why did we never hear a Native Tongues album and is a reunion out of the question?
Monie Love: Oh my god, everybody asks this question! Native Tongues, we’re like Bigfoot, the myth. Everybody wants to see that. Okay, I pray that one day there will come a day where we will all get together and something will be done – tour, record, something. As it stands as of right now, I don’t even know how to pinpoint the source of why Native Tongues just all kind of went their separate directions. I don’t know [laughs]. The science behind that would have to be led to a conversation between the heads, being Afrika from the Jungle Brothers, Q-Tip from A Tribe Called Quest, and Posdnous from De La Soul. Some type of meetings of the chiefs needs to happen in order for us to be able to amalgamate and all form g-force again [laughs].
TRHH: That tour would be insane!
Monie Love: I know. I know. I know it. I know.
TRHH: What can fans expect to hear on your upcoming album?
Monie Love: Fans can expect to hear very grassroots level, core, Hip-Hop music and lyrics. People have been trying to get me back into the music business and actually making music for years, and I’ve never been interested. For the simple reason that I’m not in love with the shape of the business, and I’m not in love with the shape of the surface pressure that a lot of artists can undergo now. Pressure to make certain types of records, pressure to achieve a certain type of chart success, and things of that. I’m an artist and I’m a creative. My love of music is more about the creative process, what you create out of it, what it speaks to, where it comes from, and the organics of it.
I kind of shied away from making music for a long time and it wasn’t until Baby Paul got in my ear, who I’ve known for over 25 years. He was like, “No, Mo. Don’t worry about who is going to stream it or who is going to buy it, or whatever. Say what’s on your heart, because you clearly have not stopped writing, because that’s what you do. People should hear what you create. Don’t worry about who is going to buy it or who is going to stream it, make your art. Say what’s on your heart. Say what’s in your chest.” It was based off of that conversation that I was like, “Okay, then I’ll do it.”
Honestly, a lot of the people who have reached out and wanted to collaborate are people that I’m actually a fan of. It’s the people who are the core artists, the grassroots artists, hence a Skyzoo. Those are the types of folks that I enjoy creating with. Hopefully we’ll see a few more of those on the album. The main thing that stuck in the front of my mind while creating this album was something Nina Simone said also, as well as the fun times that you can have and relay in your music, which was “It is an artist’s duty to reflect the times” and that is one of the main things that stays forefront of my mind in the creative process of this album. So, there will definitely be that presence.
Purchase: Monie Love – Divine