As a producer, Victoria Monét reaches longtime Grammy goal

NEW YORK (AP) — Take a look at the list of producers nominated for album of the year at this year’s Grammy Awards, and yes, you’ll notice it is still a boy’s club.

But look closely and you’ll see one female name in contention for music’s highest honor: Victoria Monét.

Ariana Grande’s secret weapon since the pop diva released her debut album, Monét has been hard at work, writing and producing songs for every single Grande album released, from 2013’s “Yours Truly” to her most recent effort, the multi-platinum, multi-hit “Thank U, Next.”

When Monét is told she’s the only female producer competing for album of the year apart from Lana Del Rey and H.E.R. — who are credited as co-producers of their own projects — she gushes.

“No way,” she screams. “Ooooooh! That’s so cool. I didn’t realize.”

“Naturally when I wrote my goals list, I wanted to be just as successful as Kanye in the Grammy category, or as Bey, or as the greats. I was like, ‘I want 16 Grammys.’ It was a big number. To even inch toward that at all, I’m really, really grateful,” said Monét, a first-time nominee who has released her own albums and EPs. “It’s interesting that it would happen as a producer as well as a vocal producer, because it’s not something that I even knew that I would even find interest in.”

Grande and Monét have grown close, and she’s one of the special seven referenced in the smash “7 Rings,” which is nominated for record of the year — giving Monét a second nomination since she co-produced the song. Monét and Jocelyn “Jozzy” Donald, who worked on Lil Nas X’s ubiquitous hit “Old Town Road,” are the only female producers nominated in the stacked category.

“What’s also cool about Jozzy and I is that we’re both part of the LGBTQ community and people of color,” Monét said.

In an interview with The Associated Press, 26-year-old Monét talked about her Grammy nominations, recording a song with Nipsey Hussle and learning how to write songs from the late Grammy-winning hitmaker LaShawn Daniels, who died last year.

AP: What’s it like thinking of the major success you had in 2019?

Monét: I’m surrounded by a lot of people who are reminding me that a lot of great things have happened. I often tend to look forward a lot. I’m kind of on to the next chapter, trying to figure out how I can do the next thing. I’m learning by who I’m surrounded by to really be present and appreciate things as they come. Obviously in the music industry, some of the things that I would be successful for in 2019 were done in 2018. I had to wait a little bit to see any result. I do feel really grateful seeing it on paper and being recognized in a lot of great ways has helped me to remind myself that, “OK, this is exactly what you planned and wanted and manifested for yourself. You should celebrate the wins as they come.”

AP: How’d you and Ariana first meet?

Monét: We were in the studio. (Producer) Tommy Brown had a publishing deal and I didn’t. His publishers would set him up with different sessions. One of them happened to be an Ariana Grande session. In that session we met and I wasn’t really aware of who she was because she still had red hair, she was still doing Nickelodeon. I was a little too old to watch that. When she started warming up before she went in the booth and I heard her voice, I was already obsessed. Great energy. I sent her a song that I already written called “Honeymoon Avenue.” It was just an undeniable type of energy and chemistry musically, so it just worked. Sometimes things are just meant to happen. You can’t predict or call it. I think that was obviously one of those things.

AP: When “Thank U, Next” came out, it almost felt like a mixtape since Ariana’s previous album was still doing extremely well. Was making “Thank U, Next” different than the other albums?

Monét: When we were creating “Thank U, Next” it was literally just for us to be together and spend time together. She was going through a lot at the time, as you probably know. It didn’t feel like an album rollout at all, it just felt like a narration through music of what she was going through, how she was feeling. We did not plan any of it... She took on the persona of a rapper in the release form. She kind of just let it go, which is a nice thing to see a “pop star” be able to do. Although she just released a project, she didn’t mind or care about the big label rollout plan. Like, stick to date and make sure that it goes No. 1 and put this budget around it. It was literally just in real time, which I feel like maybe even excited people even more about it. It was just a really nice way and smart way and therapeutic and artistic way to release and be honest and vulnerable about what you’re really feeling in real time.

AP: You were originally in a girl group when you moved from Sacramento to Los Angeles. Did that last long?

Monét: No, not very long. My grandma passed away the year that I moved, and we really shared a lot of time listening to Motown. That group allowed me to have the opportunity to sign to Motown (Records). It was kind of like an angel-eye thing. It felt like she navigated me there. It was a sign to me, even signing that contract, even though it didn’t last, that she agrees and supports me.

AP: After that didn’t work out, is that when you started to write for other people?

Monét: Yeah. Even during the girl group, it was with the super producer (Rodney Jerkins) so I would see a lot of people come in and out of the studio. One of those people I was inspired by was LaShawn Daniels... He’s the reason why I understood vocal production, adding harmonies. Seeing him write from scratch, seeing him go in the booth and mumble things and then they become words. All of that comes from him. That’s really my next-level foundation. It started in Sacramento and I was good at learning on my own, but when I worked with him, that’s when I could really tell, “OK, this is how it’s really done.” Some of my favorite songs ever, he’s done. So I’m going to soak this like a sponge and really try and emulate and perfect what he’s teaching me now.

AP: You and Nipsey Hussle both appeared on T.I.’s 2014 song, “About My Issue.” Did you get a chance to meet Nipsey?

Monét: I only got to see and share space with him one time... When I came out of the booth, he looked me in my eye and said, “You hard,” or something like, “You’re dope,” and gave me a compliment. I was like, “Thank you so much.” You just already felt kind of ethereal, this good energy, but that was it. Now it’s just really amazing for me to even have the honor to be on a song with both of them. It’s crazy because my trainer at the gym, he loves that song. He was in the NFL when it came out. He said he used to be in the locker room warming up to that song and he didn’t realize it was me singing the hook, until maybe five months into the training. He was like, “Aye yo! I’m just making the connection.” Like another full-circle thing.

AP: Does that happen a lot where people realize it’s you singing on this song or that you wrote that song?

Monét: All the time. It’s going to be a minute before people make the full-circle (connection). If you follow, then maybe you’ll know. But I think it’s kind of cool that there’s this elusive thing. If you like the song, it’s not necessarily because you just love me as a person, it’s because you really like what I’ve made. And then you find out later that there’s a couple things in different areas of your life that you like of mine. It’s cool. I like the reveal. ___