A Look Back at Monica’s ‘After the Storm': From Losses to Lessons
At just fourteen Monica took the R&B world by storm when she released her first studio album, Miss Thang in 1995. She was discovered by music producer Dallas Austin at the Center Stage auditorium in Atlanta performing Whitney Houston's 1986 classic "Greatest Love of All."
Monica was born and raised in College Park, Georgia and began performing as a child. Becoming part of a traveling gospel choir at the age of ten, she signed to Rowdy Records at age 12. By the time her first single, "Don't Take It Personal (Just One of Dem Days)," came out she was thirteen.
When her album, Miss Thang, was released the single had gained momentum and Monica's popularity grew. Her mature voice along with her sassy demeanor made her stand out from the crowd.
In the early '90s, there weren't many young black female solo artists. Monica was often compared to her contemporaries, Brandy and Aaliyah. In an interview with Global Grind, Monica spoke on her experience growing up in the music industry with Aaliyah and Brandy.
"Aaliyah was the quiet, sweet one. She was always laughing at whatever I did. Brandy always did everything the right way. She was taught to say things the right way, do things the right way. So it was great because all three of us were different."
By the time Monica released her follow up album, The Boy Is Mine, in 1998, she had a strong following and a hit duet, "The Boy Is Mine," with Brandy. The album debuted at No. 8 on the Billboard 200 and No. 2 on the Top R&B Albums in August 1998. The album was certified triple-platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).
Monica's career had taken off and there was no stopping her. In 1999 she along with Brandy won the Grammy Award for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group. Things took a turn for the worst when a week later her best friend/cousin, Selena Glenn, died of a sudden brain aneurysm at the age of 25.
The very next year Monica received a phone call from her then-boyfriend, Jarvis Weems, to come to meet her. In an interview with 20/20, she says that he had already made his mind up to commit suicide when she saw him. Weems locked the car door with Monica on the outside and used his gun to take his life right in front of her.
As Monica tried to cope with the death of her cousin and then-boyfriend Weems she was hit with more devastating news when she found out her first love, Corey Miller, a.k.a C-Murder was convicted of the January 18, 2002 beating and fatal shooting of a fan, 16-year-old Steve Thomas. She would also suffer another great loss when her grandmother passed away around the same time.
During this time Monica would release her third studio album, All Eyez on Me. The album first dropped on October 21, 2002, in Japan and was expected to be released on November 12, 2002, in the United States, but the album was put on hold due to massive bootlegging.
Monica would eventually go on hiatus and sink into a deep depression.
“For a while, it was one day at a time. I didn’t eat, didn’t sleep, or drink. I wondered how I would ever heal,” she told People during an interview.
In 2003, Monica reemerged with her fourth studio album, After the Storm. At the age of 22, Monica had already been in the music business for ten years and experienced heartache and heartbreak publicly. After the Storm was created over the course of three years, the album started out as a series of poems that Monica wrote to get out of her depression.
To experience just one of the tragedies Monica dealt with at such a young age is devastating but experiencing all of these events could have broken her.
“You see how she handles things, and it kind of breaks your heart,” says music mogul Dallas Austin, in an interview with People magazine. “The average person wouldn’t have been able to take it without totally losing themselves.”
After The Storm wasn't just another album, it was a defining moment in Monica's life and career. She used music to come out of her depression and tell her story. It was also a transition from her being the sassy young girl who sounded mature for her age to the woman who had grown and went through several huge storms.
In the early 2000s, mental health was still a taboo subject in music and wasn't freely spoken about like it is today, After The Storm was a form of therapy for Monica and her way of publically speaking on her adversities over the years. In an interview with The Sharon Osbourne Show, Monica spoke on how hard it was for her to produce the album.
"It was the hardest cd that I had ever done because it was coming off of a time where I had experienced a lot of things...the death of my first love, the passing of my grandmother, then shortly after losing my cousin. Everything was kinda happening to me at one time, and I had no time to digest it all."
After the Storm, tells a complete story of Monica's life during that time. On the song, "I Wrote This Song," she openly tells the story of her relationship with Weems from a girlfriends point of view.
I love my baby so but he's not here no more, hard for me to understand, so I wrote him this song. Couldn't look him in his eyes, knew I couldn't change his mind, so I wrote this melody, and I'm singing sweet goodbye.
The single, "You Should Have Known Better," was about her relationship with C-Murder. You hear her growth as a vocalist and you hear how her life these experiences helped her grow into the woman that she is today.
The album cover itself shows that she was at a place where she felt comfortable in her truth. Prior to this album Monica always covered her tattoo because she was young and had a young audience. Not only did Monica stop covering her tattoo she showcased it on her album cover.
The album debuted at No. 2 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. It entered at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, with sales of 186,000 copies. This was also Monica's first No. 1 album to date; the album spent 24 weeks on the chart.
In an interview with Snoop Dogg's son, Cordell Broadus for Dream Big, he asked Monica how did she remain relevant?
"I just was always honest, if my heart was broke I sung about that. If I didn't know what I was doing right then, I sung that." She said. "I just keep it real with the people, I don't try to put a barrier between us to make myself look perfect or like I'm not going through. I just keep sharing with them my own way and I think that keeps us connected and that keeps the relevancy there."
Monica's transparency with her fans has allowed her to be exactly who she is and maintain a successful career. She is the definition of what life can look like, after the storm.