Kandi Burruss: Putting The Real in the Housewives Franchise
By Tim Parks
Fans of Bravo’s “Real Housewives” franchise have become involved with the ladies that populate the various cities in which they reside, in effect inviting us into their lives, and homes, on a weekly basis.
With six incarnations of the wildly popular reality series, which first began with the Orange County edition, there are many choices as to which Housewives stand out for viewers.
And no one quite represents the “Real” portion of the series’ title the way that Atlanta’s Kandi Burruss does. She says what she means and means what she says, and is a text book example of what you see is what you get, as she told me.
“When I joined the show, it wasn’t like an idea of, ‘I want to get on this show!’ They approached me about doing it, and I was like, ‘O.k. that sounds like fun.’ And I still approach it like it’s just something to do; I don’t take it seriously. I’m not going to go out of my way to fake something for them. Hopefully, you can find something in my life interesting enough, and if not, oh well.”
Trust me, there’s plenty to find interesting about the single mother, who aside from being a music mogul and reality TV star, also owns the Atlanta-based boutique T.A.G.S., as well as being a sexpert on her Internet talkshow Kandi Koated Nights.
Well before she was a TV fixture, Burruss had carved out another entertainment niche for herself, namely music, beginning with her time as a member of the successful ’90s girl group Xscape. After the group broke up, Burruss turned her focus onto the behind-the-scenes aspect of music making as a producer and songwriter.
She penned “No Scrubs” for TLC, “Bills, Bills, Bills” and “Bug A Boo” for Destiny’s Child, “There You Go” for Pink and wrote tunes for the likes of Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston, as well.
Her knack for songwriting brought her acclaim and awards, including a Grammy for “No Scrubs” and she was the first African-American woman to win the coveted ASCAP “Songwriter of the Year” award in 2000.
Her debut solo CD, Hey Kandi, dropped that same year. Yet, it would be almost ten years before she was ready to step back behind the mic again for her new album Kandi Koated, as she explained.
“Well, I’ve been wanting to do another album for years now,” Burruss said. “But different things kept coming up, interfering with it. I know after my first album, I was disappointed with the fact that it didn’t do as well as I wanted it to. At first, I had an attitude of ‘Well, forget it. I’ll just stay behind-the-scenes.’”
She admitted that she had that frame-of-mind for “about a year,” before she snapped out of it and got her proverbial ducks in a row with new management, who would help her “shop a deal.” Then Burruss discovered she was pregnant with her daughter Riley, and after a few years had passed “the reception wasn’t the same” within the music industry.
“I became known so much as just being a songwriter,” she professed. “When people were hearing my songs, they were like, ‘Ooh I love the song! But can I get it for my other artist?’ Things just kept not coming together like I wanted them to. I was like, ‘Forget it, I’ll just put the project out myself,’ and when that happened I was on the show.”
Kandi Koated definitely highlights the point that Burruss can stand front-and-center as a soulful chanteuse on tracks, such as the lead single “Leave U,” “I Want You,” “Haven’t Loved Right” and “I Fly Above.” She cited “Leroy Jones” as the song that means the most to her on a personal level.
“I wrote it about my step-dad, because I wanted to do a song about a positive male role model,” Burruss explained. “People are always trying to say that I like writing male bashing songs, which is not true. I’m dating again, and I need a man who not only loves me, but is capable of loving my daughter like she’s his own child. And that’s what my step-dad was for me, so I did that song for him.”
Relationships are literally at the heart of the 15 songs that make up Kandi Koated, which occurred naturally, as far as the songwriting process went for Burruss.
“It was organic; it just happened that way,” she stated. “I had a lot of songs on this album that were inspired by relationships that I’d either been in, in the past, or the people that I’m meeting now. I clearly wrote the songs from a perspective of real life situations.
“For instance, ‘I Want You’ is from when I met this guy and he’s really, really cool. And, we started out as working friends; eventually one day he said, ‘I don’t want to play games, I’m feeling you, I hope you feel the same way.’ So, everything he said to me in that conversation I put in as the lyrics in the song. You’re listening to a real conversation.”
Speaking of conversations…there has been plenty of chatter regarding her providing castmate Kim Zolciak with services rendered as the songwriter/producer for the hit single, “Tardy for the Party.” Burruss was kind enough to set the record straight.
“Basically what happened was that we did the song, and gave it to her to put up on iTunes,” she described. “We were going to split the royalties from the song three ways, the only thing we filed was the split sheet for our publishing royalties; we didn’t do a producer agreement. Instead of her paying us a producer fee, or any of those types of things, it was real cut and dry.
“When she got the first check, she split it three ways, which was a $30,000-something check, and $10,000 or whatever was what she gave to me,” Burruss confessed. “Then she came back to me and she had talked to her lawyer, who said she shouldn’t have to pay them a third of the whole check – you should just pay them a portion of the publishing royalties. She wanted her money back. But the way she came at me that day, we were at an autograph signing, and she was like, ‘I was so upset, my attorney said I shouldn’t be paying you a third of everything.’ She was being all dramatic, and at the same time, it threw me off because I was thinking, ‘Do you think I took advantage of you?’ So I got kind of offended, and when she asked me for her money back, I just gave it to her. I don’t want to fall out over money, it’s all good.”
Given that situation, inquiring minds wanted to know if she would be game to help any of the other Housewives produce a song, aside from gay househusband Lawrence Washington, whom she worked with on his “Closet Freak” track.
“Oh no, I’m not going to do it anymore,” she admitted. “Period, I’m done. I did it; I showed it could be done.”
Another thing that Burruss is showing can be done, is to talk candidly about sex on her weekly Internet talk show Kandi Koated Nights. She is stumped, as to why sex seems to still be such a verboten subject matter.
“I have no idea!” She exclaimed. “When they first showed Kandi Koated Nights on the show, I got a couple of people on the Bravo blogs that were like, ‘I cannot believe you! That is so un-classy of you and blah, blah, blah.’ Then I was seeing where the girls were saying [on “Housewives” after they appeared as guests on the talk show], ‘I mean, Kandi, I don’t know, sex is taboo.’
“I love the girls, don’t get me wrong, but some of them have worked in strip clubs before! It just seemed like a contradiction. I’m just very open and I like to have fun; I say whatever I say, and some people can handle it and some people can’t.”
On the aforementioned KKN, which featured her castmates, Burruss asked them what their “Freak Number” (how wild you get in the bedroom) was. But, we never got to find out hers…until now.
“I would say an 8,” she answered with little hesitation. “And the reason being is because I’m a very sexual person and very experimental. But there are certain things that I won’t do.”
There seems to be little that she hasn’t done, on a professional level, but there are other entertainment-based venues that she’d like to conquer, as well.
“I definitely want to write a book,” she stated. “And I definitely want to act, that’s something that I’ve always wanted to do. And, I love being behind-the-scenes, so I want to produce a couple of shows that I’m not necessarily on. So, that would be fun.”
To keep up with Kandi, log onto kandionline.com and to listen to her talk show on Wednesdays type kandikoatednight.com into your favorite search engine.