Can we fangirl over Kandi Burruss for a second? Known professionally as just Kandi, she was introduced to us back in the early 1990s when she came onto the scene with the legendary girl group Xscape. Giving us hits like “Who Can I Run To?” and “Understanding,” the multifaceted College Park, Georgia native said that wasn’t enough. So, she upped the ante.
Flexing her pen game across several genres, she wrote some of the industry’s top hits including: TLC’s “No Scrubs”, Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You”, and she’s even credited for “Bills Bills Bills” by Destiny’s Child. But, once again, she said, it’s not enough. Fast-forward, and Burruss has gone on to have a recurring role on “The Chi”, appeared in 14 seasons of The Real Housewives of Atlanta, won season three of The Masked Singer, acted in several movies, opened restaurants with her husband Todd Tucker— and now, she’s acting in and producing the revivals of some of Black culture’s fondest musicals on Broadway.
Already on a national tour, the revival of The Wiz, will make its way to the “big city” of NYC for its Broadway playing starting on March 29, 2024. The songstress, along with her husband, co-producers Common and MC Lyte, and popular producer Brian Anthony Moreland, are hoping to bring a fresh yet relevant take to the legendary production.
“The Wiz is my favorite musical of all time. When the opportunity came up from our producing partner Brian Moreland— he’s the same person that got me to be a part of “Thoughts of a Colored Man” and “Piano Lesson”— I was like yes! It was a no-brainer for me,” Kandi shares over Zoom from her Atlanta home office. “That’s that musical that I know all the songs and words to. Everyone has that one, and The Wiz is it for me.”
Most known in Black households for its TV adaption (which is an adaptation of the 1974 Broadway play) starring icons Michael Jackson, Diana Ross, Lena Horne, Nipsey Russell, Richard Pryor and more; the latest installment certainly does not disappoint when it comes to powerhouse vocalists.
“What makes our version different is Amber [Ruffin] updated the entire script. It’s hilarious and features a lot of current themes that are relevant in today’s culture. I don’t want to give too much away, but on top of that, our costumes are amazing. And let’s not even get on the cast. The talent is on a whole other level. We made sure that everyone in our show can sing down!”
And sing down they are. Just to give a sample, the new rendition stars newcomer Nichelle Lewis as Dorothy, Wayne Brady as The Wiz, Deborah Cox as Glinda, Melody A. Betts as Evillene and viral musical sensation Avery Wilson as the scarecrow.
“We specifically wanted to get a new face in the role of Dorothy, but there are also plenty of familiar faces. We truly stepped up the performance value.”
For Burruss, not just with this revival, but throughout her career, being able to cultivate new talent is huge for her and the lasting impact she’s looking to leave. As we talked more about the upcoming Broadway show, we also learned more about everything else the entrepreneur, wife and mom has going on. She lets EBONY in on everything from how she balances work and family life, her thoughts on social media taking the place of artist development as well as her wish for us as a culture as it relates to us creating our own lanes.
EBONY: What is your key to remaining relevant in today’s musical landscape, especially as a songwriter?
Kandi Burruss: It’s funny you mentioned that because I said this year I was going to be more intentional with getting in the studio and doing more writing. I redid my admin deal with Sony at the end of last year, and I’ve been writing a lot lately. I can’t wait to release some songs later this year.
I also have a girl group that I am developing, myself and Nick Cannon. The group is called Siren and their vocals are amazing. I’ve been focusing on them a lot lately. But, a lot of my songs are also getting sampled like crazy these days and becoming popular again. Let me just say, I’m grateful!
Speaking of social media and TikTok, as an established artist, how do you feel about this new age of music and how artists are introduced to us? Also, do you think this wave will last?
That’s a good question. I’m a person that believes that nothing lasts, as things are forever changing. Music is forever changing and the way we get it out to the world. The only thing I don’t like about today’s current way, is that there’s no more artist development. Whereas when I first started, people were actually sent to artist development camp, and you took time to figure out their image. We’re doing that with Siren now.
But, I do love that people can be their own marketing team through social media. A lot of things have been made easier for new artists, even down to being able to record from home. But sometimes that can mean that the quality won’t always be there.
You juggle so many hats. You’re an actress, entrepreneur, producer, and songwriter. Not to mention you’re a wife and raising children. How do you balance it all? What’s the secret?
KB: Sometimes it’s an epic fail, and I’m all over the place. But I always do my best to make sure I’m there for everybody while making sure I’m handling my responsibilities on the business side as well. That self-care thing, that’s where I’m lacking.
But the way I maintain being there for everyone is literally putting everything on my business calendar, so my team always knows. I learned a long time ago that I have to schedule life with my family on the same calendar as my business. That way, people don’t double book me when it’s something important for my family. I pride myself on being dependable.
When you hear “pushing Black forward”, EBONY’s mantra, what does that mean to you? And how do you feel you are doing so?
KB: To me, pushing Black forward is really about getting more of us in power positions to put others in play and grow our culture and communities. That allows us to be seen and heard, which is what you all do. You allow us to be seen and heard in the best way.
I don’t rest on just being talent. Yes, I started as talent, but I’ve always gone behind the scenes; writing, producing, managing and more. I like to get behind the scenes of whatever it is I do. Not only does that allow me to make opportunities for myself, but it allows me to do the same for others. That is one thing that I have tried to do throughout my life— give more people opportunities and help other dreamers live the dream as well. Same thing with Broadway. I’ve now come back as a producer, and I’m helping get our projects out there to the world so they become more successful and more investors don’t mind investing in Black productions on Broadway.
With so many accomplishments under your belt, what’s left to check off the list as far as your dreams go?
Anyone who knows me knows my dream is to reach EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony) status. I was nominated for three last year, but I want to secure them.
I also just want to make my children’s dreams come true and help out as many people as I can as I continue to grow my businesses. Really, there’s so much in the area of media that I want to do, and I just want to pull people up with me. That’s the only way we’ll see real change. Because, if we ain’t in those rooms, who will speak for us?