Monica's 2003 hit "So Gone," produced by Missy Elliott, was revived this August by the #SoGoneChallenge, a hashtag where people shared renditions of the song. The challenge took off after Chance The Rapper joined in on August 10, posting a video on Twitter where he sweetly addressed his girlfriend and mother of his daughter: She complains about the baby weight but I ain't panic. The video has now been retweeted more than 250,000 times.
After Chance's video, the song experienced a massive surge in sales and streams. The challenge was eventually given life by U.K rappers and celebrities like Gabrielle Union, and Monica and Missy themselves, who met up to record their own, definitive version on August 16.
"At first, I didn’t understand it at all, as far as what happens when challenges start," Monica told The FADER at the end of the month, over the phone from Atlanta. "But I absolutely fell in love with seeing people of all races and genres, male or female, and couples take it and put their own spin on it. It was one of the most important records in my life."
Below, more from our conversation about what inspired the original song, how Monica convinced Missy Elliott to get in on the challenge, and why she loved Chance The Rapper's version so much.
What was your initial reaction to #SoGoneChallenge?
Missy [Elliott] called me and woke me up the morning after Chance The Rapper posted his. That was the first time I actually heard about it. So I started poking around on the web and I found this dope young lady in Houston that had rapped over it like four months ago. She was talking about my influence in her life. It was just an overwhelming amount of information that put a smile on my face.
It’s been really exciting. I’ve just been overwhelmed with the amount of love that a whole different generation has given. Some of them weren’t even born when the original dropped, so I’ve just been extremely grateful.
Do you have a favorite version?
Chance's was so special because the feeling that he gave to the mother of his child while he was creating the rap was something that was infectious. It doesn’t get more authentic and loving and compassionate than that. Too many men now are afraid of what they feel for the person that they love. The women that bear their children are no longer getting the amount of respect that they should. I’m an artist but everyone that knows me knows that I’m a mom first. So I loved everything about it.
You said Missy told you the challenge was happening. What was her reaction to all of this?
She was excited. There are pros and cons to social media, and media period. But you have to give credit where it’s due. For Missy, she had the chance to experience coming out on stage at the Super Bowl and reminding people that she’s a real innovator. She experienced it and said to me: “You supported people along the way and you’ve been riding for other people.” My page is mainly my kids and me supporting others. So she was like, "Knowing that’s who you are, it's why you deserve what’s happening. This is introducing a whole other group of people to you."
When you first recorded the song in 2003, what were you inspired by?
Missy [Elliott] is the executive producer of that album, After The Storm. At the time, I was talking to her about everything that I was going through. I had come out of a difficult situation and I was very focused on talking about my life after the pain. I had witnessed a suicide. I lost my grandmother and my cousin. All in the same year. I didn’t put out any new music and I was unsure if music was a place that I wanted to remain. It was the first time that I had people telling stories [about me] and things not being true.
What people often forget is that I recorded it my first song at 12 years old. There was no internet then. The things that we’re faced with now weren’t there. So, everything about After The Storm was about my life after the hardship. This album came when I felt whole enough to make a record again. “So Gone” was actually created because [Missy Elliott] kept the microphone on and overheard my phone conversations. After hearing my phone conversation, she created this song. That's another testament to how genius she really is.
In their #SoGoneChallenge videos, people are both rapping and singing. On the original, how did you decide to also do both?
It started as a joke. It started with Missy saying, “Yo, you gonna rap like a singer.” She would always tell me and that I had the mind shape and the aggression of a rapper. She was like, “Even when you’re recording and when you say things, you know it’s authentic. It’s real. That to me is what makes a great rapper.” We would play around and I would rap things to her and she would be like, “You’re rapping on this song though. Trust that.” We kept in joke form until it was time to record “So Gone.” From then on, she kept that approach in a lot of the records she produced for me.
What about "So Gone" do you think has inspired all of these people to make videos and be so creative with them?
I think everybody’s had a “So Gone” moment. I watched one young lady’s video and she took the idea of being “So Gone” as allowing people to misuse her. She had people in her life that didn’t deserve to be there, and now she’s finding herself. One young lady, her name is Amber, her challenge sounds amazing, and if you go on her page you can see she handles praise and worship. The challenge is only, maybe one minute long per person and you learn a lot about them.
Everybody has their own spin on it. But the part that connects is you can hear me singing through my own pain. That resonates with your everyday person. Because it’s not going to always be perfect every day. I look at the ones that I reposted and shared because they meant a lot to me too.
Missy is one of the greatest producers of our time, but to me she's a sister first. I was learning everything that I needed to learn while working with her. When me and Missy are working on music, we’re not looking at times, clocks, and who said we should be in a certain place. We did things on our own terms and talked about life and what was happening. That’s what makes it special. Nobody was controlling it but us and our true emotions.
How'd you decide what to do for your #SoGoneChallenge video?
Listen, Missy was not going to do that! She was like, “This is a classic and we are not touching classic records around here.” Her accent got real thick when she told me no. I’m like,"Check this out. I have an 11, an 8, and a 2 year old in the house." I said, “I want to know that they feel where I’m coming from, and that where I was coming from in 2003 has not changed in 2016. I’m still learning and going through things — tying to get it right and keep it right just in life, period." Missy was like, “I don’t know, let me think about it.”
So, I stayed on her all night. The next day I pretty much invited myself over, which I do all the time, just to check on her. Because outside of music that’s my sister, period. So, I’m like, “We coming over and you’re going to help me create this challenge because we got more to say.” That’s why I started off with “Remember that," in the video. I take you back to the old me. Yeah, I used to get down and I felt like I had to defend everything around me. Then I progressed into a funny mention of my husband: “Get your own, leave mine alone.” Nothing deep or dramatic. Just me talking about where I was versus where I am and also showing my gratitude. This challenge was really something that I could not have prepared for. I just woke up one morning and things were changing because another artist decided to show me some respect while showing their mate some love and respect. It kind of just went hand in hand.
So after we did the verse I was like, “I got somebody that can record it. We can make our own video.” The mural that we're in front of us is actually in the studio where I recorded “Everything to Me” and a million other records. I always loved that picture of Missy. I’m like, “We’re about to shoot our own video right in front of your mural because this is also me paying respect to you." People often times forget people who put them in certain positions. This was my little subtle message in lots of different ways. And Missy's standing in the back.
She's being low-key.
Yes! And that’s very her. That’s the truest representation of her. She is the shyest person that I know. So she's in the back like, “I’m gonna hold you down and you get up there and do your thing.” It just came out so fun. I was able to say some important things.
Are you two working together now, on anything that's going to come out soon?
I went over to talk to her about some new stuff. She and I are always in contact anyway. The main objective is always to start working on whatever else we want to create. We're always working. We do it differently because we really love it and we come from the era where we don’t schedule it and plan it.