Excerpted from the magazine for Billboard.com.

Toni Braxton is pretty much surviving on crackers and soda water these days. Bad case of nerves preparing for her fifth album release? Hardly. It's called "the first trimester."

"I should be fine in a few weeks, but right now, this is kicking my behind," Braxton admits of her second pregnancy, following the birth of her son, Denim Cole, last December. "I'm eating like a parrot."

By all indications, however, delivery of her other baby -- the Arista album "More Than a Woman," which is due Nov. 19 -- should be much less of an ordeal. The contemporary 14-track set ably matches the singer/songwriter's robust, can-do vocal prowess with a host of R&B hitmakers du jour, including the Neptunes, Irv Gotti, and Rodney Jerkins.

"Hip-hop is bringing R&B to life again," Braxton observes. "It's allowing a style of singing to have its say. On this project, I think I've been able to remain true to myself, while adding some new beats matched with great R&B melodies. I'm ready to show other sides of what I can do musically."

Thematically, Braxton -- who co-wrote a number of songs with her husband, Keri Lewis, and sister Tamar -- says the set centers on giving men a little talking-to about relationships. With the simmering slow jam "Rock Me," for example, she says, "Guys are always saying things like, 'She's so beautiful, but she's so insecure,' and I'm saying, 'You need to spend more time with us, take time to rock us more.'" She adds with a laugh, "I'm still the national spokesperson on women."

The album's first single is the saucy, uptempo Neptunes-forged jam "Hit the Freeway," in which Braxton serves a flame his walking papers. The track, which features the guest vocals of Loon, is up ten slots to No. 67 in its second week on Billboard's Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks chart.

"Toni refuses to become the old lady in the gown singing big ballads," says Arista president/CEO Antonio "L.A." Reid. "Over the last 10 years, she has absolutely mastered the art of black pop. This album is young and fresh, and it stands as a bridge between kids and her more mature audience."

Braxton says she is pumped that her music remains relevant to such a wide spectrum: "It's great to know that 17-year-olds are listening to my music with the people that have known me for 10 years. Music has no age limits -- and I'm not ready for the infomericals yet."





Excerpted from the Oct. 19, 2002, issue of Billboard. The full original text of the article is available in the Billboard.com members section.

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