"I Wanna Be Down" is a song by American recording artist Brandy Norwood. It served as Norwood's debut single, the first from her self-titled debut album, released in 1994. Written by musicians Keith Crouch and Kipper Jones, with production helmed by the former, it was released on September 6, 1994 by Atlantic Records. A blend of soft hip hop soul and contemporary mid–1990s R&B, the song is a mid–tempo track that features a thunderous beat and light synthriffs. Lyrically, "I Wanna Be Down" describes a flirt with a boy, who Norwood tries to convince of her charms.
The song's original music video was filmed by Keith Ward and released in October 1994. It features Norwood in her tomboy image, dancing in front of a jeep near a forest, flanked by several dancers. "I Wanna Be Down" was performed on several television and award show ceremonies, such as The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and the 1996 Soul Train Music Awards. It has been performed on almost every one of Norwood's concerts and tours, and is featured (along with its hip-hop remix) on the compilation album The Best of Brandy (2005).
"I Wanna Be Down" was released to positive reaction by contemporary music critics. Its impact on the charts was comparatively large for a debut single: While it spent four weeks on top of the US BillboardHot R&B Singles chart, it reached number six on the Billboard Hot 100, and the top 20 in Australia and New Zealand. In 1995, a hip hop remix with new vocals from American rappers MC Lyte, Queen Latifah, and Yo-Yo was released.
"I Wanna Be Down" was written by Keith Crouch and Kipper Jones, while production was also handled by the former. Picked by Norwood's record company, Atlantic Records, as the leading single from her debut album, Norwood initially disliked the idea of releasing it as her first offering. "‘I Wanna Be Down’ was interesting", she said in a retrospective interview with Complex magazine in 2012. "I didn’t really get it at first, but I was young and I didn’t really know what worked at radio or what it was. I liked the song, but I just didn’t get it being the first thing that people heard from me." Upon its chart success she changed her mind on their decision however. "[...] Once it was released and I saw why everyone responded to the title phrase, I understood why!"
The original clip for "I Wanna Be Down" was directed by Keith Ward and premiered prior to the single's official release in September 1994. The video portrays Brandy in her tomboy image, dancing in front of a jeep near a forest, flanked by several dancers. Her first video shooting, Norwood called the filming a great experience. “I was so excited about the video", she said. "I got a chance to work with some great people like Frank Gatson. All my friends were in the video. My brother was in the video [...] He was there and we had this little dance, and that became really popular. That was a fun time. I was so excited because my dream was coming through right before my eyes... at the age of 15".
Female rappers Queen Latifah (left) and MC Lyte along with Yo-Yo appeared on the official Human Rhythm Hip Hop Remix of "I Wanna Be Down".
Upon its release, Atlantic Records head Sylvia Rhone came up with the idea of re-recording the track with a group of rappers. "I Wanna Be Down" was eventually remixed with new vocals from American rappers MC Lyte, Queen Latifah, and Yo-Yo. "The hip-hop remix meant the world to me", Norwood stated in 2012. "I’m fresh out of the box and these superstars are a part of my first single! They are my mentors and I looked up to them. I was a huge Queen Latifah fan. I’m thinking, ‘Oh my God…I can’t believe this is happening to me.’ I got the chance to vibe with all three of them. They embraced me as a little sister. I was one of the first R&B artists to welcome hip-hop onto an R&B beat. It had never been done before quite like that[...] I knew it was a special record." The remix saw its U.S. commercial release as the B-side to Brandy's follow-up single "Baby."
A music video for the Human Rhythm Hip Hop Remix premiered in February 1995. It was filmed by director Hype Williams whose remix video for Craig Mack's 1994 song "Flava in Ya Ear" served as inspiration for the clip. A simple performance video, it features appearances by Lyte, Latifah, and Yo-Yo and was photographed "in glamorous black and white and vivacious color, complete with flashbulbs popping to the beat." Norwood's younger brother Ray J made a cameo appearance in the video. This version eventually earned Norwood her first nomination for a MTV Video Music Award for Best Rap Video at the 1995 ceremony.