ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- They lived across the country from each other growing up, Ameer Abdullah in Birmingham and his cousin, Victoria, in Sacramento. They’d see each other at family reunions, try to build closeness from there.
Then Abdullah went to college at Nebraska. Victoria moved to Los Angeles. Abdullah went to visit and stayed with her. It was there where they realized they had a major passion in common: music. Abdullah's visits to California created a bond.
Abdullah finished at Nebraska and ended up as a second-round pick by the Detroit Lions. Victoria was becoming Victoria Monet, who was profiled as an artist you need to know by Rolling Stone in June of 2015 along with X Ambassadors and others. Known as a songwriter, she’s penned tracks for Jordin Sparks, Fifth Harmony and Ariana Grande, who called Monet her “favorite writer” in the piece.
Monet’s profile began to rise and she started to perform, leading to today, when her third EP, “Life After Love, Pt. I,” is scheduled to be released. As she described to Teen Vogue, much of the writing from her third EP came from a breakup of a six-year relationship she was in. She internalized the healing process and then let it out in her writing and her music.
Much of her music, before it’s released, she bounces off Abdullah for thoughts.
“I shared with her my love for music and what I feel like it does to people and I appreciate her approach to music,” Abdullah said. “It’s a very fulfilling sound that she creates. It’s a sound that’s teaching people. It’s a sound that people can relate to.
“Obviously a lot of it is about love, and I know the young women, they like the romantic lifestyle, to picture the perfect lifestyle. She does that in some instances. She also talks about heartbreak and things that are real for people and that’s really what I appreciate about her as an artist. I feel like she’s for real. She’s very creative, lyrically, so when I shared and I told her that I love music and I appreciate your style, that grew.”
When Abdullah visited Monet in Los Angeles, he would tag along to studio sessions. He met T.I. and Big Sean while his cousin was working. He saw her working long hours, perfecting everything about the songs she wrote and performed. He understood the difficulties she faced.
It’s one of the reasons the two can understand each other. In reality, both Abdullah and Monet are stage performers -- Abdullah with a ball and Monet with a microphone.
Monet most recently was an opening act for Grande on her Dangerous Woman tour. That included May 22, 2017 in Manchester, England, when a terrorist attack after Grande’s performance killed 22 people and injured 512 others, according to the BBC.
Abdullah saw news of the attack after a workout at the Lions facility. He received confirmation from Monet's mother that his cousin was safe and finally connected with Monet after she arrived in Spain. Monet herself posted a statement on Twitter expressing her heartbreak and her confusion at how people could hate.
Monet and Grande continued touring, including performing “Better Days” -- a Monet song featuring Grande -- together at the One Love Manchester benefit concert the following month.
“She’s a tough girl. She feels like it’s her calling to be on the road. So it’d be hard to take her off the road. That’s something we share,” Abdullah said. “We’re both very passionate about what we do so any time we’re in a situation where a lot of people say we shouldn’t do something but we really believe in it and want to, we’re probably going to lean that way.”
Abdullah already understood that about his cousin. He saw how she had helped him months earlier.
After he had season-ending foot surgery early in the 2016 season, it was Monet who helped him focus. She visited him as he rehabbed and sent motivational text messages keeping him focused on his recovery instead of a 2016 season lost. All Monet had to tell him, Abdullah said, was, “Man, I love you. I support you.” For him during rehab, that was priceless.
“Just encouraging, just compliments,” Abdullah said. “Sometimes when things go wrong, you start to look at yourself and think, devalue yourself. She does a good job of uplifting people, making them feel important, making them feel like their talent is unique. Making them feel like they have a calling in whatever field they are pursuing.”
They are also learning more about each other's work. Abdullah said he’s teaching her more about football, and Monet has opened up more of the music world to him. Abdullah even builds his weeks around the music he’s listening to, including Jimi Hendrix Tuesdays and listening to the same two songs on repeat before games.
Abdullah has always loved music -- his brother, Kareem, introduced it to him by playing him OutKast and Jay-Z when Abdullah was in third grade. He’s always had a passion for it.
It is that passion for music that helped create the bond between Abdullah and Monet. Now, when Monet isn’t touring, Abdullah said they talk almost every day. Their closeness is more than cousins living far apart.
“They kind of act like, real close, kind of like brother and sister,” Abdullah’s brother, Kareem, said. “I would say that. They have a bond. When me and Ameer get around each other, people can tell we’re related because the way we talk to each other and same sense of humor.
“That’s the same thing with Ameer and Victoria.”