Jazmine Sullivan Is Living Unapologetically With Her Fourth Album 'Heaux Tales'
After another hiatus, the venerated R&B artist is back and better than before.
Marking this her first release since Reality Show, Jazmine Sullivan welcomed 2021 with her fourth album after a six-year-long hiatus. Titled Heaux Tales, the 12-time Grammy Award nominee’s 14-track project highlights untold narratives of women, specifically about relationships and sex, as well as explores self-empowerment.
Initially sparking the idea for Heaux Tales was Sullivan’s RCA Records reps, who suggested that she should approach her next record like a concept piece. “I was feeling stuck and overwhelmed,” Sullivan shares with HYPEBAE. “I went home, brainstormed and came up with recording the conversations I have with my girlfriends and it went from there.”
To tie everything together, Sullivan tapped H.E.R. to work on the album’s closing track, “Girl Like Me,” which they both performed live on the Tiny Desk Home Concert. “She is so talented and giving with her gift. I was excited at how she approached the record. It was really tasteful and beautiful,” Sullivan comments on collaborating with the “Fight for You” artist.
Below, we caught up with Sullivan about how she’s grown since her hiatus, her perspective on how the music industry has progressed in terms of diversity and inclusivity and more. Read our full conversation below.
It’s been six years since your last album. How did it feel to finally release Heaux Tales after all this time?
It was a little nerve-wracking. Coming back after so long is scary because I never know if people still want to hear from me. There were so many artists that came out in the time between my projects, so it was always a fear – but, it was also relieving. Now that it is out, I can artistically move from that space.
Working with Frank is like working with a mad genius. I fuss at him a lot – he ignores it. He has me doing impossible things, but it’s also very chill. It’s usually no one there but me, him and the engineer, which is how I work on my own stuff, so it’s comfortable in that way.
In what ways have you changed as an artist and as a person since Reality Show?
I’ve grown a lot since Reality Show. That was six years ago, which is hard to believe. As an artist, I continue to work the same way. I work when I’m inspired or when I have something to write about. As a person, I’ve grown up, I’ve been through some hard things that have helped shape my life and my perspective. I’m happy to be where I am now.
You’ve been dedicated to music for quite some time now. In your perspective, how do you think the industry has progressed in terms of diversity and inclusivity?
I see the industry opening up to artists who aren’t the status quo and giving them space to flourish. Well, mainly because they have to. Social media is really allowing everyone to get their shine, so I feel like the industry is adjusting for their own benefit. But still, I feel like I’m seeing different faces in better positions. My career, as an example, is doing much better in terms of visibility.
Is there still room for improvement?
Big industries can always do better to be more diverse. Society, in general, can always do better. Right now, we have an openly gay superstar rapper, Lil Nas X, whom I love. We need more. We have a plus-size pop superstar, Lizzo, whom I love. We need more. We have to make it so that these people aren’t the exception. Sh*t has to be normal. If you’re talented and got the “it” factor, you deserve your spot, periodt!
What initially sparked the idea for Heaux Tales?
It was during a meeting with my A&R Trevor Jerideau and RCA CEO Peter Edge a couple of years ago. We discussed how to approach the next project because I was feeling stuck and overwhelmed. They suggested writing it like a concept piece. I went home, brainstormed and came up with recording the conversations I have with my girlfriends and it went from there.
What was the collaboration process like with H.E.R. on “Girl Like Me”?
I sent H.E.R a scratch demo of the record and she loved it. I got it back super quick. It was during quarantine, so we couldn’t physically be in the studio. She is so talented and giving with her gift. I was excited at how she approached the record. It was really tasteful and beautiful.
Your latest project highlights untold narratives of women, specifically about relationships and sex, which aren’t always easy to open up about. What advice do you have for women out there who are struggling with expressing their side of the story?
My advice is to express your story when you’re ready. I’m not sure if my girlfriends and I could have told these stories in our 20s. Actually, I’m quite sure we couldn’t. It took years of self-work, mistakes and self-acceptance to get to this place, and we aren’t finished in our journeys by a long shot. Keep living unapologetically, but make sure to listen to yourself. If you hear a voice inside telling you to “get it together b*tch,” that’s your inner self trying to get you to realize something. Or it’s me, haha.
What else can we expect from you this year?
I’m working to make this bread!