Music

Jazmine Sullivan’s ‘Heaux Tales’ Reveres Women With Grace And Self-Love

When we first met Jazmine Sullivan, she was just a young woman figuring life out. Now years later, she arrives with a fresh perspective on her first project in over five years, Heaux Tales.

The thing that was missing back then from now, as Jazmine simply puts it, is grace. Grace is such a wonderful thing because it allows one to stop, breathe, think, and experience emotions that otherwise could never be bothered to be dealt with. Thoughts and feelings that are “swept under the rug” so to speak, because who has time for…feelings? (LOL) Heaux Tales unapologetically unveils what every woman goes through when that pause is taken and an honest conversation is had with the self about sex and the reality of relationships — and there’s power in that.

The stories Jazmine sings are inspired by close friends and family within her circle. She beautifully narrates the kind of freedom to be had on the other side of self-love and self-care, such as “Lost One” or everything Ari Lennox discloses on “Ari’s Tale.”

In a conversation with Uproxx, Jazmine further divulges on the meaning of Heaux Tales, shares the women in her life who inspire her the most, and also tells us what it was like performing at the Super Bowl with H.E.R.

Jazmine, we missed you and you dropped Heaux Tales during a pandemic after years of silence. Was there any hesitation about releasing this project considering everything?

We wanted to be sensitive obviously with everything that was going on so we did have talks about when to put the project out when was the best time to release music. We decided on the beginning of this year and I’m happy. I’m happy with the time that we came out. I feel like it was a good time. I feel like people were home and they kind of want it. They were able to listen in a way, because of the pandemic that maybe if we were all out and about, people may not have had the attention span to do so. I felt like it was good for that reason.

Considering Heaux Tales and everything that you learned from the relationship you went through during the second album at 24, what would you tell your 24-year-old self now?

I would tell my 24-year-old self to love yourself enough to let go of any situation that’s not making you better. And also, not to take it so hard on yourself that you don’t know everything. I think when you’re younger, you kind of beat yourself up. You think that you’re supposed to know things and honestly, you don’t really know until you grow and go through it. Now that I’m older, I definitely have a lot more grace for myself. The things that I don’t know where I mess up at, I have grace.

Do you remember the first time you gave yourself grace and allowed yourself to breathe for a second.

It’s really been during the process of Heaux Tales because it’s hard not to beat yourself up. Especially as a woman, because we feel like we have to do everything perfectly and just be perfect. We have the world on our shoulders normally anyway so we feel like we have to live up to a certain standard and, as a woman growing up, I always felt that way. This process and making the project helped me to do that by listening to the tales of other women, my girlfriends, and older women. And, just knowing that we’re human and we don’t have to be perfect and just allow ourselves to figure things out.

Do you think that men and women can be more honest about their relationships and what they want nowadays?

I think men have been honest and could be honest about everything in their lives because society doesn’t judge men the way that they do women. But I do feel like now there’s a movement with women where we are not being ashamed of our experiences and in fact, proud of them. Because now we’re realizing that without those experiences, we wouldn’t be who we are today. I feel like women are kind of taking up space and being bold about who they are and what they’ve done and what they’ve learned and come through. I just wanted to add to that movement by adding these stories.

Who are some of the women that inspire you?

Definitely my mother, she’s amazing. She is perfect… darn near at everything. She’s so creative and she’s the reason that I sing. I watched her battle cancer and go through chemo so gracefully. She’s just amazing to see. Also, my girlfriends, watching them grow from when we was 14 and 15 to now in our early thirties has been a pleasure and an honor, and they’ve taught me so much as far as being a woman. Mothers and partners and stuff like that. So I definitely just look up to them as well.

I’ve noticed you and Drake don’t have any songs together, but I feel like…

You noticed that.

Yes! And I was just thinking, back when you came out, I feel like you and Drake were out around the same time. I remember I was in college and I think it was just a really big moment in music.

I’ve never met Drake. I love Drake. I love his music and I definitely would do something if he wanted to. I actually haven’t even thought about a particular song, but I think that would be dope.

I feel like “Lost One,” just lives in the same energy as…

Him or maybe Frank Ocean. Either one.

Speaking of Frank, you were on his Endless project. Tell me about your relationship with Frank.

Oh, I love him. I’m such a super fan. When he calls me, I’m always down to go work with him. I really just want to go and listen to his music before it comes out. I will literally be like, okay, what you going to play me to hear? But he’s amazing and he’s a freaking genius. We enjoy working together. I would love to actually do a full collaboration one day because most of the time I’m just singing background vocals and stuff like that. I would love to do an actual song with him.

The streets need it! I also want to talk about your relationship with Issa Rae, because you sang “Insecure” with Bryson Tiller for the Insecure soundtrack. I also saw that tweet where you said you wanted to work with her on something for Heaux Tales. Is there an update on that?

We have been in communication through texts. I believe she’s working on some things now. She’s definitely busy doing so many projects. I think it’s just about schedules and trying to see if we can actually get together to come up with the body of what we want to do. We both love each other and respect each other and what each other does. Hopefully, we get the time to actually create it.

How do you envision the project to go?

We’re still thinking about that. I definitely would love it to be visual. I want to bring the characters to life. I think that people actually seeing these women talk about their tales and talk about their lives would just enhance Heaux Tales and what it means to women to see themselves. So maybe a short film, maybe episodes of the women.

Let’s talk about Super Bowl because I thought that that was so dope. I’ve been waiting for people to just recognize you. I feel like Super Bowl was that moment like, yes, that’s Jazmine Sullivan. Tell us about you getting that call to go do Super Bowl and the feelings that you were feeling when you were performing.

I was super shocked. First, to get the call, I had never even thought that my career would take me to the Super Bowl. I thought it was cool to blend the two sounds with Eric Church, being a country singer, and me being a soul R&B artist. I had never heard him before we actually did the song, but I definitely thought, he was a good country artist and I thought it’ll be nice to blend our sounds together. I actually wasn’t nervous until I started singing. I didn’t realize how huge the impact was until I opened my mouth to sing. Then I was like, “Oh my God, it’s millions of people watching me right now.” It hit me right at that moment and then I got super nervous. So, it was amazing. It was a once-in-a-lifetime accomplishment. I was just so happy that my parents were there to see me do that. They put so much energy and effort into me being a singer and the fact that we all got to share that moment meant everything.

What did your mom and dad say when you told them, “I’m about to perform at the Super Bowl.”

Oh, everybody screamed. My dad doesn’t scream, but he screamed on the inside. Everybody was super excited because I just put my project out maybe two weeks before I got that call. I wasn’t thinking about that at all. I just wanted people to enjoy my work. Then I got such an overwhelming, great response for the project and then that opportunity came. It was blessing after blessing. We were all just super grateful.

H.E.R. was also there performing at the Super Bowl too and y’all collab a lot. Tell me about your relationship with H.E.R. and how it felt to do Super Bowl with her.

We’re, first of all, are just fans of each other first and foremost. When I was on my hiatus, I was just watching H.E.R. dominate and was just amazed, like everybody else, at just how gifted she was. All the instruments she plays and how well she sings. When I was making my songs, she was the first person that kind of came to my head to do the collaboration. I called her. She loved the song and finished it so quickly. Our relationship just grew from there. We’re always just trying to text each other and just encourage her and let her know, just how amazing she is.

It was definitely a moment to do that with her because we’re two Black women. She’s in her early twenties and I’m in my early thirties. We just out here representing for women in general and Brown women and doing our thing and try to bring, real talent, vocals, with her instruments. You’re trying to bring that to the forefront. I love so much that she did “America The Beautiful” first and then I did the “Star-Spangled Banner.” It was a moment for us.

I love that for you guys. The song “Girl Like Me” you two have, I feel like a lot of women feel that way. Is that something that you guys have sat down and talked about with each other?

I had started writing a song, some time ago. I wrote maybe the verse and the hook and the bridge, and I was like, it needs something. I just thought about it real quick and H.E.R. just kind of popped up in my head. I was nervous to actually send it to her because I knew I had been away from the industry for a minute. I just didn’t know if anybody would even care to work with me. When she responded so quickly, I was so happy that she did. She added her part and it just elevated the song so much.

Have you seen the Britney Spears doc on Hulu?

No, I haven’t seen that.

It basically highlights her relationship with the media and fans. As a kid, I didn’t realize how awful the media treated her and just women period. For you, when you started and you entered the business what can you say about the pressure of being in the industry back thing? I feel like today, there seems to be a little bit more empathy and an emphasis on mental health. It was just very, very misogynistic. I didn’t realize it back then.

I have to look at the documentary. I would say that I was sheltered from a lot that was going on in the industry because my mom was so protective of me and my energy and everything that happened around me. She protected me from really knowing exactly what was going on, but definitely, there’s a different pressure with women than there has been with men historically. I can definitely imagine that for a pop artist, especially as big as she was, that there was so much pressure for her to be and act and look a certain way. It takes a toll on you as a person. I just pray for her. I know that the pressure, especially at her level was, it was too much. That’s why I’m an advocate for taking breaks. My breaks are a bit excessive.

But I’m an advocate for taking a break when you need it for your mental health because the world and the industry could be so cruel to people and they just don’t care. If you giving them something, they feel like they can make money off of it or exploit you in any way and they will and not care about you as a person. And so sometimes you have to take a second away from whatever it is that’s doing that to you. It could be a relationship. It could be your job. It could be social media sometimes. You need to take a break when you need to.

Absolutely. It’s hard. Especially if you’re a workaholic. It’s hard. Sometimes I feel guilty for taking breaks.

It’s a catch 22. It’s hard. It’s hard being a woman, man. You just feel like you got to work extra hard to be seen, but then at the same time, you have to, sometimes you know you need to take a break for yourself, but then you don’t feel like you can. So you’re just stuck in the middle of that cycle. So it’s hard.

Megan Thee Stallion sampled your song for her song “Circles” and she’s around the same age you were when you came out. She’s kind of going through her own thing that we’re all witnessing.

I know that it’s hard for her to do what she’s doing, but she’s doing amazing. Just stay focused, don’t let anybody come to take you off of the path that you’re on. Definitely keep God first.

Missy Elliott gave you a shout-out recently and told us a story about Whitney Houston that whenever you were 15, she was like, she didn’t believe that that was you singing.

I have never heard that story, first of all. So Missy probably got a thousand stories of people that we don’t even know about.

She has to write a memoir at some point.

Yes.

I read that you actually — I don’t know if it was a text message or was it a phone call — that you actually got a chance to speak with Whitney?

I was at dinner with Kim Burrell and somehow Whitney came up. She was like, have you ever talked to her? I was like, no. She’s just like, Oh, let me call her. I’ll get her on the phone. I was like, huh? So she got on the phone and we spoke for literally a second, but it just made my night to hear from her. Everybody knows what Whitney means to music and it was amazing to be able to hear from her and actually speak to her.

Do you remember what you guys talked about for that brief moment?

I don’t. I think she may have said that she heard me sing or something like that. My mouth probably dropped and I probably stopped listening. I probably was in shock, to be honest.

I would probably react the same exact way. What song can’t you wait to perform live with an audience when we open up?

I think “Bodies” will be cool to perform live and see people sing the lyrics to. Probably “On It” because I’m seeing so many people who love “On It.” It definitely would be different for me because I don’t really do a lot of sexy songs. I think it’ll be fun to do that live.

Let’s talk about that song. You said you don’t do a lot of sexy songs, but what made you switch it up for this with Ari Lennox? I think we’ve all been waiting for that one to drop!

The project was about women being free, especially around their sexuality and not feeling the shame. That was definitely a song where there was no shame attached to it. Ari is a fellow Aries sister, she might be a little spicier than me, but it naturally fit in with her tale and what she was talking about with her tale. I just thought I needed that moment of being super sensual and sexual and doing it confidently.

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