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Album Review: Jazmine Sullivan – ‘Heaux Tales’

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Every once in a while, it feels like there’s something missing in music. That missing void has been Jazmine Sullivan. It’s also hard to believe that it’s been six years since the GRAMMY-nominated singer-songwriter released her last album, Reality Show. In between these past several years, Jazmine has made little appearances here and there, including the 2017 single “Insecure” featuring Bryson Tiller and lifted from the soundtrack of the hit Issa Rae HBO series of the same name. But it was the crazy year of 2020 that we started seeing more and more of the Philly vocal goddess. She became more active on social media, revealed her dramatic weight loss due to a vegan lifestyle, and more importantly, announced new music was coming. 

Now to start of the new year right, Jazmine has just released a new project titled Heaux Tales. Initially announced as a mixtape, the release doesn’t have a particular title such as an album or EP, instead simply marketed as a “new project.” The set boasts a total of 14 tracks, which include a number of interludes crafted as “tales” of each woman that plenty of listeners can relate to. 

“B****, get it together!,” is the opening line that kicks off the project on the intro “Bodies,” a minimal production track with a snap that has the 33 year-old recalling a messy night with a random and coming to the realization it’s time to do better with some of the choices she’s making. From this point, the tales start to take effect. “Antoinette’s Tale” talks about the male’s fragile ego when a woman stands strong in her sexuality. This “in charge” attitude is apparent on the ultimate “f you” track, “Pick Up Your Feelings.” This happens to be a common theme throughout the project, where a woman is exuding her sexual energy for good, bad or just to make it through the day in today’s climate.

Ari Lennox lends her voice to the project with her “Ari’s Tale,” where she mentions an unnamed person in the industry putting her through an emotional relationship where the D was taking over her spirit and soul. Speaking of, Philly and DC collide together on the collaboration “On It.” If you know Ari Lennox’s personality from her IG lives and even her own music, you know she goes there! This is the type of song you have to listen to in full detail. I mean, the lead line in the hook is “I want to sit on it…” after all. There’s even a shout out to the Eastern Shore, where Ari sings “got it wetter than the whole Chesapeake Bay, nothin’ stoppin’ ya.” The blend of Jaz and Ari’s vocals is definitely one we never knew we needed. Piggybacking off “Ari’s Tale,” “Put It Down” is an all-too familiar tale when the D is too good that it makes a woman go out of their norm to go above and beyond.

“Donna’s Tale” takes us to church with the organ playing in the background with this tale about women tricking for things in their own marriage or relationship. Because at the end of the day, you have to do what you have to do to get what you want. “Pricetags” shares a similar message on this Anderson .Paak collaboration, a story of how Jazmine is getting what she can secure monetarily and materialistic-wise from her dude. Anderson comes in with his male-perspective of things towards the end of the track, creating an equal and fair dialogue on Heaux Tales between the sexes.

The most vulnerable moment of the project comes with “Rashida’s Tale,” which finds the young woman recounting how she fell in love with her fiancé but things taking a turn for the worst. After a night hanging with her girl and her best friend, Rashida and the friend slept together. While never being the party to cheat in previous relationships, she owned up to the mistake and equated losing her girl feeling like a death. That tale leads into the set’s lead single, “Lost One,” a moment that tugs at the heartstrings for those who have gone through the ups and downs of a relationship where it reached the end and no coming back while also letting her former love know “just don’t have too much fun without me.” 

We’re treated to a glimpse of classic Jazmine on “The Other Side,” a song that is reminiscent of her earlier tracks like “Dream Big” and “Famous” from her first two albums Fearless and Love Me Back. Jazmine is on a mission to make it to the better side of life, wanting her millionaire boo, move to Atlanta to make money, be a surrogate to two kids and get “soccer mom wasted.” As the album comes to a close, “Amanda’s Tale” brings the meaning of the project full circle, where she consider’s her sexuality as a “superpower” to sustain a relationship with her man in a world of IG models and THOTs alike. “Girl Like Me” is an acoustic guitar-driven collaboration between Jaz and label mate H.E.R. about coming to the conclusion why a relationship has ended and why the guy rather be with the hoe-type. In turn, it makes the two ladies turn in their “good girl” badge and venture out into the “hoe-tesphere” with Jazmine closing out the track with the like “A hoe I’ll be, see what you did to me.”

One thing about Jazmine’s albums are that you can expect out-of-this-world vocals from her. This project is no different. Lyrically, Jaz’s pen is more bolder than ever but still delivers those moments of deep thoughts that will have you in your feelings for days and even months to come. While Heaux Tales was crafted from women’s point of view, the stories can relate universally to any sex. With 2020’s “Insecure” vocal run becoming a viral social media sensation, the younger generation has a tighter grasp and understanding of what Jazmine means to music. More and more people are understanding her importance to R&B. Even though it’s not a full on album (she says that is coming this year), Jazmine delivered a project that will be one for the books. Welcome back to music, Jazmine.

Heaux Tales is now available on streaming services and digital music retailers via RCA Records.