Angelic R&B singer returns with a collection of stories & songs drawn from the female experience that we can all learn from.
What a great way to start the new year. Philadelphia’s very own Grammy nominated, Gospel turned R&B powerhouse Jazmine Sullivan has returned to grace us with Heaux Tales. We caught the flavor of her return last year when she recorded a stunning live session surrounded by foliage, backup singers, and a lone guitar player by her side. It was as if she decided “I’m going to show these MFs what heaven sounds like.” She used this moment to debut “Lost One,” which she acknowledged was “stripped and short” but felt like the most appropriate offering from her upcoming EP given that the times (you know what I’m talking about) were so crazy. The decision to hold back new music due to the volatility of the news cycle has been widespread across the industry. It was really nice to finally get a slice of something so beautiful as an indicator that something even greater was on its way.
Jazmine Sullivan is an artist that has used her patience to her advantage. Her discography now includes four full length albums all spanning across the last 13 years, countless Grammy nominations, and legendary collaborations. Her list of colleagues goes on forever but some notable mentions include Missy Elliot, Mary J. Blige, Frank Ocean, Snoop Dog, Bryson Tiller, GoldLink, Meek Mill, and now Anderson .Paak, Ari Lennox, and H.E.R.
Heaux Tales is a collection of songs and stories that are honest and illuminating to say the least. The confessionals sprinkled throughout the album in the form of interludes call out the pressures and stigmas society is constantly placing on women. They almost serve as a teaching moment. We can all benefit from female fronted conversations that are bold, imperfect, and important to have. They teach us about the realities of love and loss in a way that is relatable and digestible.
Overall the connection of divinity between her Gospel roots & R&B found in Heaux Tales perfectly highlights the love, desires, and struggles Sullivan faces personally.
“Bodies - Intro” introduces the internal dialogue and debate of Jazmine Sullivan. She questions her actions and retraces them because they keep leading to drunk nights and meaningless sex. “Antoinette’s Tale” is one many of us are familiar with. It puts in question the power of sex women posses and how it tends to be abused and twisted by men with fragile egos. It calls out the notion that “we” being women are also to blame since many still give into the societal norms imposed upon them.
“Pick Up Your Feelings” is the moment we have all been waiting for. The insane range of Sullivan’s voice is delivered and it is here that we remember what an insane powerhouse vocalist she has always been. “Ari’s Tale” is an honest moment from fellow R&B queen Ari Lennox. She lays down the fact that she herself has also let herself become overwhelmed by a man. The two of them duet their own love and desires for dirty, wet, well - dick. They want the dick. But at the same time also questioning if their partner even deserves it. It’s an honest question and one that dances very close to the heated center of sexual exploitation vs sex work. Feminists are debilitated by the pros and cons of over sexualization. It has been nice to see more sex positive moments portrayed in mainstream media. Moments in the hit series “Insecure” crafted by the prolific Issa Rae help provide visualizations to healthy (and sometimes unhealthy) moments of sexuality. Ultimately it should be up to you. Do what makes you happen and don’t feel insecure about your sexual decisions. There are countless women out here supporting you.
“Price Tags (feat. Anderson .Paak)” is a yin and yang moment, as their voices perfectly balance each other’s around an enchanting beat. Alongside sex, money is another important factor that contributes to the welfare of a relationship. The two easily culminate into power. Funny enough we all know sex and money can be easily exchanged for benefit and Sullivan & .Paak rap against this notion:
“If you want the pussy first you gotta cash app me” / “Ya Ima take all I can get - That money keeps that pussy wet”
Sullivan gets what she wants while alternatively .Paak plays the man with the purse strings. Choosing financial exposure over the risk of heartache. The last five videos on my Tiktok feed were strategy plays on “How to be a sugar baby” so this song makes a lot of sense to me.
“Rashida’s Tale” is a loss that is personally inflicted and an honest apology. It provides the perfect segue into Sullivan’s first single off the EP titled “Lost One,” which is an honest confession. The reality is that sometimes people fuck up. “Lost One” is the theme song that people can identify with when they need time to be remorseful about a decision they made that caused a relationship to end. It illustrates the growth and maturity that only comes with moments like these. “Sometimes it's too late to make amends - There's one thing I need you to know - Just don’t have too much fun without me,” tell me those aren’t words we have all thought in our head once or twice.
“Precious’ Tale” highlights practicality. Sometimes people realize that they need to have standards when looking for someone to invest their emotions in. The tries and tales of dating someone who is broke, or lacks ambition is a dark love. Whether we like it or not - money is an important factor to the success of a relationship. The back half of this album really questions the idea and importance of security in a relationship. There are two sides to every coin and “Amanda’s Tale” is an honest and relatable moment. Sex is a double sided coin. One one end you are empowered and encouraged to own it and on other days you find yourself feeling ashamed - a classic Heaux Tale. The sweet guitar riffs on “Girl Like Me (feat. H.E.R.)” support the ballads coming from both of these talented ladies. It’s the moment where women feel like they are tired of being driven to desperation in order to please. It’s like, “do I need to move out of my comfort zone in order to keep your attention? If you want a hoe, I can be a hoe. But this unwilling transformation is all your fault.”
This entire album is a linear and detailed source of knowledge around the topic of female sexuality and existence. It has been an honor to be a part of this social conversation while at the same time getting to enjoy the beautiful music beneath it. Jazmine Sullivan knew these were the case studies we needed to experience and wrapped them up in a way that was familiar and comfortable for her. It wastes no time enlightening us and leaving us enamored.