Jazmine Sullivan speaks on her struggles, spiritual growth, and her sultry new release, 'Heaux Tales'

Cassie Owens, The Philadelphia Inquirer on

Published in Entertainment News

PHILADELPHIA — The ladies were having a girls' night. Philly artist Jazmine Sullivan's mother, Pam, had invited some friends over for a small get-together. Included in the gathering were Jazmine's godmother, Anitra Sasser, and a relative of Sasser's, Donna Anderson.

"They came over, and they drank and they was eating, and Donna had something to say," Sullivan recalled with a laugh of the conversation, which was captured on an iPhone.

Anderson held nothing back: "Women think, 'Oh no I don't trick, I don't ho, I don't do none of that ...," she said. "Even if you married, you have tricked in your f— marriage. You have sex because you know what your husband is going to give you what the f— you want the next day."

On Sullivan's new project, "Heaux Tales," Anderson's words (and the laughter and cosigns that followed) are one of the EP's many interludes and set to the kind of organ playing you'd hear in church when the preacher really gets going.

"Donna had a sermon to say," Sullivan said Thursday by phone, hours before the release of her first project in six years. "Heaux Tales" is deeply inspired by conversations like that one — the stories and desires that women might only admit to one another, and the friends and elders in Sullivan's circle who've been that honest with her.

"I feel like there's a stigma around a woman desiring things and money," Sullivan said, explaining why she selected that conversation in particular. "And we as women are made to feel bad about our desire, for wanting nice things, and making us feel like we don't deserve it. And I think we even internalize it ourselves, where we feel bad about actually wanting it, and Donna was like, 'Girl, we do it all the time anyway.'"


Sullivan's new music is a testament to the vocals and songwriting she's refined over the years, talents that command a respect that only comes when you've left listeners deeply awestruck.

With the voice that can sound like a goddaughter to Kim Burrell, or Mary J. Blige, or Brandy, or Aretha, sometimes all in the same song, Sullivan has been widely known for her vocal virtuosity since her first album, 2008′s "Fearless." Around Philadelphia, she was known well before then, the kid who made a name for stunning the Apollo at 11, then again for performing at the Black Lily as a teenager alongside the stars of Philly's "neo soul" era, among them JazzyFatNastees, Kindred, Jaguar Wright, and Lady Alma.

Her mother, VIBE tells us, sang backup vocals for Philadelphia International Records. In 2008, Pam Sullivan told The Inquirer's Dan DeLuca: "I had a few members of the choir over at my house, and I was going over this note that they were having trouble with.Jazmine must have been about 2; she could barely talk. And from her crib, she just blurted out the exact note, with the exact pitch. And everybody just burst out laughing. It was over for choir practice that day. She made everybody look bad."

In May, Sullivan shared publicly that her mother had been diagnosed with cancer, in a letter to her mom from her Instagram account. She said in her Thursday interview that her mother's experience with inflammatory breast cancer "has been a lot."


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