Jazmine Sullivan Interview
|Next Project:||Fearless (Out Now)|
|Twitter:||Jazmine Sullivan on Twitter|
|Website:||Jazmine Sullivan's Website|
Think back to when you were 11 years old - how did you spend your time? If you’re like most of us, you were mainly occupied with things like doing homework (or making up excuses for your failure to do said homework), and passing notes to grade school crushes. R&B singer/songwriter Jazmine Sullivan, on the other hand, was making her national television debut at Showtime at the Apollo. A child of exceptional musical talent, Jazmine went from performing gospel in her church choir to making television appearances and singing on stage with Stevie Wonder, all before she was old enough to drive.
Fast forward to the year 2008—Jazmine has grown from a precocious child star to an accomplished artist, whose achievements include performing with Jill Scott, Musiq, and Floetry in her native Philadelphia, songwriting credits on Christini Millian’s, “Say I,” background vocals on Missy Elliot‘s upcoming album; oh, and a Billboard number one debut single, “Need U Bad,” off her new album Fearless, which dropped last week.
In an exclusive interview with DJBooth’s DJ ”Z,” Jazmine Sullivan steps inside the Booth to talk about her message of empowerment to young female listeners, why both she and her musical output can be considered Fearless, and whether or not her second single, “Bust Your Windows,” is based on a true story.
Listen to the Interview
Jazmine Sullivan Interview Transcription
DJ Booth: What’s goin’ on everybody? It’s your boy “Z,” doin’ it real big, and joining me inside the DJ Booth is a Philly songstress who is absolutely Fearless. Please welcome newcomer Jazmine Sullivan – how are you?
Jazmine Sullivan: I’m good, I’m good, I’m excited. I’m so happy to be doin’ what I love; a lot of people don’t get that opportunity.
DJ Booth: Your album, it’s out in stores. How much sleep did you get the night before?
Jazmine Sullivan: Are you crazy? Like none, none at all.
DJ Booth: [laughs]
Jazmine Sullivan: First of all, I’m up ‘cause I’m super excited, and, second of all, the label was just workin’ me crazy, so between the two of them I got no sleep at all.
DJ Booth: Let’s go back for a second, to see how we got to where we are today. Your singing career actually began in church when you were just five years old. At what point did you and your family realize that you were meant to perform in front of a much bigger crowd than just Sunday morning mass?
Jazmine Sullivan: I guess when I got into my preteens, I turned about 12 and I decided to sing R&B, because I felt like one day there were some things I felt like I would want to say, that I couldn’t say with gospel music. Once I decided that, my parents got on board. My mom, she started really schooling me on the artists of her time – Stevie [Wonder], Chaka Khan, Prince – you name it, she schooled me on it, and I was very grateful to her. She got me into a lot of things, a lot of contests. There was this organization called The Black Lily in Philadelphia, and I was the youngest performer ever to perform there. I would go there every Tuesday and just watch all those great performers that came through, like Jill Scott, Musiq, Floetry, and Kindred, and I really just got better as a performer, ‘cause that’s what that event was about.
DJ Booth: Future artists who listen to your music, 20, 30 years from now, what will they be saying about Jazmine Sullivan’s contributions to music?
Jazmine Sullivan: That she was very bold and blunt and straightforward, and she was real, and that they felt it. That’s how I try to make my music when I write. Not that it just lasts for right now, but forever, and that it’s still relevant even when I’m not here.
DJ Booth: Well, that’s way, way, way down the line; we don’t wanna think about that right now.
Jazmine Sullivan: Yeah. [laughs]
DJ Booth: Jazmine, in a press release about the project, going off what you said a second ago, you were quoted as saying, “I’m 21 years old, just coming into my womanhood, and if you push me around, I’m gonna push you right back?” What type of message does your debut send to all of your young, female listeners?
Jazmine Sullivan: Man, it’s definitely an empowering record. Number one, I wrote all the songs on the album, and I got executive producer credits on it, so I’m definitely showing women that we can be bosses, too, and we can do everything everyone else does. Also, I’m showing people that you can pick yourself up from the bottom, ‘cause I was dropped when I was 18, going on 19, and a lot of people counted me out, basically told me that I wasn’t what the industry wanted or needed. But my theory is that of perseverance and picking yourself up and believing in yourself, and now I’m here doing wonderful things.
DJ Booth: Well, you certainly proved a lot of people wrong – I can tell you that much.
Jazmine Sullivan: Yes, yes I did.
DJ Booth: Fearless is the title of the debut. What does it describe more, Jazmine – your personality or your music?
Jazmine Sullivan: It’s a bit of both. Me as a person, I’m not afraid to take chances and be different, and that comes out in the music that I write. Even in the first single, I Need U Bad, it was really taking a chance to come out with a reggae/R&B vibe; it was very different from anything else on the radio. Even lyrically, coming out with a song called “Bust Your Windows” – a lot of people don’t talk about that, and especially women, we aren’t given the platform to even speak like that. All across the board, it’s fearless.
DJ Booth: Let’s talk about the two singles you just mentioned. The first one, “I Need U Bad,” has picked up steam, and made it to number one on Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop chart – what do you think fueled its drive to the top? ‘Cause, like you said a second ago, it is slightly different than most radio records these days.
Jazmine Sullivan: Yeah, and I think that’s exactly why it did so well: just because, first of all, it’s a wonderful song – I don’t think a lot of people could deny that. But it was, I think, so much different from everything that was being heard on the radio, it got people excited and interested in music, and it showed people that there are other artists that have different things to offer.
DJ Booth: I’m sure you already know this, but you are the first female artist in four years to reach that number one plateau.
Jazmine Sullivan: Yeah.
DJ Booth: Well, congratulations, first.
Jazmine Sullivan: Thank you so much!
DJ Booth: You’re welcome.
Jazmine Sullivan: When they told me that, I was like, “What?! That’s crazy!” So I’ve just really been blessed, this whole time.
DJ Booth: Jazmine, when comparisons are made to the likes of famous singers such as Whitney Houston, or Janet Jackson, Mariah, Beyonce – I can go down the line – what do you tell people?
Jazmine Sullivan: First of all, to compare me to any of those lovely women, I feel honored. I know that once people hear the whole album, I feel that they’ll be able to tell the difference between me and those other artists, and just respect me for my differences, and see that we all have something different to bring to the table.
DJ Booth: Considering that your debut single hit number one on the charts, what kind of expectations do you have for the rest of your career?
Jazmine Sullivan: Wow… I hope that every song that I do goes number one now. It kinda spoiled me; I’m really anxious to see what “Bust Your Windows” will do, and, of course, what the album will do. But I’m just happy to be doing what I love. I don’t wanna say that I have any expectations, because this is really the gift in itself: that I can do something that I love. A lot of people don’t get that opportunity.
DJ Booth: Very true. Now let’s focus on the new single, “Bust Your Windows.” It’s time to really open up – have you busted the windows of a boyfriend or ex-boyfriend? Tell me the truth.
Jazmine Sullivan: [laughs] We’re not gonna get into that, Z!
DJ Booth: Why not, Jazmine?
Jazmine Sullivan: We can’t, we can’t get into that!
DJ Booth: We can’t get into it for, what, legal reasons?
Jazmine Sullivan: [laughs] We’re just not gonna get into that. But, it definitely is a real situation, and I’ve run into a lot of men and women who’ve experienced that. It needed to be said, and I was the chick to do it. [laughs]
DJ Booth: Are you saying that if we were to go out on a date, I shouldn’t park my car where you know the location?
Jazmine Sullivan: Listen: the real thing is, you shouldn’t do anything to get your windows busted – how about that one?
DJ Booth: I like how you spun that one around, that was real good.
Jazmine Sullivan: Yeah, I’m always gonna turn it. It really is y’all – all you guys have to do is be honest, be faithful, and your windows won’t get busted out.
DJ Booth: Well, I’m not worried, ‘cause I don’t ever do anything that warrants the busting of one’s windows.
Jazmine Sullivan: Okay, well, you’re good then.
DJ Booth: Jazmine, you mentioned that you penned the bulk of this album. That’s terrific; not many artists your age are doing that. What type of environment is most conducive for you to write a quality song? Paint that picture for our listeners.
Jazmine Sullivan: I can get inspiration at any time, so it really doesn’t matter where I’m at. That’s how I came up with “Bust Your Windows,” and the idea kind of just ran through my mind, and it woke me up out of my sleep, and I wrote this song as soon as I got up. I gather information just, from anywhere; if I’m at a store and I see a magazine article, right then and there I can come up with something.
DJ Booth: Are you the type of person that keeps a notepad and a pen by their side when they go to sleep? I know that some of my best-ever thoughts have come from dreams.
Jazmine Sullivan: I don’t – I kinda write on whatever is near me. So if all that’s near me is a piece of chalk and a wall…
DJ Booth: ...You’re gonna write it down.
Jazmine Sullivan: Definitely.
DJ Booth: Starting on October 8th, you’re going to be joining Maxwell, who’s one of my favorite artists of all time, on a 32-city tour across the country. What can fans, and those unfamiliar with your music, who will be attending to hear Maxwell, expect from Jazmine Sullivan’s live stage performance?
Jazmine Sullivan: I love performing, so I’m just gonna give it all I got, and I just want to connect with the audience, I want them to feel my music, so I’m definitely going to be baring my soul. I’m just really excited to even be on that tour. Everybody is so excited to see Maxwell, including myself. It’s definitely going to be a good vibe, I believe.
DJ Booth: Jazmine, if Fearless is the first chapter in what hopefully is an extremely successful career for you, what do you feel like chapter two will look like?
Jazmine Sullivan: Chapter two? Of course, I would love to do what I’m doing for as long as I can. I know it will involve some kind of music, somewhere in my life, or writing, or something like that. I would love to have a family – not soon, but I would love to have a family.
DJ Booth: Well, I wish you nothing but the best of luck in the pursuit of both a professional and a successful personal life. Jazmine, give everyone a website or a MySpace page, something so they can find out more about your new album, which is out in stores right now.
DJ Booth: Jazmine, I appreciate your time greatly, for joinin’ me inside of the DJ Booth, and I wish you nothing but the best of luck.
Jazmine Sullivan: Thank you so much, I appreciate it.