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'It Was Going In and Just Creating': Janet Jackson Reflects on Her Musical Legacy

'There will be music at some point. Exactly when? I can’t say just yet, but there will be,’ Jackson said.

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Image for article titled 'It Was Going In and Just Creating': Janet Jackson Reflects on Her Musical Legacy
Photo: Yu Tsai/Essence

You don’t need us to tell you that Janet Jackson is the shit. It was obvious ever since she debuted as Penny on Good Times. Then she came back as an adult and put out the classic album Control. Don’t act like you don’t still know the “Pleasure Principle” dance break choreography. I could do a whole think piece on how groundbreaking Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814 was, but instead, the legendary entertainer is gracing the June/July cover of Essence to reflect on her innovative, game-changing career.

Here’s something we talk about enough: Janet planted the seeds for the unbelievably talented artists we see now. Without her, there’d be no Beyonce, Lizzo, Ciara or Nicki Minaj. And although there are many of us who feel the “All For You” singer doesn’t get her due, that’s not her opinion.

“I’ve heard Jimmy [Jam] and Terry [Lewis] tell me we haven’t [gotten our due]. I’ve heard fans tell me we haven’t. Other artists have said the same thing. That never crossed my mind,” Jackson told Essence. “That’s not important to me, whether I did or didn’t, to be quite honest. It’s really the body of music touching people and how it impacts their lives that matters to me. It’s not the accolades. I honestly don’t think about that stuff.”

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The always humble icon admits she didn’t think they were changing the music industry with Control. She was just trying to create something new.

“It was going in and just creating. Being thankful and excited about creating. Ideas flowing left and right,” she said. “I remember Jimmy telling me something Teddy [Riley] had mentioned, that when he heard ‘Alright’ it gave him this spark—this idea of this New Jack Swing. But it was never like, ‘Oh, this is going to be a game-changer.’ I liked doing things in different registers, not always singing in the same key. Even if it’s uncomfortable, let’s try other stuff.”

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Despite her lifelong fame, the “Miss You Much” artist is not interested in outside validation. She doesn’t put much stock in awards and trophies.

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“I’ve never been that person to have my awards on display. There’s nothing wrong with it, that’s just not me,” she said. “Being able to wake up and see my baby another day. The space might be in at that moment within my soul. What I’ve accomplished within myself. How far I’ve come from that child there to the woman that I am today. That’s success. If you came to my home, you would never know—if you did not know who I was—that I am an entertainer. I don’t have one award on my wall.”

Even with her classic catalog and warehouse full of awards, fans still wonder if there’s new music on the horizon. The Grammy-winner makes it clear we might be waiting a while.

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“Even though it’s something that I absolutely love, it still is my work, my job. There will be music at some point. Exactly when? I can’t say just yet, but there will be,” Jackson said. “I love it too much not to do it. This is all I know. There’s so much that I want to do—but my number one job is being a mama.”