On January 8, 2021, powerhouse singer/songwriter Jazmine Sullivan released her fourth project—at a little over 32 minutes in length it’s an extended play that really is a fully realized concept album—Heaux Tales. When I first saw it pop up on my Spotify new releases, I hopped right over it. I like Jazmine Sullivan; she’s easily one of the best singers of this generation, full stop. But in my head an album called Heaux Tales wasn’t meant for me. And that’s okay, I like Megan Thee Stallion but most of her albums ain’t really for me; they are entertaining AF though. Recently, a friend of mine asked my thoughts about the album and at that point I decided to give it a listen and ZOMG! I can’t believe that I didn’t listen to this album when it first dropped. I absolutely love it.
But saying that I love it does it a disservice. I don’t just love it, I’m impressed by it. From the songwriting to the singing to the performance to the insight to the execution of said insight in sequence of the album. I literally love everything about this project. For the record, it’s still not a record intended for me, per se, but it’s an album I’m able to take something from, even as an “outsider” so to speak. It speaks directly to humanity and internal dialogues, hopes and dreams that I think anybody can listen and gain from it. Anywho, I had a lot of thoughts about why I feel it’s so amazing, here are 10 of them.
1. If SWV’s entire catalog and Frank Ocean’s Blond. had a child, it would be this album. Impeccable singing (SWV) with top-tier songwriting (Frank Ocean). Jazmine Sullivan is amazeballs at both. And it’s not just the songwriting as a means to tell a story but her phrasing (hence the Frank Ocean reference). Jazmine nails so much of the minutiae in ways that paint such vivid pictures. On the song—and trust me, we’re going to get to this impeccable ass song— “Put It Down” she has a line, among the many entertaining lines where she says, “when he call me up, I be like ‘ding dong,’ come through with a trench on” makes me think of Jacqueline showing up to Marcus Graham’s apartment in a trench coat and lingerie. But more immediately, the sitcom-esque visual of somebody calling her and the next scene being her ringing the doorbell kilt me dead.
But aside from little nuggets like that, the production is all over the place in a the most perfect way; each song’s production perfectly fits the song’s tone and point. “Lost One” is so fucking sad that I almost hate listening; it makes you reflect whether you want to or not. The skits where she has real friends and family of hers speak to various ideas and themes just works.
2. I’m going to say this, and it’s perhaps more of a question: but where was the ho shit? None of the album felt like ho shit to me. Or even ho tales. It just felt like real life instances or glimpses into the minds of Jazmine and her folks. I didn’t hear anything that made me say to myself, “look at that ho shit right there!” But maybe I wouldn’t. Even the stuff men might typically call ho shit like “Precious’ Tale” ie. skits abo ut chasing a man with money, etc. It didn’t feel like using a man for his money; it felt more like attempting to compensate for the losses taken in life up to that moment. Now, Life Tales isn’t as provocative a title as Heaux Tales—perhaps it wouldn’t get the people going—but still, maybe I just don’t get it. Hell, I could relate to way more of it than I expected for an album called Heaux Tales.
3. Speaking of being able to relate, she could basically have called this album Relatable Content and it loses absolutely nothing. Really, Jazmine Sullivan could call all of her albums Relatable Content and just title them like Led Zeppelin did with numbers.
4. My favorite songs on this album are basically every song on this album. Here they are in order (there are only 7 actual songs): “Put It Down,” “The Other Side,” “Pick Up Your Feelings,” “Lost One,” “Girl Like Me,” “Price Tags,” “On It.” I don’t even know where to put the “Bodies-Intro.” It’s basically the fully fleshed out women’s perspective from the “Where Are My Panties?” skit from Outkast’s The Love Below. Real talk, though, I love them all like a weight-maintenance-challenged kid loves cake.
5. Let’s talk about “Put It Down.” I love this song. It’s hilarious. It ain’t empowerment, it ain’t shame. “Put It Down,” is a song about facts. And fun. And a call to action once she realizes this is just her lot in life in regards to this particular chap. When she sings, “Trick on that nigga! Trick on that nigga!” and then gives reasons why you should? That motherfucker is spittin’. I laughed so hard many times. I mentioned the song upthread, but it opens up with, “he live with his mama but I treat him like a king,” all because of the D. Yes, he puts it down. It’s hilarious. And I imagine a conversation many women have had amongst themselves while explaining away why this particular fellow is still in the picture. The beat jams. The lyrics jam. It sounds like she had fun while making it. I hope to have as much fun at my job as it sounds like she had making this song. It is my hope that everybody has as much fun at their jobs as she did making this song.
6. Interestingly, if you were to invert the gender of this song—have it be a man singing “I live with my mama, but she treat me like a king,” (just listen to it) I imagine it would be the subject of a tremendous amount of social media upheaval and shenanigans.
7. The skits—the “tales”—littered about the album are really interesting and help move the album between songs. But two of them are just...sad. “Rashida’s Tale” is about a lost love because of cheating and you can hear Rashida’s voice crack. “Amanda’s Tale” is interesting because it’s so self-aware. It’s high on esteem and also insecure at the same time. It’s like she’s too aware of who she is an her role in the world, plays her position, but hates that she knows the position she’s in. I actually felt for them. Jazmine did a tremendous job of adding to the project. Even Ari Lennox telling her tale of how taken she was with a gentleman we’d all know because he put it on her something awful. Again, it didn’t even sound “ho-ish,” but like a woman who was caught up, knew it, rather enjoyed it and the experience was worth it in retrospect.
8. I fucking love the song “The Other Side.” It sounds like a convo Issa Dee would have with herself in the mirror. But it speaks so well to making it out of whatever circumstance you’re in. Jazmine (or whatever character she’s playing here) is thinking about the life she wants. The rapper in Atlanta who will buy her a booty is such visual storytelling that I can see it all. And her voice...actually we’re going to talk about her voice next. But while I don’t plan to move to Atlanta and find me a rapper who will buy me a booty on my way to this rich life, who can’t relate to thinking about life and how to get to the thing you believe you need or would bring you happiness? This song fucking nails it.
9. Let’s talk about Jazmine’s voice right quick: her voice is insane. What she is able to do with it to perfectly lock into the right emotion needed for the task at. hand. And her voice is so big, the fact that she is able to tread so lightly where need be to evoke an emotion that literally taps into exactly how I think I should feel about the songs....bra-fucking-vo, Jazmine. Like I said, I was impressed with this project as much as anything.
10. I realize that I’m selling the shit out of this album. I hope that you love it as much as I do because this is the most I’ve enjoyed an album in quite some time. I feel like it’s such a complete and well executed piece of music that tells a story and hits the right emotional notes. This is an album that will not be going anywhere from my personal listening for quite some time. Basically...she put it down.
I’ll see myself out.