After taking stepping out of music's bright limelight, the soulful, powerhouse known to the world as Jazmine Sullivan is back! Taking time away to experience life, love, and regroup, the singer has finally returned with her first body of work in about six years, the liberating "Heaux Tales." Released Friday (Jan. 8), Heaux Tales is a complete experience. It is an ode to women of all types, shapes, sizes, and kinds. Filled with relevant truth, self-reflection, confidence, and more, the project takes the narratives made by the word "hoe" itself and changes its perspective, thoughts, and overall energy that is generated around the term. The EP allows women to tell their raw stories freely while reclaiming their power.
In a brief video, the Philly native gives detail to the birth of the project, "I wrote Heaux Tales to give voice to every woman," she begins. "We're deserving of respect whether we work as a CEO of a company or if we're stripping. It's about unity. It's about boldness. It's about ownership and confidence and also vulnerability and self-reflection," Jazmine continues.
The EP holds 14 tracks total. Of the 14, six of them are personal tales/interludes from her friends that direct the project and bring further meaning and expression to Sullivan's songs. Running for about 32 minutes, Heaux Tales is raw, emotive, and expressive from beginning to end.
"Bitch, get it together, bitch...," Jazmine Sullivan sings on the ghostly intro ("Bodies). The snapping, swirling opener finds Jazmine piecing herself together after another drunken encounter with a man. She searches within for accountability asking herself questions such as was this man a friend of yours? Was he a friend of a friend's? What did I drink? Was he essentially worth this? As she continues to pile up bodies on top of bodies, she calls her actions s Powerful and full of emotion, the song follows the interlude flawlessly as Jazmine's sings about bossing up and flipping the switch on the dude who has down her wrong for the last time. Hearty and passionate, she leaves everything on the canvas of our minds as she belts her heart out.
Positioning and sequencing are important elements that truly bring this body of art to life. As the EP continues, listeners are greeted by Jazmine's friend, Antoinette Henry who tells her tale of sexual freedom and liberation. She speaks briefly of the double standard that is seen when it comes to society, women, men, and sex. It's unfair and she highlights the parts both genders play in it before the EP transitions to the lead single, "Pick Up Your Feelings." Powerful and full of emotion, the song follows the interlude flawlessly as Jazmine's sings about bossing up and flipping the switch on the dude who has down her wrong for the last time. Hearty and passionate, she leaves everything on the canvas of our minds as she belts her heart out.
Now, feminism does not begin and end with bashing men. As the story continues, we are greeted by another friend of Jazmine's, Ari Lennox. On "Ari's Tale," the 29-year-old DMV singer reveals her truth of being entranced by someone who ultimately caused her to disregard her self-respect due to their bedroom skills. The love of lust invigorates her while overshadowing her sanity and even professional life.
"I was damn near willing to just let him talk to me crazy
Because that shit was out of this world, like
Yes, daddy, yes, okay
Like, I was literally willing to ruin my career."
From Ari's Tale, listeners are introduced further to the elements of sexuality and pleasure on tracks such as the male-favorites, "Put It Down," and the burning "On It." "Put It Down" mirrors much of the verbiage presented in Ari's Tale. Jazmine sings about utterly catering to a man because of his gifted bedroom qualities. She goes as far to say she'll even pay the man's rent because of just how well he pleasures her body (did you feel that ladies?).
On the contrary, "On It" is slower and even more passionate. The topic remains the same, however. Assisted by Ari Lennox herself, the pair create this super R&B duo that leaves you salivating for more. They tell their respective lovers, "I want to do nasty things to you, BUT you must be deserving of these very filthy acts I would like to engage in with you." Their flawless voices put every R&B act out right now to shame (respectfully). The vocal delivery, the spirituality, and utter talent within this sexual-yet-classical record... anointed. Truly, the record is one of the very best on the entire EP.
Empowerment is reached yet again as the project arrives at Donna's Tale. Here, with the assistant of the blessed organs, Sullivan's friend, Donna Anderson makes it clear that regardless of whether you're single, in a relationship, or married, "tricking" as she states, is a part of the game. "Women think, "Oh no, I don't trick, I don't ho, I don't do none of that shit"/Bitch, every time you sleep with, even if you're married, you have tricked in your f**kin' marriage/You have sex because you know your husband is gonna give you what the f**k you want the next day." The tale leads into the Anderson .Paak-assisted "Pricetags." Songs such as "Pricetags" and even "The Other Side" romanticize sex as a tool of financial gain, empowerment, luxury, and authority. The message is clear if you want to hit, the pockets better be full. This is exemplified in another spoken interlude by Precious Daughtry. Daughtry expresses her want for a man with heavy pockets. The desire comes from her very own lack of good things throughout her childhood.
Heaux Tales ushers in a heavy presence of vulnerability and transparency too. For example, on "Rashida's Tale," Sullivan's friend Rashida Northington tells her story of being in love with a woman who was ready to give her nothing but a life of love. Instead of this life, the two part ways due to Rashida's infidelity and affair with her partner's friend. The tale transitions to the moving lead single, "Lost One." A standout track, "Lost One" revels in pain and openness. Fueled with emotion and sincerity, Jazmine's voice blazes the slow song like a thunderous trumpet as she asks her lover not to love anyone else just as he has loved her.
Another example is felt in "Amanda's Tale," where Jazmine's friend, Amanda Henderson speaks on her usage of sex as a tool of wholeness. She speaks on the spirits of comparison and low self-worth she feels when she sees various women on Instagram. Because of this, she looks to sex as a resource to build her confidence and also keep a man.
"Looking at these girls on Instagram and...
It's hard sometimes because, I don't have all that that they have
And the sex has become my superpower
It's like sex is where I, I'm finding my worth."
From the interlude, listeners reach the EP's final track, "Girl Like Me." Recruiting none other than H.E.R., the two vocal veterans throw down over a somber acoustic-appealing beat produced by Bongo. They sing about those very women on Instagram that Amanda refers to and their Fashion Nova pieces that leave men thirsting for more. The two desire more from these men. They are both tired of the "good girl shit" and are just about ready to revel in new "ho" energy as it appears they are the only ones who win in the very end.
Overall, Heaux Tales is an utter production. The project is not just a simple collection of interludes and songs to be consumed and tossed away. The EP tells a story of the modern woman today. It is very relative to the lives and narratives of many women of all ages and backgrounds. From the songwriting, lyricism, and vocal skill, to the delivery, interludes, and symbolism, Heaux Tales shifts this "ho" narrative and generates a new meaning. It takes the power from the term and places it back into women. It is progressive, raw, and explosive. In a time where women are filling more rooms and spaces with their truths, stories, and experiences, Heaux Tales is literally right on time.
The project also shows the progression and even further development in Jazmine's artistry. Every song on the project grows better with each play. She continues to be an untouchable force and her voice is unparalleled. The EP leaves room for Jazmine to create even more expressive and storytelling bodies of work in the future. Because of this, Heaux Tales receives a 9/10.
Top 5 Songs of Heaux Tales:
Girl Like Me
Pick Up Your Feelings
Put It Down
Honorable Mention: Bodies (Intro)