AHHA's Best of 2008: Jazmine Sullivan

AllHipHop Staff

Original Post Date: August 5, 2008Let’s get one thing straight – she does not want to be Lauryn Hill. That’s not to say that Jazmine Sullivan has disdain for our living legend Ms. Hill. It’s just that in a world where good music is so hard to find, Miss Sullivan would much rather build her own path than walk the sacred one that L-Boogie has forged. Jazmine Sullivan has been a local force in Philly for quite some time. A regular during the hay day of the Black Lily circuit, Jazmine caught the eyes and ears of some pretty important people – namely Missy Elliott.A record deal with Jive Records led to the ever so common misplacement of a young artist in a completely off element. Now Jazmine is back with a new label [J Records] and a new lease on her career as a singer/songwriter. Her debut single, the reggae-tinged “Need U Bad,” offers the musical wealth that R&B currently needs to be paid, along with Sullivan’s old soul. But for a youth who co-penned Christina Milian’s “Say I,” Jazmine Sullivan isn’t trying to be that overly deep youngster who has no time to be a kid. She’s young and she’s having fun…and destined for great things. AllHipHop.com Alternatives: So you’re originally from Philly. What is it in the water in Philly that always brings out really good artists?Jazmine Sullivan: I don’t know, I think it’s a really historical place for soul music. And people from Philly – if you’re smart you’ll study all of that stuff and learn about the history. Gamble and Huff, who are great writers, they produced a lot of hits; so it’s a soulful historic thing. Historical, historical, the water is dirty, that’s why I don’t know about the water. [laughs]AHHA: You have been singing for a really long time, but even when you were coming up as a teenager, at what point did you begin aggressively pursuing music?Jazmine Sullivan: Probably around twelve or thirteen. I started out going around to different artists and producers, hopefully trying to get put on. That is actually when I met Missy, when I was about thirteen and then I started going to the Black Lily a lot; almost like every other week. I was just getting better at my craft. Watching all the performers that performed there, Floetry and Kindred (the Family Soul) who were like a brother and sister to me. [Kindred] actually put me on their first album. It was actually my first time singing in the studio, and they gave me that opportunity. The track was called “I am,” I believe. I signed when I was sixteen to Jive records, and it didn’t work out. I think the main reason was because I really didn’t know who I was musically at that time, so I couldn’t tell them. [Jive] saw me as one thing, and I just wasn’t that, but it ended up working out better, I believe. I had to time grow as a person, to experience the things that every teenager should and grow as a writer. I wrote this song called “In Love with Another Man,” that me and my mother started sending out to different record companies, and Peter Edge from J [Records] loved the song. They called and invited me in the office and I sang it live. We went through almost a year of getting material together and gathering up material to give to Clive, because you can’t go into Clive’s office unless you have something solid down. So we definitely spent time doing that, and one of the songs we got together was the single “Need U Bad,” because I worked with Missy. I performed for him, and he was basically like, “Welcome to the family” after. It has been an amazing journey so far. AHHA: I’m going to keep it 100 percent with you, when they played “I Need U Bad” in the Cornerstone office; I swear I almost started crying. I really thought that opening note was Lauryn [Hill]… Jazmine Sullivan: A lot of people think that. When I get comparisons to Lauryn it is all good. You know, Lauryn is such a great artist and I listened to her growing up. I think because of the reggae vibe on the first single, it is easy to compare me to her. But I think once you hear the rest of the album you will see that we are two totally different artists. There is no other Lauryn to me. AHHA: So you said that you met with Missy when you were like twelve or thirteen. How did that come about? Jazmine Sullivan: There was this guy that was kind of acting as my manager – he used to take me around to a lot of different artists – like I sang for Wyclef, Diddy, Jay-Z, Babyface, you name it, I have sang for them…Timbaland. But Missy was just one of the people that you could tell her interest was really genuine, and she believed in me as an artist. We had kind of lost contact, but when I got signed to Jive, my then manager James Cooper ran into her at this club and he was like, “Yo, I’m working with Jazmine Sullivan.” She was like “little Jazmine?” She remembered me, and she actually helped with the Jive project because everybody was wondering why Missy Elliot was interested in working with this little girl. She has definitely had my back for such a long time so it made sense to work with her on this album, and it definitely made sense for her to be on this first single. We have been working together for so long.

"When I get comparisons to Lauryn it is all good. You know, Lauryn is such a great artist and I listened to her growing up...But I think once you hear the rest of the album you will see that

we are two totally different artists. There is no other Lauryn to me."

AHHA: You have kind of a diverse vibe. It doesn’t go through one thing like “I Need You Bad” has the reggae vibe. Then I know there is like a little bit of a Latin soul flavor going on there and some new songs too. Where did all that come from?Jazmine Sullivan: Just being exposed to different types of music, my mom was really into Jazz when she was having me. That’s why she named me Jazmine, she was really into gospel, and she was really into soul. Then I started really getting into different things and just listening to different things. Of course you are influenced by what comes out your music and that is definitely the case with this album. There is not just one genre of music; it’s everything. I think something for everybody. AHHA: You wrote everything, right?Jazmine Sullivan: Yes I co-wrote the entire album, and I am really blessed. A lot of artists don’t get that opportunity…especially new artists. So I am just really blessed that J Records has such faith in me and let me be creative as I could. AHHA: You made reference that you and your mom were sending out tracks when you were in between labels. That is a really organic way to promote yourself, and it is sort of an artist’s dream to be able to say they mailed something out or sent a CD, and it actually reached the ears of a major label exec.Jazmine Sullivan: My mom has always been supportive of me and always been supportive of my writing. She was probably taking a chance sending out this song that I came up with along with Anthony Bell, who is from Philadelphia. It was really exciting when we heard someone from J Records was interested and loved the song. I put my heart into my music so when somebody appreciates it definitely feels good. AHHA: You sang back up on Nas’ new album, correct?Jazmine Sullivan: Yes I did! I did the song so long ago with Cool & Dre; I worked with them for a minute. I actually worked with them on the album with Jive, but they’re also good friends of mine. I just heard it and I loved the song, so I’m excited that I am on it. AHHA: You also wrote a part of Christina Milian’s “Say I.” Jazmine Sullivan: Yeah, I co-wrote it. That was at Jive and actually they intended [“Say I”] for my album. Back then I had no plans to write for anybody, I was just starting out as a writer and just getting my feet wet with that. But once I got dropped, they sold the song to Christina, and Dre called me up and told me that the song was sold. But I was excited about that too because if I couldn’t sing it, I wanted somebody to be able to get the song out. I thought it was hot. AHHA: I know you said at Jive their vision of what they wanted you to be in terms of an artist was different than your vision. Saying “Say I” was intended for you and listening to your music, it does sound like a difference in the level of Pop vs. Soul. Jazmine Sullivan: I definitely had time to grow. But I would still do “Say I” on this album to this very day. Like I said, my album is just not soul, it’s not reggae; it’s everything. But I definitely have grown as a writer. Definitely.

"I honestly can’t see myself doing anything else. I really can’t. I would probably be a bum on the street singing."

AHHA: So what type of artists are you feeling right now?Jazmine Sullivan: I like the song [sings] “I kissed a girl, and I liked it.” KatyPerry, I love that song. Actually it sounds like a song that I would write, just listening to the lyrics. Just writing something that will get people – to make them blush. I like that song definitely. I’m trying to get into Coldplay; I haven’t heard many cuts, but I have heard a couple songs. Have you ever listened to somebody and you know that you would love them as an artist? I know I would love their music. I will be getting to that soon, but I don’t listen to a lot of music right now just because I am still working on my album and I don’t like to be too influenced by other artists. I kind of like lock everything out for a little bit. When you [don ’t] do that it is easy for their style to influence yours. I try to stay away from listening to a lot of other artists while I’m workingAHHA: How many people have told you that you have an old soul?Jazmine Sullivan: I can’t count on my fingers and toes. [laughs] So many people have said that. I don’t know what it is about me that makes them think that. I am definitely goofy, young and silly. I understand that some of the songs I sing can seem deep like being in love with a man while still being in love with another one. But I also have sounds that are not deep at all. There is a song called “One Night Stand,” and there is a song called “Switch” and I think I have a good balance. They say I am too deep but I’m really not. AHHA: If you weren’t here doing this where do you think you would be?Jazmine: I honestly can’t see myself doing anything else. I really can’t. I would probably be a bum on the street singing. [laughs]