Words by: Lauren Gordon
Jazmine Sullivan has thrills us again with a poetic and soulful journey in her new album, Heaux Tales.
Jazmine Sullivan has been dropping amazing singles consistently, but Heaux Tales is her first album since 2015 and so comes highly anticipated. Track by track, I delve into Jazmine’s messages of the trials and tribulations of sex and love in her 4th studio album.
In her own words, Heaux Tales is about Jazmine’s “observation of today’s women standing in their power and owning who they are — No longer is male patriarchy dictating what it means to be a ‘good girl’”. Sullivan maintains her traditional R&B vocals and adlibs that electrifyingly meld together across the project’s 14 tracks. Intertwined with the songs are spoken interludes from her friends, including Ari Lennox, telling their ‘tales’ of femininity, empowerment, intimacy and sex peppered throughout.
‘Antionette’s Tale’ recognizes the power in femininity and sexual liberation in a society that often forgets that women are sexual beings in their own right: “We’re out here telling them, that the p*ssy is theirs / When in actuality, it’s ours”. ‘Pick Up Your Feelings’, which was initially released as a single, takes the spirit of Beyoncé’s ‘Irreplaceable’ and Rihanna’s ‘Take a Bow’, as she bids a happy farewell to a lost lover. Her lyrics are cutting and her trademark raspy vocals signify the passion in Jazmine’s letting go. Her rap-like delivery jolts her words to life amidst the changing tempo of the track.
Ari Lennox’s first feature on Heaux Tales hears her discussing the immense power of d*ck in a short spoken interlude, admitting to it speaking “life into me / Invigoration, blessings, soul, turmoil”. The theme of sexual empowerment continues as ‘Put It Down’ takes an upbeat turn with Jazmine willingly giving her all to her man in return for him ‘putting it down’. Ari appears again as the two harmonise over a passionate, R&B beat while detailing again their desires to their lovers on the gloriously seductive and tempting track ‘On It’.
The album continues with ‘Pricetags’, a mellow link up between Jazmine and Anderson. Paak. The two exchange lyrics as lovers with Paak struggling to keep up with Jazmine, who is basking in the materialistic glow of the rich man, demanding to be spoiled by her man before freeing it up.
‘Rashida’s Tale’ describes the process of leaving a relationship with someone she once loved after cheating on them. It’s followed by the soft, heartbreaking track, ‘Lost One’. Jazmine understands the hurt she’s caused and, despite not wanting to let go, she knows it’s what’s best. The subtle displays of women’s strengths are shown throughout Heaux Tales, but particularly when Jazmine asks not to be forgotten, not to be replaced, with the hint that she knows this is inevitable.
Precious explains her desire for a hustler in ‘Precious’ Tale’ and her refusal to accept any man into her life unless they’re able to contribute to that: “I’ma get my own, and I’ma be able to stand on my own / But I’m not gonna deal with anyone unless they can contribute to what I’m doing”. Jazmine follows this money mantra, fantasising about the rich life she intends to achieve in her future on ‘The Other Side’.
Heaux Tales takes a reflective turn in the penultimate interlude, ‘Amanda’s Tale’. Amanda claims sex as her superpower whilst also expressing her insecurities, built up by social media and not feeling like she is enough: “It’s a little hurtful that I can’t just be confident”. The album ends with a feature with H.E.R, a long time fan of Jazmine’s work. Both girls reflect on their flaws and insecurities in ‘Girls Like Me’, a track that honours the chill, lo-fi R&B made popular by artists like H.E.R and SZA.
Undoubtedly, Heaux Tales is a warm embrace of acceptance for the pain, hurt and also fun that fooling around with love can end up in. The plethora of stories from a variety of perspectives makes it easily adaptable and relatable, regardless of your personal situation. Jazmine may be known for her self labelled ‘angry songs’ like ‘Bust Your Windows’, but her Heaux Tales takes a subtle and humble approach in empowering women and standing for sexual liberation.