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5-time Grammy nominee Jazmine Sullivan - Interview

Mavin Sparks caught up with the 21 year old singer/songwriter the day after a very long day at Notting Hill Carnival to discuss being dropped from her first label deal, performing with her idol Stevie Wonder and reveals who did the Jamaican accent the smash single Need U Bad.

Marvin Sparks: How did you enjoy Notting Hill Carnival?
Jazmine Sullivan:
It was great! I did the Rampage stage and we pretty much walked around for the rest of the day [laughs] and saw everybody and all the fun everybody was having. It was a good time.

Marvin Sparks: What was your favourite aspect?
Jazmine Sullivan: The music, the trucks and the dancing and everybody was having a good time. Everywhere you went nobody cared what they looked like and were having a good time and expressing themselves. That’s definitely different from back home. We’re a little confined and care about what people think, but here it was kinda like free so I liked that.

Marvin Sparks: ‘Need U Bad’ is a big track right now, has it exceeded expectations for you?
Jazmine Sullivan:
It’s doing very well in the States. I hope that is does as well over here. I know that you guys appreciate good music, so I hope it does really well. I couldn’t imagine it doing any better. It’s actually number 1 in America right now.

Marvin Sparks: Congratulations. How was working with Missy Elliott?
Jazmine Sullivan:
It’s great! Missy is a good friend of mine. I’ve been working with her since I was 16. I met her was I was 13 so when we go into the studio its more like us having fun and we both really love what we do and appreciate good music, so everything just happens.

Marvin Sparks: Will there be any further work with her on the album?
Jazmine Sullivan:
I think she’ll have about 2 or 3 cuts on there. We have about 4 albums worth of songs period because we’ve been working for so long. We’ll definitely be working with each other in the future.

Marvin Sparks: And for those who didn’t know, it is actually Pepa that did the intro and outro on ‘Need U Bad’.
Jazmine Sullivan: Yeah that’s Pepa from Salt’N’Pepa. She was just happy to be in the studio when we got there. She’s Jamaican so it made sense that she did the patois. If I or Missy did it would sound a whole lot different.

Marvin Sparks: Is ‘Need U Bad’ a reflection of your album or will it be conventional R‘n’B?
Jazmine Sullivan: As far as the single being different from being different to everything else you hear on the album, yes because my whole album is very different. But it doesn’t reflect the style of the album. My album is very colourful and it’s all different kinds of genres of music because that’s what I’ve been influenced by. I was not limited at all on this album and I wrote the whole album. I am very lucky to be with a label that let me be as creative as I wanted to be. The album is not just Reggae vibe or R‘n’B vibe, it’s all of that. There’s pop in there. It’s just got everything.

Marvin Sparks: Which artists did you grow up listening to?
Jazmine Sullivan: There was this Gospel singer called Kim Burrell that I absolutely love. I used love listening to her all the time. But as far as an R‘n’B artist whose career I’d love to have is Stevie Wonder. His songs to me are just incredible. They stand the test of time and that‘s just how I try to write.

Marvin Sparks: You got the chance to vibe with Stevie Wonder, how was that experience?
Jazmine Sullivan: I actually got the chance to perform with him when I was 13 on stage. But before that I met him at his grandson’s birthday party. He was just having a birthday party for his grandson and had a lot of entertainers there. Kendrick from Philly were the invited guests and somehow I snuck in and sung ‘What’s Going On?’ then he played ‘These 3 Words’ and we started going back and forth doing riffs, just having fun and stuff like that. Then he invited me to his show.

Actually, I met him again maybe 5 or 6 months ago. He came to Philadelphia to do a 3-hour concert which I absolutely loved. He invited me backstage and we actually did the same thing. He started playing one of my songs called ‘In Love With Another Man’ just to let me know that he knew it. He played it and I sung it and it was kind of like a reunion.

Marvin Sparks: Did you come up singing through the church?
Jazmine Sullivan:
Yes I did actually. I started out singing Gospel and for a while that was what I was going to be doing. But once I got to a certain age I realised I wanted to sing R‘n’B and say things you can’t sing in gospel so I stayed with R‘n’B. I’ll probably go back to singing Gospel once I’ve finished being a sinner [laughs]

Marvin Sparks: Interesting, so what topics can we expect on the album then?
Jazmine Sullivan:
Very real subjects. When I write I’m an illustrator, so not all the situations are with me personally, but they are definitely real. It could be from my parent’s relationship or my [platonic] girlfriend’s, TV, a movie, a book or anything. I’m a to the point/blunt writer. I mean what I say and I say what I mean. I have a song called ‘Bust Your Windows’ and it’s about busting your windows. I have another song called ‘Switch’ which is about wanting the other guy. For example, two girlfriends go out and meet two other guys and let’s say I get the ugly guy and I’m saying I want to switch [laughs].

Marvin Sparks: are you currently listening to?
Jazmine Sullivan:
Really? I don’t listen to anyone now because I’m in album mode and I don’t want to hear a lot of other people because it’s easy to be influenced by that so I’m just listening to myself.

Marvin Sparks: What do you think of comparisons between you and Lauryn Hill?
Jazmine Sullivan: I’m honoured. Lauryn’s a great artist and I’ve listened to her album a million times ‘cause it was such a great album. I have no problems with that. I know the comparisons are there because I have the Reggae vibe on the track that people hear, but I know that once they hear the rest of the album they’ll see that we are totally different artists and respect what I’m bringing to the table

Marvin Sparks: You mentioned you wrote every song on the album. Which gives you greater pleasure, writing or singing and hearing the recording?
Jazmine Sullivan: Erm [deep thought] I would say the singing and hearing it back. I write on a sheet of paper and it’ll be a bunch of scribble. But after seeing the scribble on the paper once you hear it back in its completion, that’s better.

Marvin Sparks: This is your second time you’ve been signed. What happened the first time around?
Jazmine Sullivan:
I was signed to Jive when I was 16. I was very young. I didn’t really know anything about anything, I was just a young girl. I got dropped around 18 or 19. It was difficult at that age period but especially when a label drops you but gratefully I had a good foundation. My parents were with me and they never let me give up on myself or feel down, or think that was the end and you know I got signed again so it’s good.

Marvin Sparks: At the 1Xtra carnival after party you got to hear some UK songs. You’ve also got the Crazy Cousin’s remix of ‘Need U Bad’. How you feeling the UK stuff?
Jazmine Sullivan:
I like it. It’s different and like I said earlier you guys know how to get down [Laughs]

Marvin Sparks: Any final shout outs?
Jazmine Sullivan: Thank you to everyone that has supported the record. Go pick up the album Fearless in stores September 22nd.

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