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JAZMINE SULLIVAN ON THE POWER OF R&B

Philly native Jazmine Sullivan dropped her first album in 2008 and has since collected all manner of accolades, including 12 Grammy nominations. Her 2021 set, Heaux Tales (RCA), which features H.E.R., Anderson .Paak and Ari Lennox, is Sullivan’s first full-length in six years. Single “Pick Up Your Feelings” is a superb example of R&B’s current thematic and musical renaissance.

How do you characterize R&B and soul?
The biggest characteristics to me are honesty and emoting through your voice and performance. It’s all about the emotion.

How important is the genre today and how do you see it developing in the future?
The genre is so important because it’s the heart and soul of music. It has evolved already and taken on different shapes and forms musically over the years, becoming easier for people to digest. It will evolve even further if we continue to wake up and appreciate it.

Which artists do you feel have had the greatest impact on its evolution?
Well, of course, Aretha Franklin. She was, is and always will be the Queen of Soul. Mary J. Blige has the feeling; you feel everything she sings. She has something inside of her that you can’t take away—her spirit speaks to people. Lauryn Hill started adding the hip-hop element to it, which took it even further, and you were able to listen to her sing and rap with it. Lastly, anything Frank Ocean. He had a hand in creating progressive R&B. 

What, for you, are some of the most meaningful examples of how this music has engaged in social change?
Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On.” He used his music to speak to social issues. Beyoncé also did it with “Formation” when she brought awareness to police brutality through her visuals. 

What R&B records influenced you in your early years?
The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill changed my life as an 11-year-old. I remember the day I got it. “Ex-Factor” particularly moved me. Stevie Wonder’s “Uptight (Everything’s Alright)” is another record that influenced me—any and all Stevie!

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