In 2008, Jazmine Sullivan stepped onto the music scene with her debut single Need U Bad, produced by Missy Elliott, which became No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. After a three-year hiatus, she is back with her third studio album, Reality Show, which debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s R&B Albums chart.
The recipient of Billboard’s Rising Star Award, Sullivan recently spoke with the South Florida Times before her April 14 performance at the Fillmore Miami Beach at Jackie Gleason Theater.
She decided to take a break from the music scene after having a bad relationship. She began writing down her feelings and knew it was time to return with an album. She writes most of her songs, which she said is based on her real life experiences.
“I am a spectator of life,” Sullivan said. “I love writing and expressing myself.”
Sullivan has expressed herself ever since she was a child growing up in Philadelphia and singing in church.
“My mother heard early I had a voice and encouraged me to sing,” Sullivan said of her mother, who was a background singer for popular 1970’s duo McFadden and Whitehead, best known for their hit, Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now.
At an early age, Sullivan began to meet some musical heavy hitters. At age 13, she met Stevie Wonder when she attended his grandson’s first birthday party and got a chance to sing.
“Stevie Wonder didn’t have a regular birthday party,” she said. “It had to be a jam session.”
At age 16, Sullivan got help from Missy Elliott for her first project with Jive Records. “It was very helpful,” Sullivan said of Elliott’s participation. “It got the record label’s attention.”
She was dropped from the label but when she re-signed with J Records, Elliott came aboard to help out.
“We stayed in contact,” Sullivan said. “We have a long history of working together and being friends.”
The two have collaborated on songs for other artists including singer Monica’s hit, Everything to Me, which was written by Sullivan and co-produced by Elliott. Sullivan has also written songs for Jennifer Hudson and Fantasia. Once the tour ends, Sullivan plans to begin writing songs for her next album as well as continuing to write songs for other artists. She also would like to work with some of her favorite artists including Frank Ocean, Pharrell, Beyonce, Chaka Khan and Stevie Wonder.
“I am a music fan,” Sullivan said. “Anyone I listen to, I would love to work with.”