Jazmine Sullivan’s ‘Heaux Tales’ Is A Testimony Of Pain & Power (MADAMENOIRE)

2020 Soul Train Awards - Presented By BET - Show
Source: 2020 Soul Train Awards / Getty

After six years of waiting, Jazmine Sullivan has finally honored us with her presence again. She opened 2021 with the release of her EP, Heaux Tales, her first project since 2015’s Grammy-nominated Reality Check. From “10 Seconds” to “Let It Burn,” the Philadelphia-born songbird is known for showing off her exceptional vocal abilities while crooning about the pain and rage that heartbreak causes as well as serenading and celebrating finding love. On this EP, she broke her own mold. On Heaux Tales, the 33-year-old is tired of being the scorned lover and wants hunnids over heartbreak. She’s the one in control and she is playing the field with her own rule book. This 14-track project explores the power of the woman’s sexuality and features guest stars to tell the oh-so-true testimonies of dealing with Mr. Right Now.

The emotional experience while listening to Heaux Tales is the polar opposite of Fearless, Love Me Back and Reality Check. Its dominant energy is accompanied by insightfulness, power struggles and complicated reflections.  Nestled between songs are interludes from guest stars Antionette, Donna, singer Ari Lennox, Rashida, Precious and Amanda, who give realistic accounts of what it is to deal with sex and love. On “Donna’s Tale,” she gives us all a brash reality check about tricking. Donna Henderson, who is a friend of Sullivan’s mother, reminds us that just because a woman is a wife doesn’t mean she isn’t using what she has to get what she wants. “You have sex because you know your husband is going to give you what you what the f*** you want the next day,” she boldly said.  “Rashida’s Tale” is a transparent account of the taboo-topic of women being the cheater and causing the trauma of heartbreak, something we commonly bash men for doing. On “Precious’ Tale,” she admits that having nothing as a child has influenced how she navigates her relationships. As she runs from the childhood trauma of being raised in poverty, she wants to fall into the arms of a hustler.

“Amanda’s Tale” poked at my heart the most. In relationships/situationships, we ponder about what we have to offer besides sex, which is also a source of power. But this powerful thing can leave a woman wondering about their worth when men won’t look past her sexual prowess. This theme is an undertone of the entire project.

Throughout the seven songs, Sullivan’s superb, textured and soulful voice reigns supreme. After getting rid of her ex on “Pick Up Your Feelings,” the “heaux phase” begins. “Ari’s Tale” coupled with “Put It Down” tells the truth of being so “dickmatized” that every wish was her command. “On It” is the EP’s standout track where Lennox and Sullivan demand that the man impresses them in order to win the prize. On the Anderson.Paak-assisted “Pricetags,” Sullivan would rather be spoiled than be a man’s special lady.  After “Rashida’s Tale,” “Lost One” is a transparent cry about the guilt of becoming the heartbreaker when you are too familiar with the heartache that happens when on the other end.

Every track and testimony on Heaux Tales spoke to me. Have I questioned my worth after being ghosted and encountering constant situationships that went nowhere? Yes. Have I thought about looking at relationships with men as more of a transaction rather than a love thing so I can feel more fulfilled? Absolutely. Glancing at Instagram models and then looking in a mirror can be too much of a shameful experience to bear, something pointed out on “Amanda’s Tale.”

Heaux Tales is about being tired. On “The Other Side” Sullivan sings: “I just wanna be taken care of/’Cause I worked enough, commas over love.” It’s about being so drained from getting your hopes up that you trade in dreams of wholesome love for one-night-stands and Cash App deposits, which is echoed by “Pricetags.” On the rap-like track she sings: “Spend a few stacks, keep a bad b**** happy/Real n***** know what make a b**** get nasty/Flashy, that’s how I dress if you ask me/Pass me, you broke n**** can’t catch me.” It’s about looking at men and how confident they are in their sexuality despite their shortcomings and saying, “I can do that too & I can do it better.” The woman is tired of being played so she becomes the player.

The project is complicated and two-sided. On “Girl Like Me,” Sullivan finds herself in despair again after her boyfriend leaves her for another with no explanation. After she questions why she wasn’t the chosen one, H.E.R joins the pity party and sings about the frustrations of being the good girl who always comes up short. On the acoustic track, they sing:

Boy, you must wanted somethin’ different
Still don’t know what you was missin’
What you asked I would’ve given
It ain’t right how these hoes be winnin’
Why they be winnin’? (How they be? Why they be? Why they be?)

It is perfectly poised as the last track as it explains how Sullivan’s agony lead her to finding that the p*ssy is power. The project starts off with “Bodies,” where Sullivan is kicking herself for having a wreckless sex habit. With”Girls Like Me” as the final track, we see how this whole “heaux phase” started and led to her piling up bodies on bodies.

In the end, it looks like the heauxs win. They have stripped away the cringe of a woman claiming and basking in her sexuality freely. Their unapologetic perspective keeps their heart on lock and pockets flooded along with their pick of the litter when it comes to men. It’s not an insult anymore. Their prowess and power keeps their confidence in check, but this came from them trying to recover from heartbreak’s anguish. Heaux Tales is a testament that pain can lead to empowerment…but there’s still pain.

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