Jazmine Sullivan: Soul, For Real
Ashley Sky Walker

She’s never been one to mince words in her lyrics.

Jazmine Sullivan has sung about busting the windows of her lover’s car and giving him ten seconds to leave. And, in 2011, after two well-received albums (Fearless and Love Me Back) and seven Grammy nominations, the R&B singer was similarly blunt with fans, tweeting that she was leaving the music industry. Abandoning the spotlight—partly due to a physically abusive relationship, she says—was necessary for Sullivan to get her head and her heart right.

“My team thought I needed a week or two just to chill. Even I didn’t think it would be that long of a break,” says the Philadelphia-bred songstress. The 27-year-old reconnected with her spiritual side and vegged out on TV, which inspired her latest effort, Reality Show (available December 16). Initially, Sullivan was nervous to return, fearing the “out of sight, out of mind” theory. Fans, however, were hungry for her wonderfully raspy voice—evident on tracks “Hood Love,” “Forever Don’t Last” and “Masterpiece”—calling her “the truth” on Instagram. Their adoration has been a beautiful reminder for Sullivan: “I was always a work of art. I just didn’t know it.”

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This article was originally featured in the December 2014 issue of ESSENCE, on newsstands now.