If you have sex on the first date, you’re easy. If you’re promiscuous, you’re labeled a hoe. In the eyes of society, frequently indulging in sexual activity automatically deems you an object worthy of just one thing. Sex has existed since the beginning of time, yet the idea of women owning their sexuality still causes people to clutch their pearls.
Female artists have never shied away from sexually explicit content in their music. Last summer, Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s salacious track “WAP” conjured up numerous unsolicited thinkpieces supporting the outdated notion that freaks should only remain in the sheets.
On the R&B side, women like Jhené Aiko and Ari Lennox have created sexually-charged anthems for their counterparts to relate to. Now we can add Jazmine Sullivan to the list. Her new EP Heaux Tales isn’t solely about the act of sex and the ways in which it occurs. It’s a concept piece derived from the stories, candid conversations, and experiences of Black women and how they see themselves, good and bad.
Sullivan introduces the project with “Bodies,” a production that perfectly personifies that hazy moment when one comes to clear consciousness after an alcohol-induced night out. The singer acts as our inner monologue as she attempts to recount her sexual escapades after having one too many drinks, and the cycle of wanting to “get it together” while continuing to press your luck.
“Donna’s Tale” is a hilariously raw conversation reminiscent of late-night gatherings amongst our moms and aunts. Donna lays out how married women and single women are in the same boat when it comes to using sex as a means of financial and personal gain. Sullivan gives us both sides of the story, however, when it comes to using your talents to get your wants and needs met. On one hand, she’s willing to “pay his rent if he nasty” on “Put It Down.” While on “Pricetags,” featuring Anderson .Paak, she tells the story of a woman only willing to entertain a monetarily based relationship. Paak is the only male voice on the entire project, adding context to the plot. Sullivan and Paak’s cadence and delivery infectiously steepen their points with a reciprocal harmony.
One of the top tracks on the album is “On It” featuring Ari Lennox. The shy and meek have no place among this proud declaration of women’s sexual desires. The vocal peaks and climaxes on this sultry number as the voices of the duo merge into one is akin to passionate lovemaking. And like a great sex session, the pair takes their time and exceedingly surpasses expectations.
With Heaux Tales, Sullivan has amplified her gift of vivid storytelling, picking up the lyrical baton from “Reality Show” six years prior. The concepts she explores play out in your mind with such pristine vision listeners find themselves standing in a pair of well-fitting shoes despite the fact that they aren’t their own. Sullivan may not explicitly own every encounter she sings about, but her ability to embody those experiences is a testament to her intentionality with this EP.
Every song is a driving force but the tales are just as important. They are poignant connections that seamlessly navigate the project along, tapping into themes of self-worth, self-reflection, and self-respect. With that comes honest critics on cultural and societal norms that show up in our beds and behind closed doors.
Shame and blame are nonexistent on Heaux Tales. Everyone owns their actions and every interaction occurs simply because the individuals involved wanted it to and that’s good enough reason. In a time where the bodies and entities of Black females continue to be policed and scrutinized, Heaux Tales provides a narrative for women to reclaim the ownership they’ve always possessed.