Janet Jackson is more than a long-lasting force in the entertainment industry. She’s a part of American history. Her breakthrough 1986 album Control was honored with twelve American Music Award nominations, a record that has yet to be broken, and she’s the first Black female recording artist to receive a Grammy nomination for Producer of the Year.
Here she talks to Essence.com about her new album Discipline, being a pioneer and the young competition.
Essence.com: After more than twenty years of recording, why do you need discipline?
Janet Jackson: Discipline has always been a part of me. When I started to perform onstage with my brothers and sisters, I would do my own hair. And not just in a messy way that a little kid would do, it had to be very neat. That’s a lot of discipline for a kid and I’ve always had that.
Essence.com: You once said that you view everyone as competition. Who do you see as competition now?
J.J.: Everyone! I still feel the same way. Even though I do feel there’s room for everyone as long as I’m first, no, I’m just kidding! [Laughs] I grew up competitive. We even grew up like that as brothers and sisters, but it’s a healthy competition. It keeps me going. It keeps me moving the way music and other things do.
Essence.com: “Discipline” is your first album since you left Virgin. How is the creative process different being on Island Def Jam?
J.J: There’s a huge difference. When I first joined Virgin Records we connected and spent a lot of time together similar to a family. Then, a lot of people left. It was a new group of people and we didn’t always see eye to eye. At that point it was time for me to move on and I did.
Essence.com: We always hear horror stories of artists trying to leave their label. How were you able to move on?
J.J.: I saw LA Reid at Oprah’s Legends Ball. We’ve been friends for years plus he’s wanted to work with me since my early days at Virgin. He asked me when my contract would end and I told him that I was working on my last album. It started from there.
Essence.com: For a while, you were one of the few Black female artists with worldwide success. What role do you think you’ve had in changing the landscape for women of color in the music industry?
J.J.: I’ve held the door open a little wider and that’s the way it should be. There were people before me who helped make it a lot easier for myself, like Diana Ross, Eartha Kitt and Lena Horne. I did things to try to make it better for those coming up behind me so it wouldn’t be as difficult.
Essence.com: Are there any plans to tour this album?
J.J: Yes, the idea is to tour at the end of summer. We were actually in full tour mode with the band and dancers for the last album. But the label called and asked if we would make a new album, then go on a tour.
Janet Jackson’s new album Discipline is in stores now.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Island Records