ALBUM REVIEW: Jazmine Sullivan, Heaux Tales, Mo'Tales: The Deluxe
Updated: Mar 11, 2022
Grade: B +
(We are grading both parts together, so for more context on the original, non-deluxe album, here is the link to that review: Jazmine Sullivan, Heaux Tales)
Last year, Jazmine Sullivan’s first project in six years came completely out of left field. I had never really explored her music, although I was vaguely familiar with Reality Show and her contributions to Frank Ocean’s Endless. What I loved most about this record was the singular format it had, something that I’d never quite seen before. Each track had a “Tale” associated with it, whether it be “Antoinette’s Tale” of pussy ownership or “Ari’s Tale” of simping for a powerful man. Following “Donna’s Tale”, about married women bussing it open for a new washer and dryer, the low-key “Price Tags” with Anderson .Paak turned the idea into music. It was a glorious return from a hidden gem of talent in the field of R&B, one that gained lots of accolades. BET and Pitchfork gave it the Album of the Year designation, and we gave it a top ten spot.
This year, Sullivan has seen fit to double down, giving us five more tracks and Tales. Honestly, I think it was really smart for her to drop in this “Season 1 and 2” type of way. I think it is admirable that she took so much time off, came back sexier and better than ever, and is now redefining what it means to drop a “deluxe”. Rather than just copy and paste the ethos of the first half, she really gives us a different vibe. The 2021 version was very sorrowful, simpy, and full of regret. On “Bodies - Intro” she sings “need to stop getting fucked up/What did I have in my cup?” as if she’s trapped in a woozy maze of her own design. Or on “Put It Down”, where she is bending over backwards, literally and figuratively, for a guy that isn’t shit. On Heaux Tales Season 2 (aptly titled Mo’ Tales), Sullivan is not here to play any games, and she let’s Insecure’s Issa Rae set the tone. Holy shit, does she do that pretty swiftly. Her interlude and the subsequent “Tragic” is “Put It Down” but in reverse. After telling this long and very interesting story about her then boyfriend leaving her for a job somewhere else, she describes how the final sexual experience with him was. “When I tell you he gave me 3 to 4 pumps maximum before he came, then he rolled over and flew out the next day…” she angrily recalls before dropping the bomb, “I’m so glad I was cheating on him.” DAMN ISSA YOU DID NOT HAVE TO GO THAT HARD. But, alas, she did because it leads into “Tragic” so perfectly; a track all about reclaiming one’s time for a man with a “tragic dick”. She is totally taking the power back on this track, and the rest of the record.
To be perfectly honest with you all, when I heard that Issa interlude I had to give it like two days before I listened to this. R&B in general is getting way too “savage” and specific these days, where is the love? I don’t condone cheating, I’ve never done that, but sometimes the best art paints dark realities for us. I can’t sit here and say that I listen to women’s perspectives and then get offended by some shit that never happened to me, that’s silly as hell. So, I kept listening and was pleasantly surprised by how she was able to come right back with just as much, if not more, heat on this deluxe record. You see, after the final track on the original Heaux Tales, “Girl Like Me” with H.E.R., Sullivan is back in her prime. To keep it interesting though, we have a few pitfalls. “Hurt Me So Good” and the self-titled “Jazzy’s Tale” before it is something I can really relate to, even as a man. The premise has been done before, a toxic relationship is fucking up her life and mental state but the sex and “loving feeling” has never been stronger. However, her supreme vocal presence makes it something new and refreshing, and hits me in those feels once more.
It’s also pretty funny that she captures the male perspective here on “A Breaux’s Tale”, where the dude goes full “I Choose You” mode for a girl just for her to ask him, “Bro, are you catching feelings?” I really enjoy this push-and-pull relationship that’s established throughout this series of songs and Tales, because even though I’m on this dude’s side, “Roster” is amazing. “They always answer when I call/I got room to love you all” she offers, flipping that male-born habit on its head. She’s got on the Dunks and the sweatsuit, she has a roster, it’s not just for the fellas anymore. “Mona’s Tale” is the hottest interlude for sure, my favorite line is “I want you to remember how good this pussy is, I want you to miss me, I’m a great fucker.” The follow-up “BPW” is deeply seductive, almost making the stress of being on the “roster” worth it, “even though we ain’t official, I ain’t no regular girl” she sings, and she’s right. It all ends with “Shanti’s Tale” and “Selfish”, which are all about finding balance in a relationship. It’s a little confusing considering how selfish she has been since the start of the record, but I think that’s purposeful. If men aren’t shit, dicks are tragic, men are building rosters, what else is there to do but put the guard up? I feel like she wants a loving relationship at the end of the day, and is kind of navigating her way there with some help and detours from her unapologetic friends. I really love this record as a whole piece, this is worthwhile R&B that really captures and unpacks 2022 dating with such accuracy.