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Fabulous, Fated, Fearless
Back in the day,
when a new star was born, there were people dotted along the landscape who would say, ‘Oh, I always knew there was a star there’,” or ‘I’ve known about her forever.’ It was easy to say and difficult to prove, something akin to saying you were in the ballpark when Hank Aaron hit the fabled homerun or ringside when Muhammad Ali beat everybody down.

By Ruth Adkins Robinson
But in today’s digital technology, when a young performer seems newly vaulted into the limelight, massive information about them is instantaneous, posted on the Internet, along with the date the poster first became aware of the artist and whether some observers did know ‘there was a star in there.’ Over the last few years the Internet crowds have thronged in support of one of the brightest talents in the latest crop of stars--the tall, beautiful, golden-throated RMG artist Jazmine Sullivan. Often those posting comments, videos and testimony seem prescient when it comes to Sullivan’s fate. For instance, on October 20, 2007, Nunya posted: “I’m really excited about her project! She’s been around for a while doing club shows; hopefully now she can get some more shine. ” The same week, Rae20072007 posted, “Oh my goodness! I’ve been waiting for ya’ll. Two years I’ve been listening to her, I’m glad somebody caught up!!”

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A whole lot of people have caught up, Rae. Right now Jaz is being toasted lavishly as the ‘next big thing.’ There are reasons for the champagne to be pop topping. Her debut single, “Need U Bad,” was really something different. Bouncing between reggaetinged verses and a total R&B hook, it captured wild interest from her already faithful. In June, Ally posted, “Girl, me and my girlfriends love ur song. Your voice is amazing. They be bumpin’ you on v-103 in GA.We love it at the end when it say ‘Me can’t eat, me can’t sleep. Keep doing what ’ you do!” “Need U Bad” raced up the Mainstream R&B/HipHop, Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs and Hot R&B/HipHop Airplay charts claiming the number one spot with a speed that was so rare for a new artist that Jazmine is only the eighth act in the entire decade to do so and the first since Ciara did it almost four years ago. The video for the song is so hot it hit #1 on BET’s “106 & Park” video countdown show for three non-consecutive days after her live performance on the show in August. The Jonathan Mannion-directed video for “Need U Bad” is also the second highestrated R&B video on AOL Music. There’s more than stats in her story though. Listen to the people. On August 2, 2008 at 8:57pm, schmekadlegr posted this comment about the video: “I think the song is great and the down home feel of the video makes her look real sophisticated. It has a nice meaning to it. ” Naturally, MTV and VH1 are all over her. She nabbed the new artist spotlight on VH1 Soul’s “You Oughta Know” and MTV’s “Discover and Download.” On September 24, BET airs “Jazmine Sullivan = Fearless,” a 30-minute special featuring the talented singer performing tracks from her debut disc. The debut song is

Jazmine stands out from all the other artists because she sings with so much conviction! But not only is she a great singer, she’s a great writer. She’s not just an artist, she’s a performer! She’s just as great live as she is on records. And you don’t get that from a lot of artists today.
—Missy Elliott

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also R&R’s first rookie Rhythmic No. 1 of 2008, compared to only six who claimed that spot in all of last year. All this is pretty heady stuff for a young woman of 21, but she’s not young when it comes to experience, disappointment or desire. A zip around the Internet will soon reveal the video of a sweet-faced young Jaz as one of the contestants on “Showtime at the Apollo.” Having written that particular show for six years, I’ve often been inspired by the young talent whose stardom is often projected in their future while they are still in their cribs. They are fated for success and everybody watching knows it. Seemed that way for little Jaz. Even at eleven, her voice was unmistakably an instrument of great beauty. Gospel labels came calling on the heels of her song choice for the venerable TV show, “Accept What God Allows,” a natural choice since Sullivan’s first introduction to music began at church. “I remember singing around five or six in the choir. I was in the junior choir, and I was the first child admitted into the young adult choir. I was so proud of myself,” she says. Jaz and her family turned down the offer to record gospel music. Not that long after, Sullivan decided that she wanted to sing secular music so her mother immersed her in classic R&B. “She played me Aretha, Stevie, Donny Hathaway, Phyllis Hyman. This was during the age of hip-hop so I wasn’t into that at first but I soon began to appreciate it too.” A talent this big can’t be confined in a small place so Sullivan searched for places to perform in her hometown of Philadelphia. One of her first stops was the famed Black Lily, a musical collective started by The Jazzyfatnastees in the mid-to-late ‘90s when Philly was giving birth to a whole movement of new artists including Jill Scott, The Roots, Floetry and Kindred. “It was booming,” recalls Jazmine. “I started singing with a live band: old school songs like Sly’s ‘Thankyoufalettinmebemiceelfagain” and Marvin Gaye’s ‘What’s Going On.’ It was through performances at Black Lily that Sullivan got a chance to jam with Stevie Wonder. “Fatin and Aja (Kindred, the Family Soul) were going to see Stevie and they invited me. He really took to me, especially after he heard me sing his song, ‘These Three Words.’ He enjoyed the performance so much that he began to sing with me as we got into a jam session, taking turns riffing. It was so much fun and an experience that I’ll never forget!” That impromptu performance led to Jazmine’s appearance on Wonder’s annual “Toys for Tots” show in Los Angeles with Kirk Franklin, Scott and others. Word of mouth of Jazmine’s amazing vocal talents quickly spread, but it was a re-encounter with Missy Elliott, who took Sullivan into a Miami studio with partner Timbaland, which made various records labels pay attention. She signed with Jive when she was only 15, but developing product proved problematic. “When I used to go into the studio, they saw me as this older person because my voice was so much older. They would give me stuff that reflected what my voice could do—but they didn’t realize that I was 15,” Sullivan explains. Within three years of signing to Jive, Sullivan and the label parted ways. She says she “nearly cried” when her mother told her the news, but kept her Mom from seeing the tears, “letting them loose” when she reached her own room. “I can’t say I wasn’t sad. I was very sad,” she says, but she moved on to work behind the scenes with Missy Elliot on the powerhouse producer’s other projects. Her name is on background credits for the Elliott-produced tracks on Fantasia’s debut album Free Yourself and songwriting credits on two tracks from Christina Milian’s last album, So Amazin’, including the album’s first single, “Say I,” which features Young Jeezy. And she never stopped singing/writing/recording with a whole grip of East Coast producers including Cool & Dre, Stevie J. & Havoc, Kwame, The Heavyweights, Anthony Bell and others, to name a few. And the Internet watchers kept track. Last year, Knuck had this observation: “Her voice is so freakin’ amazing. She has a lot of songs on YouTube and if you still want to hear something, listen to the background vocals on Fantasia’s “Free Yourself. ” Then she reunited with Missy, who, Sullivan says, “has always been there for me and believed in me.” What followed was a yearlong preparation to meet the J Records founder and venerable A&R icon Clive Davis. Yes, she was nervous, but her sultry vocals and the maturity in her voice earned a standing ovation from the J Records staff when she performed “In Love With Another Man,” written and co-produced by Sullivan and Anthony Bell. Davis and Peter Edge, A&R president at J, were delighted and Sullivan

was signed without question. The resulting album, Fearless, captures the scope of Sullivan’s talents, aided by her stalwart friend Missy. Defining Jazmine’s distinctive musical talents, Elliott explains: “Jazmine stands out from all the other artists because she sings with so much conviction! But not only is she a great singer, she’s a great writer. She’s not just an artist; she’s a performer! She’s just as great live as she is on records. And you don’t get that from a lot of artists today.” Executive producer and sole songwriter on Fearless, Sullivan (along with Elliott, Salaam Remi and Peter Edge) orchestrated a debut opus full of lush musical arrangements by Elliott, Remi, Stargate, Jack Splash, Fisticuffs and others–complemented by Sullivan’s own intelligent, expressive songwriting and rich vocals. Having creative control of her debut, Sullivan described Fearless: “My music is very real, blunt, straightforward; musically it’s all over the place. I do it all.” That’s a fact that hasn’t escaped her fans that are listening to other cuts from the album already, including the soulful piano ballad, “In Love With Another Man.” Momo2879 comments, “I love this song, I feel this way ‘bout sum 1 right now..but just don’t know how 2 tell them…this song brings tears 2my eyes, LOVE THIS SONG.” Sullivan responds, “It’s not something I went through personally; however, it is an honest song that I felt needed to be told. You often hear of the man being the heartbreaker in songs but their hearts get broken too.” Other songs on the album include the ‘60’s soulfulfeeling “One Night Stand,” the heart-wrenching “After The Hurricane,” the flamenco-flavored “Bust Your Windows” (produced by Remi), and the quirky, unusually titled “Lions, Tigers & Bears” (also produced by Remi who employed a full orchestra for the session). The latter was inspired by Jazmine’s portrayal of Dorothy in “The Wiz” during her childhood. “My life has been all about music for such a long time that the thought of love was frightening. I knew the world of music but that other world of love was scary, new to me. It’s really about being afraid of love.” On October 2, 2006, a video of Sullivan was posted on the Internet and the bloggers went on to compare Jaz’s version, Beyonce’s version and Victoria Beckham’s take on the song “Resentment.” Between 2006 and now, there have been almost a thousand posts comparing the various versions of the song, many of them accusing other posters of being complete idiots. dawntreader94 posted, “I have to say I like Jazzy’s version better, for what its worth.. I have mad love for Beyoncé, but I am loving Jaz’s more constrained yet more soulful rendition. stillprayze ” posted: “Jaz’s vocals on this song is killer. I like B’s, I like Victoria a little less but I love this rendition. Full of power. Her tone is golden. ” Some of the more interesting posts surfaced in January of this year, about whether Amy Winehouse or Jazmine Sullivan had the best version of ‘‘Round Midnight.” In about 300 or so posts, the consensus was that Sullivan’s version beat Winehouse on the interpretation of the Thelonius Monk classic and it’s exactly this kind of viral dialogue that opens up yet another door to potential Sullivan fans. Winehouse fans might not have gone looking for Sullivan had it not been for this online debate. Now, they too can jump on the Sullivan rocket. And it’s certain to be a wild ride because Jaz has latched onto the mysterious mix of destiny and determination that creates major success, and at this point in her career, she can be called Fabulous, Fated and Fearless.

J Records/RMG releases Jazmine’s debut album Fearless September 23rd, which is followed by a 25city tour that pairs Jazmine with Maxwell kicking of on October 8 in Boston and concluding Thanksgiving week with a stop in her hometown of Philly.

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