Jazmine Sullivan Returns to Tell ‘Mo’ Tales’

On February 14, 2022
Photo by Myesha Evon Gardner

Every week, we tell you about an album we think you need to spend time with. This week’s album is Heaux Tales: Mo’ Tales, the deluxe version of Jazmine Sullivan’s acclaimed 2021 album Heaux Tales with 10 added tracks.

Jazmine Sullivan released one of the best records of 2021 with Heaux Tales, which landed rightfully at the top of numerous end-of-year lists, and earned Sullivan three Grammy nominations. Its release followed a near six-year hiatus for Sullivan, whose last full-length was 2015’s Reality Show. Heaux Tales is a masterclass in storytelling and riffs, and the concept album immediately resonated with fans — including Issa Rae.  

Rae appears on the first new track on the deluxe version of the record, Heaux Tales: Mo’ Tales. Although Rae and Sullivan didn’t deliver on that short film, “Issa’s Tale” is no disappointment, with Rae speaking about unsatisfying goodbye sex with the punchline, “I’m so glad I was cheatin’ on him.” The tales included on the 14-track version of Heaux Tales already shared kinship with moments when Rae’s character on Insecure would rap and talk to herself in the mirror; her inclusion feels like an organic choice for the project.

With Rae and comedian Mona Love on Mo’ Tales, there’s a slightly different tone: It’s still confessional and honest, but more explicitly about performance and persona. Tracks like “Issa’s Tale,” “Mona’s Tale” and “A Breaux’s Tale” — the only masculine voice in the Black, feminine world of Heaux Tales — add layers of distance from the insular, grounded intimacy of the original tracks.

But despite these new layers, we finally get a tale from Sullivan herself: “Jazzy’s Tale.” Sullivan speaks plainly about fearing being alone, growing up feeling undesirable and the impact that’s had on her relationships. “It’s a sad, scary and vulnerable place when you need to feel love so much that you’re willing to accept anything,” Sullivan concludes in the interlude, before transitioning straight to “Hurt Me So Good.” Foregrounded by that tale of insecurity, “Hurt Me So Good” feels like the emotional center of Mo’ Tales, and falls neatly into the lineage of toxic love songs like Rihanna’s “Love On the Brain.”

It’s a sad, scary and vulnerable place when you need to feel love so much that you’re willing to accept anything.
— Jazmine Sullivan on “Jazzy’s Tale”

 “A Breaux’s Tale” showcases a man who, unlike most men portrayed on Heaux Tales, was trying to do better (he claims): “I even cut my entire roster for this joint,” he says, “I really loved her, to be honest.” Unfortunately for him, the object of his affection doesn’t want to be exclusive and chastises him for “getting in [his] feelings.” Her perspective then takes the lead on “Roster,” with Sullivan singing, “I’ve been told before, I’m ruthless / ’Cause I’m a player by nature” and “So, don’t catch feelings … You just gotta fall in line.”

The pairing of “Mona’s Tale” and standout “BPW” is a perfect match: The tale (“I fuck for sport, I fuck like it’s being taped … Because I want you to remember how good this pussy is”) is a concise version of the lyrics in its companion track (“So tell me whenever I'm with you / I got the best pussy in the world”). Then, instead of ending the record on an ego high, “Shanti’s Tale” and “Selfish” bring Mo’ Tales back to earth, both telling the story of a partner unwilling to put in effort or make any sacrifices.

At Mo’ Tales’ best (“Tragic,” “Hurt Me So Good” and “BPW”), it comes pretty close to the level of Heaux Tales’ smash hit “Pick Up Your Feelings.” With no features on the new tracks, outside of the interludes, it’s a further testament to Sullivan’s impeccable vocals that Mo’ Tales stays engaging and dynamic to the end.

 

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Theda Berry

Theda Berry is a Brooklyn-based writer and the Assistant Editor of VMP. If she had to be a different kind of berry, she’d pick strawberry.

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