‘Well That Doesn’t Feel Like Freedom’ Jussie Smollett Drops ‘Sum Of My Music’ And Talks Leaving Columbia Records

March 10, 2018  |  

jussie smollett releases sum of my music

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For years we’ve watched actor Jussie Smollett as one of the many breakout stars of FOX’s Empire. His character, Jamal Lyon, is a depiction of the stigma often attached to homosexuality, specifically in the African-American community. He also displays the vocal talent that he is blessed with both on and off screen playing a singer/songwriter who despises the corporate aspect of the music industry.

In a case of life imitating art, Smollett shared with The Associated Press recently that it’s been a struggle to release music that record execs can stand behind while also staying true to his creative voice. His portrayal of the middle son in the Lyon family led to Emmy and Grammy nominations since the show’s debut in 2015, and shortly after he landed a record deal with Columbia Records. Washington Post shared a few quotes from Smollett about the moment he knew he had to walk away from the deal:

“I was sitting in a room full of old straight white men, playing them the stuff that I’d put my heart and soul and my pain and my joy in and they’re telling me what piece of that should be heard by the people that it actually was created for. I’m like, ‘Well that doesn’t feel like freedom’.”

“And it was in that meeting that I literally was like, ‘I gotta go, I gotta go.’ And I asked FOX to take my contract back and they did. And that was that.”

From there, Smollett decided to put out the album on his independent label, Music of Sound and released his ten-track debut, “Sum of My Music” last week. The 34-year-old shares what goes into putting out an album when you don’t have a music industry machine behind you:

“This is a marathon not a sprint.”

“There’s no huge company behind me. … Every single cent that’s going into this is mine.”

Smollett also attempted to clear up the confusion surrounding the single “F.U.W.” he put out last year that Columbia appeared to take credit for:

“I paid for everything. …There’s no bad feelings at all … (but) I got no support over there. The good thing is that my ego is strong enough that I’m just like, ‘If you’re not (feeling) me, I just want to go.’ And that’s with any situation — whether it’s a business relationship, an intimate relationship, a friend, whatever. Like, if you ain’t (feeling) me, boo boo, I can go. It’s all good.”

He says when it comes to the perception that he may have been dropped from the label and how that might affect future opportunities, Smollett maintains he’s not worried and that at the end of the day the pairing just “wasn’t a fit.” He also shares that getting out of his deal at Columbia was somewhat complicated, but not the most difficult thing he’s ever done. Smollett says FOX held a lot of the power so it was a matter of convincing them that he’d be better off making music on his own:

“FOX was the one that had the power, so once I convinced them, then I was able to just pull it back. Because with every single success or failure of Empire I feel like my stuff was somehow neglected because of it. …And it happened too many times, and it was a thing like, ‘…This is going to be the time when you’re album comes out.’ And I’m like, ‘So I can announce this?’ And I announced it like two different times and it never came out. And I’m like, ‘What the (heck)?’ I’m looking like a (dummy) to my fans.”

Smollett shares that when it comes to his character “Jamal”, he’s learned to believe in himself a lot more since he first took on the role, and the self-confidence probably gave him the strength to take full control of his music career:

“I want to say that I believe in myself a little bit more. I think that after the first season, if I’m being honest, my self-esteem kind of did a dive. …I had been myself my whole life but I wasn’t used to … the scrutiny that came with fame and that came with being a part of a phenomenon like “Empire,” but also being a part of a phenomenon that is Jamal Lyon. …He’s a groundbreaking character and I was kind of thrust out there. And everybody just wanted to talk about my life, and everybody wanted to know what I was doing. And everybody had these expectations of what I should be, how I should be, who I should be seen with, what I should be doing, who was I dating, who was I (sleeping with). And I just wasn’t used to that. …I know that I believe in myself much more now. I’m much more certain of what I want, and how I want it.”

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