playing catch up with jojo

Photographed by Atisha Paulson

getting reacquainted

While most 13-year-olds were busy worrying about whether their crush reciprocated their feelings and slurping up the last bit of Coke at the mall food court, JoJo was busy making her swift rise to fame. After "Leave (Get Out)" hit the airwaves, she became the youngest solo artist in history to have a number-one single in the United States, and along with it came a dedicated, diehard fan base. Fast-forward a few years, and the internet was littered with headlines like "Where Is JoJo Now?" 

"I felt totally stuck and I was making the decision whether to go to college and study anthropology and sociology, or to go through with the lawsuit and try to get out and focus on the next chapter of my career," she says, referencing the time during which her label, Blackground Records, decided to silence her. "It was really frustrating because people had questions and I didn’t have answers. Even my family, they saw me, you know getting very, very sad. It was just confusing and mostly I wanted to be able to explain things to people, but I also didn't want to seem like I was anti-label or like I wasn't trying to make things work."

Because after two albums, 2004's JoJo and 2006's The High Road, and an iconic '00s breakup anthem ("Too Little Too Late"), her record company decided that they wouldn't be releasing any more of her work. She was still stuck in her existing contract, which stipulated that she release seven exclusive albums with them, and it seemed like she would never be able to release music again. 

Click through the gallery to read the entire story.

Photographed by Atisha Paulson; Styled by Marissa Smith.

After an arduous, long lawsuit, the court eventually freed her of her contract, and she signed to Atlantic Records. Now, after clocking in some studio time and creating over 70 songs (most of which will never see the light of day), the 24-year-old is gearing up to release her new album. So far, she's released what she calls a "tringle"—three singles at once. "I knew I needed to come back and make an impact in a certain way and the way I wanted to do that is through music," she says. "Just conversationally, me and my team were sitting at a restaurant or something, and we just kept saying three singles, three singles...tringle! It's a word that sticks in your brain whether you want it to or not."

And if her previous music defined the '00s, her new material is sure to speak to the digital age. "The internet really saved me in a lot of different ways," she explains. "It just kept my sanity and kept me creative. It’s also a great place to find music, so I’m always discovering things on SoundCloud or people will tweet me, 'Hey check this out,' and oftentimes I do. It’s exciting to be turned on to new stuff." 

above: sweater by sandro. below: shirt by h&m.

Photographed by Atisha Paulson; Styled by Marissa Smith.

Photo by Atisha Paulson

But it's not just her sound that's changed, she explains. It's also the landscape. "When I came out in 2004, I think that maybe pop still had a bubblegum feeling attached to it, and a sort of stigma attached to it," she says. "I don’t really feel that way when I think of pop music today. I think there’s a lot more space now. Pop to me now just means 'popular.' We could call Bruno Mars pop; we could call Fetty Wap pop."

With tinges of house influence and synth to highlight her power-ballad vocals, her new sound melds the gap between new wave and the strong female soul music that she was raised on. "I grew up listening to all types of stuff and house wasn’t really one of them—now I love it," she says. "I dive into different music that’s touching me at the time. I love Gorgon City, MNEK and Disclosure and when elements of house and dance music are infused into pop. I’m living for it. It makes me feel fabulous, triumphant, and strong. Like a woman."

above: shirt by h&m, pants by nomia, shoes by schutzbelow: shirt by nike.

Photographed by Atisha Paulson; Styled by Marissa Smith.

Photo by Atisha Paulson

Ultimately, though, her journey is just a highly publicized coming-of-age story—a detail that JoJo is quick to point out. "It’s no different than anyone else's struggles. It’s just inserting different words and obstacles," she says. "I’m young and I believed that someday I was going to have the opportunity again to pursue my career, but I mean, some people I know were dealt just a far worse deck of cards: they grew up in the foster system, or their father was in jail and they didn’t meet him until they turned 18, or they came from another country and had to pay their way through college by working two jobs. These are real life things and you can’t really compare; all of them are difficult. So I found comfort in knowing that I wasn’t the only one struggling and it gave me some perspective on how you’re never exempt from a struggle. There’s always something you’re facing."

And she, just like the rest of us, is trying to figure it all out. "I just try to be true to who I am. I know that I’m a host of contradiction," she smiles. "I consider myself an all American girl in a sense but then I also have tattoos and two eyebrow piercings and sometimes I feel sexy, and sometimes I feel cute. I don’t wanna be I don’t have to be the same thing all the time and I don’t need to cater to men. I don’t dress for men, I dress for myself."

above: sweater by sandro, skirt and boots by dkny. below: dress by beckley.

Photographed by Atisha Paulson; Styled by Marissa Smith.

Photo by Atisha Paulson

sweater by sandro, skirt and boots by dkny.

Photographed by Atisha Paulson; Styled by Marissa Smith.

Photo by Atisha Paulson

Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images

Along with

Showtime just ordered a pilot episode of Casallina "Cathy" Kisakye's comedy anthology series, which will be executive-produced by Lena Waithe. The show, called How to Make Love to a Black Woman (Who May Be Working Through Some Shit), sounds like it'll be... informative.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, though the series is a comedy, it will also touch on some vulnerable subjects as well. It described the show as being about "connection and rejection that explore our most harrowing—and harrowingly comic—sexual secrets." Waithe said in a statement about the news, "Cathy's script is haunting, funny, and extremely vulnerable—it's the kind of script that doesn't come around very often." She continues, showing her excitement for the project: "I'm honored that Cathy trusts me with such a special project. I can't wait for the world to see it."

Kisakye, who previously worked with Waithe on The Chi, says that the show is close to her heart, and that the series will portray three-dimensional, complex women. "With How to Make Love, I'm thrilled to tell stories about the women I know, who are complicated, passionate, resilient, and relatable," she said in a statement.

Kisakye is the creator of the show, and will be writing the pilot script. It's the latest project to come to Showtime through Waithe's first-look deal and, according to The Hollywood Reporter, should it go to series, this would be the first anthology for the network.



Screenshot via Youtube

While the song should serve as a reminder to your exes

Just a day after dropping new single "Nunya," featuring Dom Kennedy, Kehlani has released the winter-wonderland visuals to go along with. The singer, NYLON November cover star, and mother-to-be rocks some of the best winter 'fits I've seen in a while, including a glorious puffer jacket that could double as a down comforter that I absolutely need in my life right now.

Kehlani is clearly living her best life up in some snow-filled forest hideaway, vibing on the beach at sunset and sipping on something bubbly as she coolly reminds nosy exes that who she's with is "nunya business." There's not much of a story line (unlike her recent "Nights Like This" video); the main takeaway is that Kehlani is busy dancing through a forest, missing no one and chilling amongst people who are clearly not the subjects of the song.

Kehlani is only two short months away from bringing baby Adeya into the world, who she thanked for helping her get through the video process. "Shot that 7 months pregnant in da snow..." Kehlani wrote on Twitter, adding, "thank u baby for da motivation, mommy was FROZE."

Even from the womb, Adeya has been hustling hard alongside her momma. Twitter user @ODtheMC pointed out that this is already her second music video appearance, and she's not even been born.

Get some mulled wine ready and escape into Kehlani's winter getaway, below. Stay tuned for her forthcoming mixtape, While We Wait, out on February 22.

Kehlani - Nunya (feat. Dom Kennedy) [Official Music Video]