Sevyn Streeter is a household name in the music industry, period. The Florida-bred, Los Angeles-based creative describes herself as a “singer, songwriter, a really great best friend, a really good daughter, a really good homegirl that will ride for you if you need me too.” She states with a laugh: “all of the above, I’m a lover of anything that’s creating.”
You may recognize her name from hit singles “I Like It,” “It Won’t Stop,” and “Next,” the latter of which went on to be certified Gold. In 2017, her debut studio album Girl Disrupted arrived and took the R&B game by storm. Growing up in the church and a musical household, it was at age five she knew music was her end-be-all. To this day, she doesn’t create music for anything else other than the fact that she loves it, and understands the power it holds. Her records are laced with real-life experiences that women can relate to all across the world.
Closing out 2019 with a bang, Sevyn returns with another female empowerment anthem titled “Whatchusay,” holding fans over until her forthcoming album Drunken Wordz x Sober Thoughtz in 2020. We caught up with Sevyn to discuss her decision to go independent, who inspired the new single, songwriting vs. her own artistry, and more!
You dropped the Streeter at one point, are we back with the full name?
Well no, my Streeter’s still with me. People dropped my Streeter and it’s okay. I guess they’ve been saying the number 7 all their lives so it’s easier to be like, just Sevyn. But Sevyn, Sevyn Streeter, it doesn’t matter. I answer to them both. We got a couple other ones I answer to too. Amber, Denise, Street, Streeter. People like to shorten it a lot.
You’ve been in the industry for a minute. How has Sevyn evolved since Girl Disrupted?
I’ve been evolving since forever, but in the best way. We never stop. I’ve learned a lot more about me as a songwriter. I’ve learned how to eliminate what doesn’t work for me versus what does. What melodies work for me, what melodies people like to hear from me, the concepts they like to hear me speak on, what place my voice feels best in. It’s things that you learn over time by studying yourself. As an artist, I’ve learned what things get me going before I have to go on stage and excited.
What gets you going?
Honestly, I say to my dancers and my DJs before we go on stage every time: “let’s just go have fun.” That’s the space that I’m in: I’m having fun again. For a little minute, I wasn’t having that much fun.
What was it that wasn’t fun?
Just too many opinions. A lot of times when there’s a lot of noise and a lot of opinions, you kind of lose your own voice a little bit. Once either you’re forced to spend more time with yourself and more time with God, or you do it voluntarily, you get in a space where… I’m in a space of clarity. Everything is very clear to me. I know exactly what I want. I can hear my direction. I know when something feels good and I don’t ignore it. Those are the things that have evolved for me, just having clarity. Listening to myself and listening to God more, and knowing how to rock. Ya feel me?
What is Sevyn’s sound now?
It’s so funny, I just came from Atlanta. I had sessions down there with Verse Simmonds, Forrest, and another writer named KP, he wrote “Yernin” with me. We were all in Atlanta going super crazy. We worked with Sony Digital down there, we worked with Needlez. Just had a really great time. For me, I honestly feel like it’s a different kind of space. But it’s amazing.
You’ve penned endless hits. Biggest lesson or takeaway learned as a songwriter?
You know the myth they tell you that your first instinct is always your right one? It’s not always true. I like to throw things against the wall and see if they stick. That works for me and people I write with. I like to write with other really dope creatives who don’t mind telling me when I’m wrong. People who feel like they know when they have a better idea, that’s the type of environment that I like to create around. For me, that’s the biggest myth. Nah, it’s not your first instinct. Some of it is, but for the most part, you should just dig. Figure out: why do you like that idea? Can it get better? Can it be cooler?
Balancing being a songwriter and artist, how often are you debating keeping a record or selling a record?
All the time. Every day! Yesterday, I was laying in my bed. I was listening to all of my voice notes, things in my voice notes, and songs that I’ve done. I literally ran across this one idea that I did with a producer named KP (who did “Yernin” with me). It was this cool little vibe where I was trying to sound like James Fauntleroy, because he’s one of my favorites.
I saw you at his show [at The Roxy]!
Yes! I love James. Isn’t he the greatest? James is the GOAT, real talk. He’s so talented. I was in the studio one night, and he’s a good friend of mine. I’m like “well what would James do? WWJD?” And I do that a lot of times with my friends who are creatives. I tell them often: “I be trying to learn from your vibe, steal from your vibe.” I tell them and they laugh at me.
But I was going through my phone yesterday and I found this cool little vibe. I actually put it on Gram. I asked fans “should I sell this? Should I keep it? I’m thinking of making it an interlude…” But that’s always a daily struggle for me, because I’m going to create something everyday. Probably multiple things a day. In certain situations, sometimes your fans can kind of steer you in the right direction. Be like “girl, we need to hear that on a project!” Or “girl no, make that an interlude.” Or “girl no, sell that to somebody else.” So they help me a little bit, but it’s hard. It’s very hard, because you get attached to records.
Do you have any regrets in the music industry?
No, I don’t. No regrets. The space that I’m in right now is just, everything that happened was supposed to happen. I know it sounds really cliché but that’s actually true. The only way to get to new space is for things to continue to evolve and change, and you can’t be afraid of change. If you’re afraid of change, then you don’t move. You don’t grow. You stifle yourself, and I’m not in that space. I love everything that’s happened in my life. I love it, I embrace, I learn from it. I take those lessons and I move forward, real talk.
Who or what inspired “Whatchusay”?
Ooh, it’s a combination. What’s the movie with Mark Wahlberg? Transformers! If I had to look at “Whatchusay” musically, “Whatchusay” is like Megatron. One arm is one ex, the other arm is another guy that I may have talked to, the leg is somebody that my cousin had to encounter, the other leg is somebody that my best friend had to deal with. Just all the bullshit that we’ve had to deal with as women. Relationships, it’s a lot. We love so hard so it’s a lot, which is why it takes a whole Megatron for us to fight it!
“Whatchusay” is a combination of all these different stories. All these different things that I’ve gone through, friends have gone through, cousins have gone through. It’s just the moment when you stop being so silent. The moment when you stop feeling like you are crazy for asking questions that you know you are very well entitled to asked. Like “who is that texting you? Who is that calling you? Why didn’t I hear from you? What did you mean when you said that? This hurt my feelings, why would you do that? Maybe you’re not right for me.” It’s all these different things that go through women’s head. Sometimes, they can make you feel like you’re crazy for even asking the question: Whatchusay? Come again? What was that? Oh you tried it.” And I have in the past.
“Whatchusay” is you just looking at your situation and knowing that if it taps you on the shoulder and it feels weird or something doesn’t feel right, you are very well in your right to say “come again? Whatchusay?” That’s where it came from and I have a lot of intel and research that helped me write that record. [chuckles] As long as there’s truth that comes from it, it works for me.
Who we making love with in the kitchen?
[laughs] Listen. That means you listened. You know what it is! First of all, the kitchen is very sexual place. You get to feed your man in the kitchen in more ways than one. It’s a sexy place. Like they say, a man works better off a full stomach. So you get in there, you chef it up, you cook him something nice, then things move from the kitchen to where it needs to go to. The ones I have been cooking for in the kitchen and cooking up with in the kitchen, they know who they are. I say they because I’m a real woman and we have exes. It is what it is.
But cooking up for you in the kitchen honestly, the metaphor behind it is basically saying that if you have literally been there for somebody, helped provide for them and be there for them in whatever way — and it goes for man or woman. Your kitchen may be something different. Your kitchen may be: I might throw them a bag every now and then. Your kitchen may be: I cook them a hot meal when they come home. Your kitchen may be: I’m there mentally supporting them, emotionally supporting them. It’s whatever the kitchen is for you.
How does it feel to have the video hit a million so quickly?
It feels amazing. It hit a million in a week and a half. It made my whole life, just because I love what I do. My friends will tell you, I don’t do this shit for play. I do it because I actually love it. It’s real, people don’t have to like your music. They don’t have to rock with you for years. I’ve seen plenty of people, plenty of friends come in this crazy world of ours and put out music or do whatever, and it turns into a different thing for them. And that’s okay.
But for me, it means the world to me for people to continue to support and like my shit, because they don’t have to. They don’t have to spend their money on iTunes for me. It is an option, they don’t ever have to do it — but they choose to. The ones who choose to, it means a lot to me. So for “Whatchusay” to do well, knowing it was my first time being in my independent space, it means a lot. Because I wanted to take more control of my life, way more control. It felt good.
Did you split from a major? Who were you signed with?
Yeah, I was with Atlantic. But I love them, they’re amazing. I really do, I love them and they’re amazing. But I’m just in a different space. The thing is, I’ve gone through a lot of transitions in the last two years. I lost my uncle to cancer. It killed me, it was like losing a second father. But with that time, I was able to be home a lot. Be with him a lot, lay in the bed and talk to him. I know that’s not what you asked me but it shifts its way into how I look at life, how I make my decisions, how I view what’s in front of me.
You know how Oprah says a come-to-Jesus moment? I’m very focused. It started with what do I love? I love my music. What is my purpose? I like having conversations with people. I like giving them words when they can’t find them, that means a lot to me. It makes its way to a space where people actually… they accept it. They embrace it. I’m in a space where no longer am I just writing my records, but I own my masters. It takes on a whole different life form, this space is amazing.
When you were going through that with your uncle, were you recording too?
Yeah, I was recording a lot. I was exhausted because my family’s in Florida. I know my fans were like “give us music! Give us music!” But I’ll be very honest, the only thing that I cared about was my uncle. I didn’t care about nothing else. I’m still dealing with it. I lost it two days ago at 4 o’clock in the morning for three hours straight. Because at the end of the day, you want your life to be purposeful. You want to do things that serve your purpose. I’ve done music for so long and I love it, I love my fans. But this whole ordeal of losing him and creating this project to creating music, and making sure that as I’m true to myself and what I need to put out to give to my fans — all of that stuff is very intertwined and it all matters.
What can we expect from Drunken Wordz x Sober Thoughtz? That title is powerful!
Thank you. Yup, the mood is very serious. A lot of truth. A whole lot of truth. You know when you normally hear that, you think “omg if someone has a few drinks, they’re really going to say what’s on their mind.” There’s an aspect of that. That’s the overall blanket of the project, but I think that runs deeper. I’m not glorifying alcoholism or that type of thing, but people run to different things, different vices because sometimes, they’re not that comfortable with being themselves. They’re not that comfortable with saying “I love you.” Or saying “I can’t stand you. You’re not good for me, you’re toxic.” Whatever it is they need to say, they’re not always that comfortable. Drunken Wordz x Sober Thoughtz for me represents all the vices that we face, all the vices people have that they use to blanket how they really feel. When it comes to love or losing someone to cancer, or heartbreak or a break up, or a friendship that went wrong, Drunken Wordz x Sober Thoughtz is going to speak to those things. Maybe you might not even need your vices after you hear this project. You might just need to pop in a record, play the record and that’s how you feel. But I know that’s what I want to contribute. I want to contribute that to people. I want my music to be a good vice, if that makes sense.
I know you went back and forth with your title on A Girl Disrupted. Were you dealing with that for this project?
On this, I’m doing everything I want to do on this project. And it feels amazing. I’ll be all the way 100, I don’t care if people love it or if they don’t. I know that I’m never going to stop making music and that you have to allow yourself – like I said, change is important. Shifting is important. You have to allow yourself just to be free, and to create whatever you want to create. You have to, that’s the only way you get to a different space.
Normally, I like to create all my records first. Right now, I’m at about 50 maybe 60 records. I have so many songs. Girl, I don’t know how. I’m going to literally have to pick maybe a top 10 or 12, then maybe shoot the rest of them out to my friends. “You want hooks? Like “okay you rap, you take that. You’re a rapper, you take that.” It’s my homegirl, “you got a project coming out? Here, take this.” I’m going to end up having to do that. It won’t hurt as bad when they’re actually my friends.
Sidebar: literally the other day, I had a session for the TV Show Empire. I wrote a record and Serayah who plays Tiana Brown, that’s one of my best friends in the world. She texted me two days ago, because I was telling her “I miss you!” She’s like “I miss you so much!” Then she hits me like “just cut the record that you wrote for Empire.” Things like that make me happy. We’re friends and doing fun things. I went on the show earlier this year as myself, and that was fun. She and I got to perform. I get to hang out with my best friend all day? Say no more. Say less. But with the picking the records, it gives me that same type of joy. It’s cool when it goes to homes that you trust the records to go.