It’s the evening before the 4th of July holiday, and after five hours of editing her new music video, Sevyn Streeter is willing to stay for as long as it takes. Dressed down in black pants, a button-down denim shirt and no makeup, she can’t help but make sure that everyone around her feels comfortable. “How was the traffic?” the fresh-faced beauty asks me before promising to wrap up her editing session, so that we can begin our interview.
Inside a Glendale, California production studio, Sevyn and her team (which includes her mother, Karen Streeter) are putting the finishing touches on the visual for, “Anything U Want,” the next single up for her long awaited debut album, Girl Disrupted. But it’s also dinner time, and she’s long overdue for a break.
We walk into a separate room where she sits comfortably on a black leather couch and begins chowing down on a burger, and she immediately apologizes for eating during the interview.
There’s a giddiness about her, a palpable excitement, as she discusses her finally finished 13-track release, featuring appearances from Ty Dolla $ign, Jeremih, Wiz Khalifa, Dej Loaf and Dave East. Her new single “Anything U Want” makes her smile wide. “That’s my baby!” she says in reference to the Hitmaka-produced song which samples SWV’s 1992 classic, “Anything.”
From singing in church to joining and subsequently leaving girl groups, TG4 and RichGirl, the 31-year-old singer/songwriter has been obsessed with music since childhood. Yet like any great love story, there have been a few bumps along the road.
Before her solo career took off, Sevyn made a name for herself as a songwriter, penning records for the likes of Kelly Rowland, Trey Songz, Ariana Grande, and Chris Brown (the latter of whom she was introduced to by her former manager Tina Davis).
In 2012, Sevyn landed a deal with Atlantic Records and released her first single, “I Like It.” The next year brought her debut EP, Call Me Crazy, But… and the gold-selling hit, “It Won’t Stop.” For more than a year following the release of 2015’s Should’ve Been There EP, Sevyn faced emotional roadblocks that would change the direction of her first full length studio album.
Two weeks before our sit-down, a crowd of mostly women were treated to a special brunch and album listening session in Beverly Hills, Calif., where guests enjoyed cocktails, henna tattoos, flower crowns and gift bags courtesy of The Mane Choice haircare line. Towards the end of the event, Sevyn became visibly emotional when speaking of her struggles in the music industry. Her mother stepped in to literally wipe the tears from her face while fellow attendees, Bridget Kelly and Estelle, offered words of support.
“I think that’s the reason why I was emotional [at the brunch], because this is my life. There is no plan B,” she tells VIBE Vixen. “I love music. I’ve never even had a ‘real job,’ never worked a 9-5. Everything that I go through, every relationship, or breakup, or depression, I pour it all into the music.”
The Haines City, Florida native, born Amber Streeter, renamed herself “Sevyn” as an ode to the number that holds special significance to her life. Not only is her birthday on July 7, she came into the world two months ahead of schedule.
“I was born at seven months on the seventh day of the seventh month,” she explains. “Seven means perfection and completion. There’s a reason that my album comes out on 7/7/17. Because this part of my story, it’s completed. And now I can present that to my fans.”
For an album that has been “15 years in the making,” it’s safe to say that Girl Disrupted arrived right on time.
VIBE Vixen: How does feel to finally have your album out?
Sevyn: I’m just happy to still be able to do what I love, this is a milestone for me. I was having this conversation with my mama in the car because we rode past one of the places where one of my old group members used to live. I was like Ma! Do you see that? God is so good! You could’ve never told me that we would still be able to do this. I say “we” because it takes a village: me, my mom, my dad and my brother.
What role does your mother play in your career?
My mom isn’t my manager, but I just recently left my management team after five years. I have new management now, but my mom is my day-to-day.
What made you cut ties with your entire management team?
This was the third time that God told me to make a life-changing decision. That’s how I really knew [that I had to] do it because the first time it happened, I was in my first group and God told me to leave. I was nervous and scared but I listened to him, and the next situation was even better! When I was in my second group, the girls [and I] actually got along really well, but towards the end we wanted different things.
[I told God] that songwriting is all I have, but I want to be an artist. He turned songwriting into me becoming an artist again, so when it came back around this time [and he said] “I need you to leave your management” I was like alright, you’ve shown me twice before. I trust you. I know by now when God is telling me to do something, and I listened.
How has it been since you moved forward with a new team?
It has probably been the toughest period in my life thus far, because you love people that you’ve been with for that amount of time. But at the same time, it was a step in the direction that God wanted me to go in. [Now] I’m learning so much because I’m wearing so many hats. My hands are in everything that involves my career, which is how it should be.
Why did you title your album Girl Disrupted?
Because there were so many things in my life that needed to be disrupted, especially in my 20s. On my album I sing about the depression, that’s the first song. And then I have a song called “Everything in Me” which is about people who hurt you, but it takes everything in you not to hurt them because you can’t grow from that sh*t. I have sex records because I’m just a freaky a** woman, and it’s just truthful. I have songs on my album about being in a gray area and you’re trying to get away from this person, but then it’s like I miss him so much, and you find yourself in the same sh*t. And it’s not like it’s clearer than it was before, you’re just back in the same sh*t again. [This album] shows so many different sides and vibes to me as a person and as a woman.
It’s been two years since your last project, what caused the album delay?
The No. 1 thing for me is I have to live my life before I write. I had some songs that I needed to complete that just got finished maybe two weeks ago, they were necessary for my story. I do very well writing about my love life, all my fans know that, they know I will call a n***a a B.A.N. (b***h a** n***a) in two seconds. Or if I’m in love, I’ll write a song like “It Won’t Stop.” If I like you, but I’m not totally sure, I’ll write songs like “Before I Do.” The song on my album called “Livin’”, I knew that that’s how I felt, but I didn’t have any songs to express what I went through.
What did you go through?
I dealt with depression on a very serious level for like a year-and-a-half, and I never said anything to my fans. Obviously, my mom and my dad and my brother, a few family members, knew about it — but it was really, really hard. I wanted to kill myself, I really did. And through my family, and God and prayer, it turned around. [My family] helped me put everything into perspective, and something in you just kicks in and goes: “You’ve been doing this 15 years for no reason? The 15-year-old version of you, who has been waiting for this moment, should literally beat your a**.” That part of the story had to be completed. I wrote “Livin’” and it speaks of dark times, but it also comes back around and says I’m going to bet on myself. You have to bet on yourself.
What triggered your depression?
Turning 30 was a big trigger for me. This is not like when you graduate high school and you get your diploma. You go to college for four years, or whatever period of time, and you get your degree. You did it, and you get to move on. I’ve literally been doing the same exact thing everyday with the same amount of intensity and focus, since I was 15 years old. To look up and be 30 years old, and to feel like this hasn’t happened yet, but you can’t quit because you’re just going to be throwing away all the years that you put into it [music]. That in itself can take a toll. I don’t care what you do in life, you want to be successful, you want to feel like you accomplished certain things.
A lot of my depression was trigged by the fact that I’ve given my life to this music, and it’s in a good place, but it’s not exactly where I want it to be. I sacrificed a lot of my childhood for music, I sacrificed a lot of my love life for music.
I looked up and I’m like ‘I’m 30, what do I have to show for all of the things that I’ve sacrificed?’ My faith level was at an amazing height all my life. I had never been in a place where I was questioning God so much. I knew well enough to know that he would bring me out of it, but when you’re in the middle of it, it’s hard to see [clearly] sometimes. But thank God for the people in my life who pray for me — they prayed for me when I didn’t feel like praying for myself.
How has battling depression changed your perspective?
I just channelled all of [those feelings] into ‘what can I do about it?’ If something’s making you unhappy, what can you do to change it? That went for people in my life, circumstances and situations — whether it was dealing with work, or dealing with men. I had people in my life that were bringing me more sadness than joy. I had people in my life where some days I didn’t know which side of the bed that they were waking up on, and it would determine how I would feel, and respond to them.
I was finally like, It’s not my fault if you wake up on the wrong side of the bed today, but guess what? I don’t need you to change. These are grown people, and so am I. Nobody’s making me deal with anybody that I don’t want deal with, so I made the decision to remove myself from certain situations and certain people that made me feel…heavy.
Everything has to have some sort of a purpose, and I’m not saying I’m not open to letting life happen, but at the same time, it’s a thin line between letting life happen and wasting your goddamn time. —Sevyn Streeter
How did that translate into your love life?
I just started to realize that I had a choice. That’s the thing I didn’t realize all through my 20s, I thought I had to do stuff. I thought I had to put up with certain sh*t, I thought that I had to do a lot of sh*t that I don’t motherf**kin’ have to do! [Laughs]
It sounds like you experienced a rebirth of sorts.
When I turned 30 I told myself, “You’re not going to drag all that sh*t from your 20s into your 30s. I turned 30 last year.” I slowly started to change, and tried to fix things that were broken in my 20s. I changed bad behaviors, let go of certain things. I really had to work on that but at the same time, we live in a good vs. evil world. When the devil knows that you’re working on yourself and talking to God everyday, he’s only going to allow you to see negative things. He’s only going to allow you to see where you haven’t gone, as opposed to how far you’ve come.
Do you think that you attract different men than when you were in your 20s?
I’m still working on the men department [Laughs]. I’m a work in progress. I’m not saying that all the areas in my life are all fixed, but I’m so much more aware now than I ever have been.
Are you dating anyone?
There’s a guy that I talked to for a good portion of last year. He met my mama, but he was going through some personal things in his life and he kind of fell off. I was like, I can’t deal with you being this inconsistent. I was very vocal, whereas I wouldn’t have been that vocal with a man in my 20s.
I backed up from that situation, but guess what? It doesn’t help, because I still like him. I still want be with him, I still want to see him. And what did he do once I backed off? Like they always do, he called and texted, and I ignored him. Even now, we just picked back up and before I allow it to get back on the same rollercoaster, there are certain conversations that need to be had.
A fresh start sounds like it could be exciting though.
It’s exciting, but at the same time I don’t have the same tolerance anymore. I wrote in my phone the other day: “My heart is the same, but my tolerance? Not so much.” I still love really hard, I care for people, I want the best for them, but my tolerance [has changed].
Are you finding it easier to let people go?
Yes, it’s the craziest thing! It’s just really nuts and I’m trying to get better at that. Because I’ve never been good at it. I’ve never been good at letting go. I’ve always given chance, after chance, after chance. And it’s just not good for me. I hope [the guy that I’m dating] doesn’t think this go ‘round is going to be the same. I have to have real conversations, but that’s for everything in my life. Everything has to have some sort of a purpose, and I’m not saying I’m not open to letting life happen, but at the same time, it’s a thin line between letting life happen and wasting your goddamn time.
There’s nothing wrong with being vocal about what you want out of a relationship.
I will talk about relationships all day! I feel everything, It’s a gift and a curse. I say all the time that I’m going to be a really great girlfriend, fiancée, and wife to somebody because I’m just a lover.
You went through a public breakup with B.O.B., are you guys still friends?
We were friends for a long time before we even dated. We dated, it was cool for a minute and then it was like, we’re probably better off as friends. We haven’t talked for a very long time, but that doesn’t mean I don’t wish him the best. Our situation ended amicably, but then he just kind of went through some other stuff after we broke up.
Like the “flat Earth” controversy?
It’s not even that, it was just like some whole other stuff that I don’t really want to speak on. He went through some public things that had nothing to do with me because we weren’t together. He probably could’ve used a little better judgment, but at the same time, he’s human. I’m pretty sure that he’s learned a lesson or two, behind that.
What did you enjoy about collaborating with so many male artists on your album?
I sit back and I take notes. I study the sh*t out of them because I’m a woman, I got the sensitive [part down]. I know how to write from that perspective. I can write you the sappiest prettiest [song], but it’s important — at least for me — to have different dynamics in my songwriting. I will say that I’ve been writing a lot of songs with Jeremih, we have to figure out how we’re going to release them because we’ve done songs outside of this [album]. I’ll throw out a line and he’ll come behind me and find a cooler, slicker, crazier metaphoric way to say the same exact sh*t. But he’ll say it in a way to where you don’t have to be a man or a woman to feel it.
How was working with Young Berg/Hitmaka?
Berg is a character [Laughs]. The one thing about Berg is he’s very confident, we have a very peculiar relationship. One thing we have in common, we both go after what we want. We may have a million people trying to tell us no, but we both love what we do. I think we have a mutual respect because we can see that in each other.
You also collaborated with Chris Brown in the past, are you still friends?
We actually haven’t worked together in a very long time. It’s not something that I necessarily want, but I just think that he has a lot going on in his life. I love him and he loves me, that’s my brother — he will always be a brother to me — but it’s just a lot of different dynamics that I think were out of our control. Fans ask all the time, they’re a lot smarter than people give them credit for, and I’m not one to ever lie to them. He’s not on my album, I would love it if he were, but for whatever reason, we haven’t worked together in a minute, but I love him. I’m praying for him.
Are you the kind of friends who don’t have to see each other all the time, or speak every day, to know that it’s all love?
Yeah, it’s one of those [friendships]. I definitely will always love Chris, he’ll always be like my brother. I constantly pray for God to completely lay his hand on our friendship.
Is it a tough friendship at times?
No, the thing is, it has nothing to do with the two of us. There were other people and other situations that had a direct impact on our friendship, but had nothing to do with our friendship. I think that whenever that type of thing happens, it’s only a matter of time before you and your friend find your way back to each other because why you drifted apart in the first place wasn’t either of your fault.
Do you feel a responsibility to cover social issues in your music, after the Philadelphia 76ers wouldn’t allow to perform the National Anthem in a “We Matter” jersey?
I had a song called “Stronger,” that I recorded before I went through the thing with the 76ers and I went back in the studio and played around with it again because it took on a different meaning for me. I never really put it out, because I wanted to be really careful, I didn’t want anybody to think I was trying to capitalize [off of the situation]. That really wasn’t what [wearing the jersey] was about. Even though the situation ended up turning into something seemingly negative for the 2.5 seconds that I was kicked out of [Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo] arena, it turned back around into something so much bigger and more positive than I could have ever imagined.
I’m very conscious and sensitive to the things that people go through, which is where a lot of my inspiration from my music comes from. [My music] is not just my life, or for me to be in my house by myself listening to it on my laptop. All of this is about people. Music is about people and experiences, human experiences.
The last few years have felt like a resurgence of black women and girls celebrating blackness, how does that play into your art?
I’m just so happy for the little brown girls out here today because when we were younger, we saw ourselves on TV, and in movies. We had Martin, Fresh Prince, In the House, A Different World, In Living Color, we had a lot of blackness growing up. Musically, we had Brandy, Monica, Tamia, TLC, Destiny’s Child, Janet Jackson… you know what I mean? We had a lot of blackness that we were able to see, and somewhere along the way, the TV shows started disappearing. [Music] went from having a bunch of black female artists out that were very successful, to black female artists seemingly struggling to stay afloat amongst a sea of other races and ethnicities who are flourishing.
It’s weird because it’s happening in our entertainment community where people are starting to celebrate melanin. You listen to Solange’s lyrics and you see her wave her “I’m a beautiful black woman” flag, and SZA’s a chocolate beautiful black woman who has an amazing voice and an amazing way of expressing herself. It’s starting to come back around. You’re starting to see people where more African prints, you’re starting to see the uprising, a bit more diversity. And it’s not just about [race], fashion designers are allowing models to wear hijabs.
At the same time it’s a really weird paradox because the amount of times that we turn on the TV and see anther black man killed by a police officer. It’s ridiculous. We have to take the positive things that are happening within our black entertainment community, right now we’re so supportive of melanin, people are all being vocal about the things we’re seeing on the news, we’re wearing shirts that say ‘We Matter’ and using our platform. And even though some days it feels like we’re not getting very far, every little bit helps. And I think our musical community plays a much larger roll than what we realize because music is universal. Music can bring everybody together, it doesn’t matter what complexion you are, what race you are. The music community, we hold somewhat of a responsibility to use our platform. That’s why I made it a point to wear my ‘We Matter’ shirt and when it came to the point where they asked me to take it off, I looked them in their face[s] and told them ‘hell no.’
Do you have a “sister circle” of women in the music industry who you turn to for support?
K. Michelle is one of my closest friends in this business. She’s been through a lot in this industry and she has so much knowledge, so many things to tell me. RaVaughn, she’s an amazing talent, too. Angela Yee is one of my best friends — and not just in the industry — outside of this industry. Estelle is so sweet and supportive, Eva Marcille, Bridget Kelly… these are girls that I can like go stay at their houses. Really, really good friends. It’s a couple others, if I forgot, it’s not on purpose!
What is the general message, or feeling, that if you want to convey with Girl Disrupted?
That it’s okay to be open and vulnerable, because that’s the only way you’re going to get to your solution. That’s why every song touches on, a different emotion. It’s like I had to rewire my emotions, rewire myself. We’re all, in some ways, emotional basket cases. We feel everything, and I think the thing that’s hard for people to deal with is when they don’t confront those feelings. You have to confront every emotion. I don’t care if that emotion is in the bedroom at 3 a.m. and you’re trying to get it poppin.’ Let the freak flag fly! If you’re in a relationship, or a “situationship,” you’re not going to get anywhere if ya’ll don’t talk about [your feelings]. Going back to your own self-image, your own insecurities, dealing with depression or whatever it may be, you have to confront that stuff because it will stifle you. So if there’s anything that I want people to take away from Girl Disrupted, it’s that you’ve got to disrupt some sh*t within you sometimes, in order to grow and evolve.
Cover: La Perla – Bodysuit
Jacket: Death By Dolls/Style PR
Orange Look: Concepto/Style PR
Gloves: Concepto/Style PR
Skirt Denim Look w/Studs: Thomas Wylde/Style PRGreen
Brown Dress: Thai Nguyen Atelier