You have to experience a few things before Tweet’s debut record Southern Hummingbird makes sense or resonates. This album is for the couple five years in who have built a life together, along with some underlining resentment. This is for the Brown Sugar comrades, the Syd Shaw and Dre duo who finally let their lust boil over after years of frontin.’ This is for the lovers with scars cocoa butter can’t heal, and for others who adopted habits in hopes it’ll drown out the memory of a first kiss.
Southern Hummingbird sits comfortably in the nooks of love; the in-between spaces that we all find ourselves, and then question how we got there. And as much as we’d like to wax poetic about how sage we are when it comes to matters of the heart, behind closed doors we all know we don’t know sh*t.
The 15-year-old, 15-track LP landed at No. 3 on the Billboard 200 selling a (then) lackluster 195,000 copies its first week. What pushed the nearly 200,000 records sold was the addictive “Oops (Oh My)” track featuring Missy Elliott. The beat isn’t as complicated as Timb is known for, but the knock places it in a familiar rhythmic pocket. Like many of us do when Timb is behind the boards, we all moved our shoulders and danced totally unaware that Tweet covertly described the wondrous selfish joys of masturbation.
The true dominating force in 2002 was Ashanti, who moved half a million copies of her self-titled debut album. “The Princess of R&B”, as she was crowned, also boasted the highest first-week sales from any new artist. Irv Gotti and Murder Inc. were inescapable and Ashanti on the hook became a way of life. She earned her success and for other artists attempting to carve out their lane at the same time, unfortunately, it just wasn’t their time.
So if you fell victim to the delightful distraction that was Ashanti, and neglected to partake in the thick soulful broth of Southern Hummingbird, don’t worry, we won’t hold you. It was April 2002, seven months after 9/11 and eight months after Aaliyah. Hip-hop was just beginning to receive mainstream money and listeners wanted to escape. More rhythm and less blues was the tone. But like mama said, they’d be days like this.
The record opens with the singer-songwriter reflecting. As wind chimes dance, Tweet’s delicate voice pinpoints the exact moment she contemplated suicide. It’s quite the juxtaposition for listeners as the soothing melody is only enhanced by Tweet’s calming tone. Opting for a “handful of pills” and a desire to be done with this life, it was either a higher voice, or her own inner strength she referred to as a southern hummingbird that saved Tweet from herself.
From there, listeners are taken on a journey of lust with “My Place,” the break-up-to-make-up song with “Smoking “Cigarettes” and what happens when two friends finally admit they have feelings for one another on “Best Friends.”As the protege of Missy Elliott and Timbaland, it’s easy for one to be taken over by the duo’s production prowess. The Virginia natives crafted some of hip-hop and R&B’s best, so as an artist you can hide behind the beat and let Missy and Timb do the heavy lifting. But that wasn’t the case with Tweet. It was Tweet’s lyrics and acoustic guitar that stood front and center and for one of the first times, fans heard a subdued yet still potent offering from them both.
“Always Will” finds Tweet at her most cocky. She sings boldly of knowing that nothing lasts forever but no matter how hard he tries, he’ll always love her. Whether they’re separated by seas or planets, nothing can interfere with the love they’ve shared, even the distance that has come between them. The record takes a bit of family cookout turn with “Boogie 2Nite” and “Make Ur Move” and gets back on course with the blood boiling “Motel,” in which Tweet describes seeing her lover walk into a Motel and deliberate within herself should she storm in guns blazing or gracefully walk away.
Southern Hummingbird is a somber record, a rainy Sunday record, an “I’ve cried all my tears but I’m still reading our old text messages” record. And yet, it still provides perspective and strength and vulnerability. Tracks like “Complain” find Tweet begging for her lover to return, while “Beautiful” shows Tweet unabashedly speaking of the beauty of her man.
The album’s last track that stays within Tweet’s perfectly crafted soulful and reflective pocket is “Heaven,” in which she sings of the freedom received now that she’s no longer in an unhealthy relationship. “Loving me means more than losing you” are words many women have learned the hard way after years, tears and emotions given but never reciprocated.
Southern Hummingbird is for the grown woman who may have taken a few too many losses than she’s willing to admit. It’s for the woman who has willingly gone back to the evil she knows, but also for the woman who finally gets it and realizes her happiness is paramount. As stated earlier, you have to endure some things for Southern Hummingbird to resonate, and when you do, that’s when it’ll all make sense.