JoJo Talks Bridge-Burning Former Label, Taking the High Road on the Path to Album No. 3

Ohrangutang/Atlantic Records
Jojo photographed in 2015.

JoJo’s story is well known by now. Signed to Blackground Records as a pre-teen, a debut album and pair of major pop hits by 14, followed by a sophomore release two years later. So far so good, right? But after that second album, the singer’s career was effectively handcuffed by legal battles with the label, which at that point was flopping from one distributor to the next and feuding with the producer who had signed her.

A third album never happened and JoJo was eventually released from Blackground -- more than ten years after signing. While in a hazy label purgatory, she satiated fans by releasing one-off singles and mixtapes, including 2010’s Can't Take that Away from Me and 2012’s Agape. In early 2014, JoJo signed with Atlantic and recently dropped a "tringle" of three singles.

In an as-told-to for Vulture, the 24-year-old singer talks about when it dawned on her that the Blackground deal was "not right" and why, despite her history with labels, she signed so quickly with Atlantic.

On record producer Vincent Herbert, who brought her to Blackground but went MIA after the second album. "I really felt like he was my brother -- I don’t have any siblings -- so that was devastating to me. After he left, then a lot of trash-talking started. The president of Blackground started talking a lot of shit about him, as I’ve come to find out a lot later. Money, greed, ego, and scare tactics were at play that even to this day, at 24, is a little confusing. It was particularly confusing at 16."

On why her 2012 collaboration with Drake producer 40 (Noah Shebib) was scrapped by the label. "I never got a concrete explanation for what happened. There wasn’t a lot of communication, just a lot of lawyer talk at this point. Because when Blackground acquired distribution [through Interscope], it had already taken a very long time. So I was already feeling a certain way about that. And then, when they lost it, it just looked like there was such instability, and they’d already been to every major distributor since the beginning of their career. They essentially burned a lot of bridges, and I didn’t want to keep being a casualty of that."

Was she ever tempted to just self-release all the music she’s recorded over the years? "I knew that since I had been fighting against this for so long, I wanted to continue to take the high road. I also think it’s unfair to all the producers and writers I worked with to just put the shit out, because they deserve to be compensated, just like I do."

On sticking with the major label system. "I love Chance the Rapper's ability to stay independent, but that said, I’m not a rapper. I’m in pop music, and I still think having the support of a major label is really beneficial. It felt like I was fighting and doing it on my own for a while, yet I had two really successful singles under my belt and I had sold millions of albums. And dammit, I wanted to do that again."

Read JoJo’s full story here.


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