Sevyn Streeter on 'Girl Disrupted' Album, 'Sweet & Street' Style, Colorism & State of Today's R&B: Exclusive

Dennis Leupold
Sevyn Streeter

It's almost surreal that Sevyn Streeter is finally releasing her debut studio album Girl Disrupted after two decades of songwriting and performing. And its release happened to coincide with her 31st birthday on Friday (July 7).

In an exclusive interview with Billboard Style, the singer exclaims, “I keep forgetting that it’s my actual birthday! I’m so caught up in album [promo] that I have to remind myself.”

According to Sevyn -- who has found previous Billboard Hot 100 success with 2013's "It Won't Stop" -- Girl Disrupted is a “perfect marriage” that celebrates life and music. The singer opens up the LP with a monologue at the beginning of “Livin,” bringing up a previous battle with depression and how her recording journey was disrupted by “probably the most craziest shit I ever went through.” Simply put, Girl Disrupted is a triumphant rebirth.

When listening to the album, expect to hear Sevyn’s signature, self-described sound of “sweet and street” (emphasizing her pun at the end). That’s also how she views her personal fashion sense. “There’s something a little girly and a little sweet about my style,” says the fan of “really cute, sexy dresses that hug my body” and “cute little sandals.” That side is mixed with her affinity for men’s apparel and streetwear, particularly sports jerseys.

Ricki Brazil, Ashton Michael and Tlasza were name-dropped as some of the fashion killa's favorite designers; she wore a red, high-slit gown from the latter during her appearance at ASCAP’s 2017 Rhythm & Soul Music Awards in June. For Sevyn’s “street” persona, classic sneakers from Reebok, Nike and Adidas paired with denim or sweatsuits does the job.

 

-- #GIRLDISRUPTED 7•7•17

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As far as the tracks from Girl Disrupted best resembling this style: The singer believes “Present Situation” -- a banger produced by superduo The-Dream and Tricky Stewart, featuring a “crazy electric guitar and Aaliyah spewing drums” -- is that “perfect combination of sweet and street.” “Translation,” the album highlight about miscommunication in relationships, also encompasses that sound, as well as the August Alsina-harmonizing “Been a Minute." After describing these songs, Sevyn -- looking ahead to the future -- dreamed up a seven-track EP titled Sweet and Street. If this vision becomes a reality, she would feature various male artists who would “say the hardest shit” against her “female rebuttals and sweetest lines."

Sevyn acknowledges how hard it is for her and others, as black women, to achieve crossover success and accolades in the industry. This echoes a sentiment that her contemporary Tinashe expressed in a controversial interview with The Guardian last month, where it seemed the singer thought her lighter-skin complexion got in the way of how people bought into her artistry. Out of frustration, fans of R&B mentioned Sevyn and her darker skin tone as a foil to her peer’s complaints.

While she couldn’t speak about Tinashe’s personal experiences, Sevyn mentioned that she’s dealt with her own form of colorism in the industry starting at age 15. She would hear from directors and label management, “Oh, we couldn’t find a pretty shot of her,” while filming music videos, as they opted for more camera time on members with lighter skin tones. “I knew off the top [of my head] I would be able to out-sing and out-write people that I’ve been in groups with,” Sevyn tells Billboard. “And not to say anything bad about them -- they were very talented as well. But I knew what I brought to the table and I knew my worth, and unfortunately I was never allowed to do that in the same way that others in my group were able to.” The singer explained how she's grown a “tougher skin," knowing that “it wasn’t my skin complexion that gave me opportunities, it was my work ethic.”

 

I don't like shy boys...I prefer grown men-- #GIRLDISRUPTED 7•7•17

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On Girl Disrupted, Sevyn experiments with the new school of R&B as well as the old, recognizing the genre’s “influences on other genres.” She expanded on that thought: “All these artists at the top of the pop charts are dressed like R&B artists in their videos. They’re singing lyrics and melodies from R&B songs of the past. We’re a very influential genre, and I’m not mad at it. I just want people to accept it no matter who it comes from. I can’t say that that’s always the case. And a lot of the times, I can’t say that’s ever the case, if we want to keep it 100!”

While she remains adamant that '90s R&B will remain her favorite era for the genre, Sevyn enjoys how today’s R&B includes more experimentation in instruments and vocals. This is showcased on “Soon as I Get Home,” a modern take on the 1995 Faith Evans classic of the same namel; her stans “The Street Team” are already labeling the jam as roller-skating-rink-friendly. As far as who Sevyn’s listening to and admires: “SZA is bomb as f---. I’m still on Solange’s [A Seat at the Table] -- that’s not going anywhere. Ro JamesEl Dorado -- I’m waiting on him to release new music.” The singer says she “loves the current state of R&B,” adding Miguel’s discography and her obsession with Bruno Mars24K Magic to her list of “R&B greatness.”

Up next for Sevyn is a few appearances to further promote Girl Disrupted, including The Breakfast Club and The Wendy Williams Show. She’s preparing for a Monday music video premiere of “Anything U Want” featuring Jeremih, Ty Dolla $ign, and Wiz Khalifa. But in the end, Sevyn knows her debut album is for her fans who've awaited the long journey: “They deserve it!”

Stream the R&B heaven that is Girl Disrupted below: