From Alanis Morissette to Ariana Grande, breakup albums are plentiful. Some of the best pieces of art come from the most difficult periods of an artist’s life. But while Baby Rose’s debut album To Myself was based on her own experience of a long-term relationship coming to an end, its quiet intimacy and searingly raw lyrics mark the 25-year-old as a talent incomparable to others. “I’m just glad that I didn’t name it after him, because that would have not aged well,” she laughs, reflecting on the deeply personal re- cord when we speak on the phone. “It was about a breakup, but it was also about me kind of declaring my own independence, and having this form of self-discovery outside of a relationship.”
On the album’s title track, Rose — whose real name is Jasmine Rose Wilson — sings of experiencing conflicting emotions in the aftermath of the relationship’s undoing; refraining from contacting her ex, and instead; laying out her feelings for us. Performing the song for YouTube platform COLORS, Rose’s unique, soulful voice comes as a pleasant surprise to many of the commenters; the low, husky tones reminiscent of the Golden Era of jazz and blues.
“Having autonomy is so imperative if you’re an artist,” Rose tells me, when I ask if she had to fight for her refreshing authenticity in an industry where pressures to conform to a ‘marketable’ sound are the norm. “I kinda had to find my reason, [to] find what the inner child in me wanted to say, creatively [and] boundlessly. Because a lot of shit I’m doing is different, especially in Atlanta.” The Georgian city has been the artist’s home for seven years now, so when she found out about a series of recording sessions taking place there that would become Revenge of the Dreamers III, a collaborative album helmed by rap legend J. Cole and featuring the likes of J.I.D, Ari Lennox and Vince Staples, she knew she had to get involved.
“I snuck in, I have no shame about that,” laughs Rose, who grew up in the same hometown as J. Cole, Fayetteville, North Carolina. “I deserved to be there, and I felt I had something to prove.” Of the 142 songs record- ed over a 10-day period in January 2019, “Self Love”, featuring verses from Rose, Lennox and New York rapper Bas, made it to the final cut of the album. In the midst of “a very chaotic part” of her breakup, Rose’s vulnerability is palpable throughout her verse. “Me and Ari had some type of girl talk, and I explained to her what was going on,” she remembers fondly. “And it kind of just spilled out, it was very easy. I had literally been crying my eyes out that whole day, and then drove to the [recording] camp, so it was really concentrated emotions.” The song, decidedly slow- er and more heartfelt than some of the more anthemic rap tracks on the album, has an impassioned tone that seeps into the rest of Rose’s work and, unsurprisingly, connects with her fans in a significant way. Though she tells me that she was never “doing it for anyone else,” her rising success isn’t going anywhere; quietly confident, this is an artist who has a lot more to say.
Vulnerability is often daunting, but Baby Rose is aware of what can be gleaned from witnessing this “rawness” as a listener. “I really am bearing who I am,” she considers, when I ask what she hopes people will experience when listening to her music. “My arms are open, and I hope that inspires [people] to look inside themselves, and not give a fuck about what anyone else thinks. To break free of the box they may be in. And I say it to them as I say it to myself: never be confined, never need a label to tell you who you are. Just always grow, and surprise yourself. That’s what I want to do.” Sounds like good advice to me.