Photo by John Vettese

“More than anything, I’m a storyteller,” Philly’s Jazmine Sullivan told the big crowd gathered around the tiny stage at MilkBoy Studio. And true to that, her listening party last Thursday very much had a Storytellers vibe to it: Sullivan seated on a barstool, listening to the album track by track, pausing in between to share background tidbits and perspective on each one.

The locally-bred R&B / soul / pop singer-songwriter was celebrating her latest release, Reality Show, at the Callowhill digs where it was produced. Out today on RCA Records, the album is a stylistically diverse set – capturing that archetypal soul sound that hearkens back to Lauryn Hill and Jill Scott, but also delving into hip-hop (this record doesn’t mince words with subject matter or lyrical content), disco, funk and pop. It’s a grab bag, and a lot of fun to listen to — and I definitely recommend giving it a spin while it’s still streaming in full over at Complex Mag.

“This album is not all of anything,” Sullivan said, setting up the glossy 70s flair of “Stan.” “It’s not all R&B, it’s not all soul. I just love music, and I’ve been doing that [with my music] since Fearless.”

The album’s single, “Stupid Girls,” premiered on NPR Music last summer, but a close second to it on the record is the infectious bump n grind of “#Hoodlove” – which has an earworm chorus that goes “Gonna ride this bitch ‘thill the wheels fall off.” People were singing it on the walk to catch SEPTA well after the event was over.

Sullivan shouted out local hip-hop beatmaster Joe Logic after the song concluded. He began working on the album as an engineer, but Sullivan says they worked so well together that he wound up producing two tracks – including “Stupid Girls.”

“I’m surprised he still likes me,” Sullivan laughed. “I gave him a hard time in the studio, going back and forth, switching stuff up. I put so much pressure on myself because I was out for so long – I wanted to make sure everything was as perfect as it could be.”

Reality Show is her first LP since 2010’s Love Me Back and her third overall, and though that is a long time by industry standards, songs like “#Hoodlove” and her Meek Mill collabo “Dumb” – with its awesome Muppets-meet-Cheaters music video – will hopefully eclipse that absence.

Moreso than the catchiness is the subject matter, that’s direct and honest, sometimes intensely so. A couple songs deal explicitly with drug use, including “If You Dare,” Joe Logic’s other production number.

Sullivan said she hit some emotionally rough patches over the past few years, and “drugs was unfortunately something that popped up for me. But I got a praying family, they helped me out and luckily it didn’t get that far, but I still wanted to tell the story.”

Another emotionally striking moment was the last one Sullivan previewed for the crowd, “Masterpiece,” with addresses (among other things) overly narrow perceptions of beauty. “The standards to be perfect are so high, especially in this industry, and I struggle with that,” Sullivan told. “Every day I have to remind myself of everything that’s good about myself.”

After the listening party wrapped, guitarist Devin Trout joined Sullivan for two striking acoustic performances: “Stupid Girl” and “Forever Don’t Last.” Watch video below, along with music videos for “Dumb” and “Stupid Girl,” and check out our photo gallery from the listening party. You can listen to Reality Show in its entirety here and get it via iTunes here.