Since 1998, Syleena Johnson has blessed the radio waves with her soulful vocals. The Chicago native has endured many trials throughout her life, but uses her music to let the world in on her story. Having worked with the top artists in the game from R. Kelly to Kanye West, Syleena is a true industry stable. And now, her role on VH1’s R&B Divas has introduced fans to the drive and dedication Johnson has for her career throughout the years.
Music has always been in Syleena’s blood, but that hasn’t stopped her from pursuing passion projects. Currently, the 36-year-old is working on numerous projects from her Mommy’s Got Soul workout DVD to newly launched T-shirt line, Syleenaisms. Her possibilities are endless. Although she admits she is no superwoman, she does her best to keep being a mother and career woman balanced. Crème caught up with the vivacious diva to discuss her come-up, where she’s been and how where she is going is destined to be great.
I kept a journal my first album. I wrote a lot of songs and poems so I already had thoughts written, and it was just an easy transition. From there I felt like it was best that I tell my story [over] anyone else, so I just felt like it could be powerful singing about the things that happened. Knowing that other women have gone through those same things I felt that I could heal by exposing myself through my music.
I think both R. Kelly and my father are the reason for the breakout of my career. I don’t think that Robert is instrumental in the break of my career; he was very instrumental in creating really great songs for me. He created the single, and I guess that has some merit, but my dad did the most. I was with my dad since I was 16 years old, creating records. I have to give credit where credit is due, even though my father gets on my nerves.
I met Kanye West in 2002 briefly. But then he wrote Alicia Keys’ “You Don’t Know My Name,” and my label wanted me to work with him because of that. So we went into the studio to create a song called “Bull’s-Eye” which is on Chapter 3, and in the process of that he was working on his record. He had a deadline with “All Falls Down,” and Lauryn Hill was supposed to do it because at first it was a sample, but he couldn’t clear the sample so he needed someone to re-sing it. I re-sang it that night, and he was like, “This is great.” The rest is history.