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HomeEntertainmentJean Deaux Chats ‘Nowhere, Fast’ EP, New Tour & SiR 'Heavy' Debacle 

Jean Deaux Chats ‘Nowhere, Fast’ EP, New Tour & SiR ‘Heavy’ Debacle 

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With credits dating back to 2012 that include collaborations with Saba, Smino and Isaiah Rashad, alluring Chicago R&B singer-songwriter Jean Deaux is no new kid on the block. 

A multidimensional artist whose work traverses different mediums and scoffs at genre lines, Deaux is a shining light in the Black queer art space. Last month (April 12), she released her sixth overall project, Nowhere, Fast, which also serves as her first release since parting ways with Empire Records. 

“It was time for something new,” Deaux says. “We were able to come to the agreement [that] if I wanted to leave, they’d let me go… I felt like I would step away from music for a little bit after I left Empire, but I started to fall in love with the music I was making and that’s really how the EP came together.” 

That transition period – while she was also recovering from a vocal injury and experiencing the general trials and tribulations of going through the back half of your 20s – birthed Nowhere, Fast: an ethereal collection of odes to the turbulent road to maturity. Her voice weaves around soulful synths and forlorn guitars, cradling nuggets of poetry like, “Time is of the essence/ And like a science/ Just in your presence/ I feel it flying.” 

There’s an energy of newness around Jean Deaux right now – new label situation, new project, new tour. But she’s also taking this moment to reclaim and stand in her truth, particularly as it relates to the questionable similarities between the album cover and title of her 2023 Heavy EP and this year’s LP of the same name, from Grammy-nominated R&B star SiR. 

On April 18, Deaux took to X (formerly Twitter) to comment on the similarities between the two projects. Both Deaux and SiR’s Heavys feature album artwork that finds each artist shirtless, doused in red light and staring away from the camera. In her initial post, Deaux alleged that SiR reached out to her after people started commenting on the similarities between the projects when he debuted his Heavy artwork on March 4. According to her, he apologized profusely in private and pledged to make it right, yet refused to publicly atone for the situation. 

Speaking to Billboard, Deaux reiterates everything in her original post, reading excerpts from text messages and DMs between the two. (Billboard was able to review the messages Deaux refers to.)  

“With the capacity he reached out [in] and how emphatic he was, it felt so sincere [that] he wanted to, in his words, ‘Make it right,’” she says. “So, if I’m telling you what I expected, and you telling me that you want to go on tour [together], you want to start a relationship, and then you make this post and we never talk about anything again? Ever?” 

Deaux says she started conceptualizing her Heavy EP in 2021, with her uncle shooting the album cover at the beginning of 2022. “The red lighting was from a reference we used,” she explains. “I was leaning into this villain type of role, and that’s what I wanted the music to feel like.” Her project hit DSPs on April 14, 2023 – almost a full calendar year before SiR debuted the artwork for his Heavy LP, with red-lit photoshoots appearing on his official Instagram feed the month prior.  

Deaux remembers first hearing about the similarities through a text that “somebody who works on [her] team sent” after SiR announced his album. “When I seen it, I honestly didn’t realize what was going on right away,” she says. “When I finally put two and two together, I thought it was strange, but I didn’t know what to think.” 

The ascendant crooner claims that she never confronted SiR. In fact, as she tells it, the Inglewood-bred artist hit her DMs first. “He didn’t DM me [until] a couple days after he announced his cover and said that he heard [my] project, he loved it, and he didn’t know how this happened and he felt like we were pulling from the same creative pool,” she recounts. “He mentioned that he dropped an EP the same week as somebody else [in the past], and it was similar.” Deaux also says that SiR also floated ideas like having Deaux join him on tour, or starting a working relationship with her. Ultimately, after Deaux says she asked that he publicly acknowledge her Heavy and say the things he expressed in her DMs, SiR opted for a simple Instagram Story with the caption: “Jean Deaux has a ‘Heavy’ too.” 

Some weeks later, in an interview with Billboard about his Heavy LP (March 25), SiR name-checked Deaux saying, “There’s another album that I just learned about recently, Heavy by Jean Deaux, and didn’t know it existed… There’s a pool of creativity that we all pull from and sometimes we pull the same ideas […]” A screenshot of his answer recirculated on X following another quasi-viral post drawing connections between the two projects, prompting Deaux to respond. (Representatives for SiR did not provide comment when asked by Billboard about Deaux’s recounting of events.) 

“I tweeted that to set the record straight,” she explains. “I felt like if you’re gonna make another statement in an interview and still not make it half of what you said privately then why speak on that at all?”

In an enlightening conversation with Billboard, Jean Deaux breaks down her new Nowhere, Fast EP, her upcoming tour, plans for new music and her side of the story as it relates to SiR and their Heavy projects.

Talk to me about Nowhere, Fast. What was your vision for the project and what went into conceptualizing that sonic and visual world? 

I started making [Nowhere, Fast] when I was ending my business partnership with Empire. It was a lot of uncertainty in my life. I have management that I ended things with as well. I felt like I [didn’t] know where [I was] gonna go from here. I don’t really know what the next chapter is, and I feel like that resonated into everything else in my life, relationships, friendships, business relationships, all kinds of relationships. 

I learned a lot about myself [by] isolating myself a lot, and I think that’s really where Nowhere, Fast came from. Then, I ended up putting it out with a new label, so it worked out in the end. I’m glad that I took that time to really be real and be honest about where I was in my life. 

What were you listening to or watching while creating this project? 

I listened to a lot of movie scores. I’ve been trying to watch more international films — most recently I just seen Monkey Man, it’s so good. I found myself trying to watch things that comforted me, and it reminded me of things that I just used to enjoy when I was younger. I think that influenced the music too. 

You can pick up that cinematic feel in the album artwork. What went into the creative direction for that shoot? 

So [Brianna] Alysse is the photographer who shot the cover. She had reached out to me, maybe a year or so ago, about working [together]. I’m all about creating something cool, so when I started putting Nowhere, Fast together, I reached out to her and asked if she would be down to do the cover. She sent me a few references, her own interpretations of like what “nowhere fast” looked like. I think we had a similar vision of negative space, like motion, but also standing still at the same time. 

She sent a photo of two people on a motorcycle [that] wasn’t moving, [which] gave me the idea for the cover — kind of changing the position and what was happening on the actual cover It worked out well and I think the extra graphics we added gave people what I was hoping for. I always try to be a little cinematic. 

Why did you choose to go with “Roll With Me” and “Dreamin” to introduce the project? 

“Roll With Me” is just a bop! I could not deny that song as soon as I made it. “Dreaming” sounds like one of the first songs I ever made when I was really getting into my bag, like what my sound was almost 10 years ago, maybe even more so. It felt like returning to something, and it just reminded me of my childhood and how much I’ve accomplished that I’ve cared about [since] I was a kid. “Dreaming” made me feel good in that way, and I feel like people would probably relate to that. 

How did the Destin Conrad collaboration come together? I can’t get enough of “Thinkin!” 

I love “Thinkin” also! That song was really me and Lido and this was the time [when] I really tried to stop smoking. Lido gave me some herbs or something to smoke, and I must have been feeling it a little bit. The essence of the song was so lush. I forget what we was listening to before we even made that, but I’m sure I got the footage somewhere cause I be recording everything. I remember recording us dancing to it because I was like, “Oh man, this is about to be one of them ones.”  

I realized that I don’t do features like that. I probably have one feature, maybe two every project. But I was like, I gotta get somebody on a song and [I knew] Destin would be perfect for that song. He recorded it at home and added the harmonies, came to the studio in LA and added some more harmonies, it was beautiful. I’m grateful for Destin and [he] is one of my best friends. 

What cities are you most excited to visit on tour? 

I haven’t been on tour in like a year or two now, I really had to take a break — just keeping my voice together, going through a vocal injury last year, and recovering from that. I’ve been really nervous about getting back out there, but one thing I do know and I have realized in my time is that I’m a really good performer. That’s one thing that I definitely hear people say after they see me live.  

I’m ready to go home [to Chicago], I’m excited about that. I feel like these songs are gonna sound so good live and Chicago loves good music. I love all the stops I’m going to, I can’t even lie. I’m not even going to divvy it up. I love Atlanta. I love DC. I love New York. I love Chicago. 

What was the vocal injury? 

I did a show on 4/20 when I already had laryngitis and it triggered a lot of things. My throat was trying to defend lot of things that were happening [at the same time] and it was making my voice very sensitive to talk. My voice was just getting tired way faster. I had to go see a specialist and they told me I had to be on vocal rest for a long time and I’m still in recovery. It was scary because at one point I was like, What if I’m cooked? I still have faith, so I know it’s gonna be a process, but, I’m getting back in rehearsal, man. It’s time. 

How do you view this new project in relation to the rest of your discography? 

I’ve heard [Nowhere Fast] is similar to Empathy. I think people mean the R&B sound and music, which I definitely agree [with.] It’s similar to Empathy, but it’s the antithesis of Heavy to me. Heavy is really the music that I want to make, all that alternative music is kind of a niche sound. Heavy is for the creative people [who] bend the rules and shape-shift.  

Who are your favorite alternative artists or your favorite music rule-breakers? 

I love Teezo [Touchdown, sings his hook from Don Toliver’s “Luckily, I’m Having.”]

A lot of people compare me to Santigold, but I didn’t listen to a whole lot of Santigold coming up. I did like Lykke Li. Obviously, I love N.E.R.D.’s music.

What did SiR say when he first contacted you regarding your respective Heavy projects? 

He said: “Your Heavy is super dope and the comparisons are uncanny. I promise I’m not stalking you. Seems like we’re pulling from the same creative lake. I love what you do. I hope you’re having a great week.” 

And I said: “Hey, thanks for reaching out. I was bummed to see that. I’m a big fan of yours. We’ve met before. It does affect me as an artist with a smaller reach than you, just to be transparent. I didn’t assume you ripped me off or was stalking me. I thought your team might have addressed it before it got to this point just [because] of how it may look. And I hate that something like this is what led to us actually connecting personally, but I’m glad you reached out.” 

Where did the conversation go once it left the DMs? 

I asked him if he [wanted] to hop on the phone, and that’s the conversation that I referenced on Twitter. I want to be clear that I didn’t necessarily want anything from the situation. I thought it was strange, and it’s fair for me to think that it’s strange. Objectively, looking at the situation, there is no situation where anybody else in my shoes would not think it was at least peculiar. I would assume in the time that it takes to put together a press kit and a rollout, somebody either made the choice to not care about it, or they just didn’t see it. 

He told me that he was furious, couldn’t believe it, that his team missed it and he was really mad about the situation. He asked the photographer and they said they had never seen my cover [or] heard of me, he just didn’t know how it happened. 

Me and SiR met some years ago [in 2016 when] he performed at the first Kribmas in St. Louis, and that’s what I reminded him on the phone: “I’ve spoken to you several times. I’ve definitely met you. I work with some people on your label, so my name has floated around in some ways.” I told him what’s most important to me is if you could just say literally the things that you said to me in the DM publicly. The easiest thing to do when it’s a Black woman that is a smaller artist is to not even acknowledge the situation and to brush it off. The nice thing to do would be to acknowledge the artist in the situation and to also give the praise publicly. 

He said, “I appreciate you understanding and, when I hit you up, I felt like I had to do some damage control, so I appreciate you being understanding. I want to do this the right way and I’m going to talk to my team about how I can do this.” This is exactly how the conversation went.  

I’m thinking that [we’re] kind of on the same page, but he posted me the day after that and it just said, “Jean Deaux has a ‘Heavy’ too.” It felt disingenuous and I still didn’t say anything publicly. I still posted his album when it released, with a few words to match. So when I seen the [Billboard] interview, it just felt like doubling down on being vague and saying the bare minimum. In the interview the question was not about me, he offered up that information. He could have made that a moment and said, “Even though I’ve never heard of this artist, she dropped [her] project a year before mine,” which he didn’t clarify in his statement. He said, “Her album looks just like mine.”

I felt I felt like those words were choice words. I felt like a person reading that would not have understood what actually happened, and that makes [me] feel more suspicious than I felt to begin with. 

Can this situation be rectified in your eyes? 

I don’t think that it’s anything that needs to be rectified. I just wanted to set the record straight and be transparent, which is what I’ve been doing from the get-go in the entire situation. If we never speak again, that’s totally fine with me. I don’t think that’s beef. 

Have you started thinking about your next project yet? 

I was thinking about the next project before I even finished Nowhere, Fast. I be working on two things at once all the time because when I’m making music for the EP, I need a break from making that type of music. Even though I drop once a year, I’ve always wanted to drop more than once a year. It’s so hard, though. It’s a goal of mine, but if I don’t accomplish it, I’m not gonna come down on myself. If I could drop another one this year, they should be very afraid!

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. 



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