Jussie Smollett marked a breakthrough in 2015 when the TV series “Empire” debuted, launching his career after working in the industry for years, earning Emmy and Grammy nominations, and even getting a record deal with Columbia Records.
The anticipation had built around Smollett and his fame, with feverish fans constantly wondering when he would release music apart from his Jamal Lyon persona.
But the songs never came, and Smollett said he had to break away from the Sony label to finally have his voice heard.
“I was sitting in a room full of old straight white men, playing them the stuff that I’d put my heart and soul and my pain and my joy in and they’re telling me what piece of that should be heard by the people that it actually was created for. I’m like, ‘Well that doesn’t feel like freedom,’” Smollett recalled in an interview with The Associated Press on Tuesday.
“And it was in that meeting that I literally was like, ‘I gotta go, I gotta go.’ And I asked Fox to take my contract back and they did. And that was that.”
Last week Smollett finally put out his debut album, “Sum of My Music,” releasing the 10-track set independently on his own label, Music of Sound.
“This is a marathon, not a sprint,” he said, sipping tea with honey comfortably propped on a bed at a hotel in New York City. “There’s no huge company behind me. … Every single cent that’s going into this is mine.”