Published on April 29th, 2019 | by Hype Editorial0
Singer, Sharissa Breaks Her Silence. Did, Mary J. Blige Comparisons Hurt Her Career?
Sharissa was everything that was right on the R&B scene in the early 2000’s and then she disappeared. Find out what happened to her.
While being a member of a quartet called, 4Kast, Sharissa was sort out, by prominent music figure, Jimmy Henchman. In 2002 she released her debut album, “No Half Steppin,” which featured her hit single, “Any Other Night.” The album covered the rollercoaster ride that is a relationship from upbeat melodies to heartbreak and loneliness. Her debut didn’t include any features and received mostly good reviews. For her sophomore album, “Every Beat of my Heart,” released one year after her debut, she would add features from some industry heavy hitters such as R. Kelly, The Notorious Big, Wyclef Jean and The Game, but the album was released in Japan only. After going MIA for 8-years she put out an album titled, “All or Nuth’n” in 2011 and went back in exile. At one point, Sharissa drew many comparisons to, Mary J. Blige, a comparison that she feels somewhat hindered her career to a degree.
I recently caught up with the, Brooklynite and got her to break her silence. She talks about working with, R. Kelly as a teenager, the gift and the curse of being compared to, Mary J. Blige as well her eagerness to put out new music
The Hype Magazine: I miss this voice. How are you?
Sharissa: You know what, I am better than I was. I took some time to learn about myself. It’s different. I was a young girl starting out and I’m just now getting to know what I like and who I am and what I don’t like. I feel good.
The Hype Magazine: I hope one of the things you still like is music because it’s been a long time since we have gotten some music from you and I think you are a talented singer.
Sharissa: I love music. You know what; I don’t even want to say that I don’t like the business. I think that I started out on a good track and sometimes we come across the wrong vibe or energy. It just slows us up a little bit, but I’m on track. I’m back on track.
The Hype Magazine: It was exciting seeing you working with a band on, YouTube. Is that the direction you plan on going in?
Sharissa: Yeah! I’m excited. I wanted to do that because I think a lot of the time, I spent on the road for the first and second album, I had a, DJ. And I think it takes away from the R&B essence. So, I wanted to put together a band. And of course, it’s different because I don’t have a major behind me or anything. I’m just doing my thing.
The Hype Magazine: It feels like that true R&B artist is almost extinct now. Don’t get me wrong, there are some amazing R&B artist out there, but you have to search in terms of new artist to find one who is really into the vocal aspect of singing and not auto-tuning or doing a bunch of collaborations with rappers.
Sharissa: Oh definitely! For a long time, I felt like it was done and then I started hearing gems like, Jazmine Sullivan and now more recently, PJ Morton, oh my goodness. H.E.R. I love her. I think they are amazing. So, they inspired me.
The Hype Magazine: You got into this game at a young age and like you mentioned, you got some wrong vibes, did that mentally deter you from music and creating music?
Sharissa: Yeah, I’ll be honest, I did get discouraged because we should have people around us that uplifts us and inspires us. I’m not blaming anyone. I believe that I did that myself. But I know now that I am stronger if I’m around the right crowd. I know what I’m looking for and its energy. When we’re young we don’t know. We just want to be out and around people and meet people that we think are the ones to hang around, but it’s not always about that. It’s about good energy and being equal.
The Hype Magazine: I read a statement you made, and you said that you don’t like to sing about things you haven’t experienced. When you made, “No Half Steppin,” you must have really been going through it. That album sounded very personal.
Sharissa: Oh yeah, and what’s so crazy is, at that time, I wasn’t going through it, but I had been through it. I had been through it and that’s the thing that I tried to get away from in my latter years in writing. I only wrote about things that I knew of. And to keep it real my life wasn’t always beautiful. I have great parents don’t get me wrong, but I had some bad experiences. I tended to focus on those things and now it’s love. Salaam Remi, I met him years ago and he said to me, “We’re supposed to write about love even if we don’t know love. Just the whole thought of love,” so I have been focusing on that.
The Hype Magazine: I have never spent a single day in jail, but if I ever went to prison, I would want a, Sharissa to hold me down (laughing). My favorite song from the, “No Half Steppin” album is, “I’m Waiting.”
Sharissa: Ah man, thank you so much. We’re talking about it now and that album is what, almost 20-yeards old.
The Hype Magazine: Absolutely! It came out in 2002.
Sharissa: I’m so grateful for the internet. I was honestly scared of the internet at first. I was afraid because back in my time we were raised to where you knew you didn’t talk about what was going on within your four walls. Anyone could just reach out and touch you and that scares me. I’m still trying to learn and to think different. That’s the biggest thing to think different. I was AWOL. I was MIA on the internet. People are finding me now though. I know there are good and bad things about it, but for me personally, I’m grateful for the internet because it really allows me to see my fans and hear them. Back then, I didn’t hear that for the encouragement. So, for you to tell me, “I’m Waiting” is one of your favorites… when I went in to write that with, Mark Batson, I didn’t know what I was going to write about. That was the first thing that came off of my tongue when he started to play the music. I heard the music because he was playing the music live and I just wrote about what I know.
The Hype Magazine: Were you going through that situation when you came up with the idea or had been through it?
Sharissa: I had actually experienced that (laughing). I’m telling you, that album was me. I definitely had experienced that.
The Hype Magazine: We recently reached the 22nd anniversary of the passing of the Notorious Big [March 9th]. You are from Brooklyn, although it was remixed, I’m sure it was an extreme honor to get the B.I.G. feature on your second album.
Sharissa: It was definitely more remixed, but come on, that’s, B.I.G. My fondest memories of him… I’ve never hung out with him. I’m just keeping it real. He had a party, and I want to say it was at, The Manhattan Center, but I don’t want to say it wrong because this was years ago. I went to that party and I just so happened to be walking into this party right behind, B.I.G. That is a moment for me. I think he was incredible. We all know that. I’m saddened by that and I think that started changing me too with the music. I love the music, I loved him, and I love the energy that, B.I.G. had. That time in the 90’s was some of the best days and nights of my life, I promise. Just that energy… I feel like when we lost him, we lost that. That really swayed me a little bit. The way I felt about him, 22-years, wow. It seems like yesterday.
The Hype Magazine: To think he was only 26-years old is crazy to me.
Sharissa: Come on. What a waste. I wish that we could just treat each other better than we are. What a waste.
The Hype Magazine: You drew a lot of comparisons to, Mary J. Blige when you came out. That can be a gift and a curse in the music world. Was it more curse than gift for you?
Sharissa: The way that I wore my hair, the way that I dressed, that’s how I lived. That was just me. That’s how I went to the studio because that was just me. I did get the comparisons. And I love, Mary. That’s what I came up listening to. I think it was kind of hard because I think people judged me on those similarities. They judged me off of that because the people that loved her would hate me. I don’t see a reason… I don’t know why we all can’t just do our music and be okay. Mary has great records. I don’t feel like I ever had great records (laughing). I was just expressing myself. Mary is on a pinnacle, nobody can ever reach that. They did make it hard for me doing that. Every now and then I would hear little things like when they see my old videos, “Oh, she looks like, Mary.” But think about it, when we look at the young ladies that are out now, don’t we all pretty much look the same? We can all pull off blonde hair or be a red head. But when we’re young we take those things to heart. That’s what I did back then. I just kind of felt a little discouraged by it, but it’s all good. I’m a Mary fan and Mary has always showed me love, but the fans don’t get to see that.
The Hype Magazine: You were actually discovered at some point or sort out by, Jimmy Henchman. How did you link with him?
Sharissa: Well I was already signed to, RCA. I was in a girl group, 4Kast. I actually met Jimmy’s brother, Mario. That’s when I was with, 4Kast. And he said, “I have been looking for you.” I didn’t know what he was talking about because to me, little ole me, they don’t know who I am. I’m just a young lady trying to make it. When I started getting the calls, I got a call from, Jimmy’s office and they wanted me to meet with, Jimmy and I went and met with him and heard what he was doing. They were actually taking, Henchman over to, Motown. Come on, that’s, Motown. Of course, I want to be a part of, Motown. That’s how I met him.
The Hype Magazine: You could plead the fifth on this one because I don’t believe in turning interviews into an interrogation, but if you want to answer that would be great. You have worked with, R. Kelly in the past. He obviously has a lot going on. What was he like to work with and was there anything out of the ordinary now that you look back that you can recall?
Sharissa: I have been thinking about this for the last couple of months and I mean… whether I say anything or nothing I will get backlash. But the truth is, when I first met him, I was in, 4Kast. I was a young teenager. We were actually managed by, Barry Hankerson. We had the same manager. Barry brought us to a, R. Kelly concert and we were to sing for him and see what he thought about us. And I promise, that dude was a gentleman. He never made any of us… and it was 4-young ladies. He never made any of us feel uncomfortable. Either we were butt ugly to him (laughing), or he just was a gentleman. Fast forward to when we did the video for, “In Love with a Thug,” I recorded that record. Hank and I wrote that record and I guess someone at, “Virgin” sent it to, Robert and he wrote a verse and recorded it and sent it right back to me. For me, that was the honor because he didn’t know me. I did have my first album out, and I was working on my second album, but I’m a nobody to me still; to me. So, for him to do that, I felt honored. Then when we shot the video, he never made me feel uncomfortable at all, but you never know what people are doing. I try to stay out of it.
The Hype Magazine: It sounds like you never embraced or accepted your celebrity or didn’t understand that you belonged because you were good.
Sharissa: Thank you. That is very accurate. I didn’t know people would know who I was because I felt like, “Little Sharissa.” I didn’t feel like a celebrity or a star. I didn’t feel that I had a great voice. I just knew that I loved to sing, and I was given the best that I had. I think a lot of it I didn’t because I didn’t embrace it that way.
The Hype Magazine: Is there anything on the horizon we could look forward to from you?
Sharissa: Yeah! I need to get better. I’m sorry, but trust and believe I will get better. I’m working with the band and we take our dates here and there and I need to get more active (laughing). I know it and I shall. I hope you guys hear something new from me. I’m recording. I have a studio in my house now and I just record and do what I’m doing. I’m moving forward.
By: Percy Crawford