“These are songs that I recorded to end a cycle of emotions that I no longer feel,” Justine Skye told Uproxx over the phone about her sophomore effort Bare With Me: The Album.
The cathartic release exists as a waning crescent that transforms into a new moon, where new beginnings lie ahead. At just 24, Skye has located her voice and is letting her emotions run free.
The Roc Nation signee’s latest release, which features four new songs including “No Options” and a stripped-down version of “Maybe,” is an end to an extremely bleak chapter. Now, the rising R&B star is jump-starting her new era. She’s been fulfilling a dream by working extensively with Grammy Award-winning producer Timbaland during the quarantine with a live sessions series titled “Space And Time.”
At this point, Justine’s future is both promising and reassuring. Truly, it’s been inspiring watching her plow through an abusive relationship with “Mo Bamba” rapper Sheck Wes and betrayal from people whom she saw as friends into a chasm of great music.
In a conversation with Uproxx, Justine opened up about letting go of the past, celebrating the future, and the significance of Bare With Me: The Album at this particular moment in her life.
How’s quarantine been for you, everybody’s been finding different creative ways to make music.
And stepping out of the box as well, too. This time that we’ve had, has really given us the opportunity to just experiment, which I think is the most beautiful part of this disaster. That we just have time to rethink all of the things that we were doing and really plan out how we’re going to come back stronger after all of this.
What made you feel like you needed to get the Bare With Me album out? I know you’ve been working on music with Timbaland, right?
I’ve been doing these “Space and Time” sessions with Timbaland, which has literally been a dream come true for me because I’ve always wanted to work with him. Literally, you can probably find so many different interviews with me talking about him when they asked me who I would love to work with. When he reached out to start collaborating with me on these Instagram videos, it was just such a huge moment for me. As time progressed, we just talked more and more and more. We’re setting these songs into, like these little Instagrams and bits that I’ve done, into a full project.
How did he ask you to work with him?
He DM-ed me first. My management, they’re pretty close to him as well, but he DM-ed me on his own. I did a cover video with one of my friends and he saw that. He was like, “Oh, I want to do one.” I was like, “What? You want to do an Instagram cover with me?” It’s so crazy. You’re Timbaland.
What song was it that you covered?
Ah, shi*t, I forgot. I wasn’t really familiar with the name of the band because my friend recommended the song. But it was called “Helplessly Hoping.” She plays a guitar, so she was just like, “I’m really into this song right now. Can you learn the words, and then we’ll do a little quarantine kind of video?” It was a folk song.
Switching gears, because you’ve been pretty vocal about the police killing of George Floyd and with 2020 being what it is and Covid-19, how have you been holding up?
In the first few days of the protesting and just everyone becoming aware of what’s been happening in the world, it was extremely intense. Obviously, many of us were super angry and filled with such rage. I just had to remember God, and spreading love. If we really want the message to get across, then we have to just take action, and not just sit here and be upset so that’s exactly what I started doing. Whether it’s gathering a group of friends and figuring out what we can do physically in order to help make a change in our communities, in the world. It starts with our communities, the people that we talk to, the offices that we walk into, the photoshoots that we partake in, and then moves to whatever. We have to not be afraid to speak up on racism that we experienced, that we witness, and even the white privilege as well, too.
I remember when people were upset when you kneeled during the national anthem at a basketball game. Now I feel like everybody’s been apologizing for it.
It’s just kind of ridiculous at this point, seeing all of these people issuing these apologies but I just hope that it’s genuine, and they’re not just doing it to… it’s a rough time. It’s hard to spot out who’s being genuine and who’s just trying to keep their business afloat.
What type of conversations have you been having with your friends about this?
Just making sure that they understand, not even necessarily making sure that they understand, but just… my friend group is very, I would say, diverse. I have a lot of white friends, I have a lot of Black friends and I have a lot of Asian friends and friends from all ends of the earth. I’m from Brooklyn, New York. I express the need for them — and I don’t need to do this because they understand this themselves — but just reminding them that they are very useful in this way. I feel like sometimes people can get scared and be like, “Well, I don’t know. Maybe I should…” This isn’t a time to be scared. It’s a time for us to understand that as the human race, we need to come together to fight against this injustice.
Tell me about these new songs you’ve added for the Bare With Me EP?
These are songs that I recorded to end a cycle of emotions that I no longer feel.
What are some of those emotions that you’re speaking of, that you no longer feel and felt you had to get rid of?
Well, I was in a relationship when I was working on that EP and it’s the rollercoaster of that relationship from when it was good to when it became bad.
So, this is like closing a chapter?
Yeah, pretty much. Bare With Me, the title is a double entendre, to the guy that I was talking to and to just the public to bare with me while I work on the actual project. It’s part of that cycle of emotions. It’s part of that process. I kind of just wanted to finish that so that I can move forward from it.
When would you say that you would know when your project is complete?
Well, once I have accumulated a decent amount of songs, and you just now come down to like, “All right, these are the best. This should go on the project.” It’s consistently recording and then you just narrow it down to these are the ones that I’m still in love with. Like, this is the storyline, this is what makes sense. When you are working on a project, you have an idea of this world and you’re creating it and building it and then you narrow it down. Every time you go into the studio, you’re creating something that’s going to be the last song that you were so crazily in love with.
You’ve been fairly popular since you were a teenager, right? Coming into the music industry with an online presence already, how has it been for you?
I guess it’s been a journey. I’ve been signed since I was 17, and I guess I’ve been really known since I was 16 through Tumblr. It’s just that throughout time, I wouldn’t consider myself a child star or anything like that — but in the age of social media, someone who has somewhat of a platform to now being in the music industry, it can get pretty intense. Even some of my peers, they’ve reached out and we just have conversations about just reminding ourselves that we’re whole and to just stay on track. In this age of social media, there’s always going to be someone who… Not everyone’s going to like you, and there’s always going to be someone who has something bad to say about you, but we have to acknowledge all the good.
How are you tying that into your music and making sure that, that reflects you as well?
I make sure that reflects me just in the way that I live and the messages that I spread from person to person. When I encounter my fans, when I’m on tour, or whatever it may be. I’m still figuring out how to translate that through my music because at this point in time as I grow as a writer. I’m a very emotional person and some of my songs can be very sad and dark.
Bare With Me: The Album is out now via Nynetineth. Get it here.