The Unique, Soulful Sound of Baby Rose
Everything about Jasmine Rose Wilson is a rarity, from her zodiac chart as an Aquarius rising (which astrologically means she’s seen as a unique individual) to the distinctive sound of her voice — low-ranging and contralto — down to the vintage green pants from the Seventies that she’s wearing when we meet. All of these things say that Rose is not disposable. “You going to have to grow with me, baby,” she says cooly.
It’s a gloomy Saturday for the start of March when we meet for brunch in Dumbo, Brooklyn. The singer, who performs as Baby Rose, is sitting at the window seat, and she offers me a hug and smile before settling back in behind her lemon ginger tea, sweetened with honey. Her smile is efficacious, and her laugh, almost similar to her singing voice, fills whatever room it’s in.
She’s carved her own lane as a Grammy-nominated independent singer and producer. After singing on the latest Creed franchise movie, she is now readying her second album, Through and Through, for release on April 28, and preparing for a spring and summer co-headlining tour with the artist Q which will kick off next month in Toronto and end in her birthplace of D.C. Her tea will have to carry her through a packed schedule within the coming days: When we meet, she’s in New York to showcase her new album for a private audience at a secret location in Brooklyn. The following, she will be in Austin for the SXSW festival, where she’ll go on to give a buzzy performance at Rolling Stone‘s Future of Music showcase, on a bill that also includes Saba and J.I.D.
“I have never in my life done three shows in a row,” she says with a hearty chuckle. “I’m excited for the Rolling Stone one, though. I’ve never been before, and I didn’t realize it was Saba and J.I.D. on there with me too. It’s bringing in the energy!”
Vibrancy is what fuels the 28-year-old Leo, and it’s what served as her blueprint for Through and Through. The album starts off on a groovy note with “Go,” in which Rose instantly decrees that “The Devil’s a liar.” While it’s the first song on a nearly 40-minute album, it is also a continuation of Rose’s 2019 debut, To Myself, where she sang of the anxiety and pain of one wanting to hold on to a dissipating love. Through and Through is a tale of breaking, healing, and rebirth.
“I feel like the album has a good way of going from chaos to awareness, to release and eventually surrender,” Rose says over steak and eggs. “ I did it for me [as] a gentle reminder. It was really hard to put a song like ‘Paranoid’ on there, where I’m grappling with my deepest fears, like am I running out of time? Is anyone going to care? Am I too old to do this?”
Rose found comfort in the idea that her listeners needed to know that whatever their fears were, the feeling of fear was universal. As a Black woman in a nation and industry that often wants to box us in, both lyrically and sonically, Rose blurs the lines — pulling on themes of self-love and discovery and accepting the fact that she, like everyone else, is a work in progress.
The work for Rose began in Washington D.C., where she lived until age 12, when her mother relocated Rose and her siblings to Fayetteville, North Carolina.
“I always wondered in the beginning, why did we move to Fayetteville?” she says. “What was the point of that, God?” And yet, in this current moment of Rose’s life, she sees how the move foreshadowed what was yet to unfold for her. “Looking back, it was extremely grounding for me to be in that southern comfort and to hear my own voice.”
Her unusual voice was something she felt “embarrassed” about growing up. “People would find ways to pick me apart, asking ‘Are you a man?’” Rose recalls. It wasn’t until one of her mom’s friends overheard her singing that a young Rose began recording her voice in a studio.
“It was refreshing to me and became a whole other outlet,” she says. “Things people shame you about is usually what makes you poppin’, it’s your superpower. So when it came to high school, I decided enough was enough and I needed a rebirth. I wasn’t about to be the quiet girl. I’m a Leo, so there’s a part of me that wants to shine.”
After she won her high school talent show, in which she performed an original song she wrote while playing the piano, her classmates began calling her “Little Alicia Keys.”
The rebirth theme within Through and Through has been a constant in Rose’s life. What began as an insecurity is now something that has critics comparing her to favorites like Nina Simone and Billie Holiday. She also is very inspired by artists like Elton John and Janis Joplin, “not only because of their voices, but their boldness and audacity.” And it’s this nerve of Rose that puts her into rooms.
That nerve has gotten her through some hard times, too. A few years ago, she says, her mother was diagnosed with cancer while she was in the midst of a break-up with her ex, who deleted all of her music. On top of that, she’d just snuck into a writing camp put on by J. Cole’s Dreamville Records in Fayetteville.
“I was making an album and had so many records,” she recalls. “My friend Bueno said, ‘Rose you can’t be the only one having a hard drive of your records. Let me back your shit up!’ I was a little hesitant, but said OK — and lo and behold, I’m very happy he told me to do that, because one day I woke up and my Instagram was deleted, my phone was off, just as I’m in the midst of this camp.”
Distraught, Rose thought at first that she’d have to start from scratch. “There were so many people who came to advocate for me,” she says. “[My ex] hacked into my Twitter saying all types of shit, and Kehlani DM’d my page and told him ‘You need to stop.’ I didn’t even know her!” In the midst of all that drama, the 10 songs that her friend Bueno had backed up became her first album, To Myself.
Following Dreamville, Rose’s career really began to unfold. She toured for the first time with Ari Lennox in 2019, then later toured Europe with Snoh Alegra. She received her first Grammy nomination in 2021 for singing on J.Cole’s “Self Love.” Most recently, she sang for Creed III, where her vocals on “Heavy is the Hand” are featured during a crucial moment. “J. Cole had a conversation with me very early on, like, ‘I believe in you and I’m here for you,’” she says. “And he’s really kept his word with that.”
When reflecting on Through and Through’s second-to-last song, “Water,” Rose tells me that her astrological moon sign is in Cancer. In astrological speak, the water sign of Cancer represents the moon, which traditionally has been an archetype of motherhood and femininity. Women have been a pivotal force in Rose’s journey. She praises artists like SZA, Ari Lennox, and Kehlani, all of whom she says have given her advice regarding the industry. Her stage name (and middle name) originally belonged to her paternal grandmother, who passed away when Rose was a baby.
“The more I heard stories about her growing up, the more I felt aligned to her,” she says. “She was a singer, she taught herself piano, and had a big audacious personality. And we look alike.” While Rose’s grandmother put aside her dreams of being a musician to raise a family, her life provides a powerful example to her granddaughter now. “Before I go onstage, the nerves hit me out of nowhere and I pray to God — and when I get onstage, I feel that a lot of that spirit that taps in is my grandma.”
Rose grew up surrounded by her aunts and her mother, who is cancer-free and now travels with her everywhere, being a grounding force when she needs advice and a shoulder to cry on when the weight feels too heavy. As we speak, her mother (who is sitting a table over) offers a smile and kind words to a member of Rose’s team. “Yemaya,” Rose says, referring to the West African Orisha who represents motherhood and the ocean. “Come to the water. Big Cancer energy, I’m very big on ‘cry it out, drink some water, sit by the water.’ After you’re able to water yourself, you’re able to have a softer perspective of life around you and there’s power in that.”
When we leave the restaurant, the gray skies have turned to sun, seemingly matching Rose’s “very fucking excited” mood for tonight. Later on, in the basement of a luxury condo in Brooklyn, Rose performs Through and Through in a bright flowered sequin pantsuit from Vivienne Pash. When the show ends, she works the room, thanking people for their kind words and support.
After a few minutes, she sneaks away, and I watch her go down the stairs to retire to her dressing room. I imagine she needs to be like the crab — Cancer’s archetype — to go back into herself after a long day. Everything fits into place. I’m reminded of something she said earlier in our conversation: “This is divinely aligned.”
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