Sevyn Streeter plays the House of Blues at 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 26
If you’re a fan of R&B and hip-hop, you probably know a few songs Sevyn Streeter has penned. She began her career in the aughts, performing with all-female groups such as TG4 and RichGirl, but has since built a name for herself writing for artists including Ariana Grande, Alicia Keys and Chris Brown, with whom she had the hits “Yeah 3x” and “Fine China.” Recently, Streeter has stepped into the spotlight again, this time as a solo artist developing her own voice.
“I feel more comfortable in my skin than I have been in my entire life,” she tells the Observer from Los Angeles just two days before the start of her Girl Disrupted tour. “I learned great things from being in my groups but it’s nothing like being able to express yourself. Express your own thoughts. Put together your own shows. Your own melodies. Your own lyrics. All those things.”
The tour takes its name from her Atlantic Records debut, which is set to release later this year. It follows a pair of buzzworthy EPs, Call Me Crazy, But... and Shoulda Been There, Pt. 1. Leading up to its release, the 30-year-old singer, born Amber Denise, is going on an 18-city tour, performing a mix of live reworks of fan favorites and new songs. On Thursday, Jan. 26, she will stop at the Cambridge Room at House of Blues.
The theme of disruption is intended to suggest the more mature Sevyn Streeter who has emerged from controversy this year after she wore a “We Matter” Jersey to perform “The Star-Spangled Banner” at a Philadelphia 76ers game on Oct. 26. The team told her that because of her attire, which was in reference to the Black Lives Matter movement, she wouldn’t be able to perform.
“I’m at the 76ers game to sing the national anthem, and the organization is telling me I can’t because I’m wearing a ‘We Matter’ jersey,” she said in a video message on Twitter. ESPN’s Rachel Nichols criticized the decision, saying, “How did we get to the point in this country where a black woman wanting to say she matters just [as much] as anyone else is offensive to some people? And how did the Sixers get to the point where those were the people they wanted to side with?”
The 76ers issued a formal apology and presented Sevyn with an opportunity to perform at another home game, which was on Dec. 16 against the Los Angeles Lakers. She spent the earlier part of the day with the Boys and Girls Club of Philadelphia and wore the same jersey to her performance.
“I say all the time that if I have to go through that whole entire situation again, which was very hurtful and tough to deal with, I would do it all over again because at the end of the day, it just ended up being something really great,” she says.
On her new album, which includes appearances by Gucci Mane (“Prolly”), The-Dream (“D4L”) and Ty Dolla $ign (“Fallen”), Sevyn Streeter similarly works to transform her negative experiences. When she sings about a painful breakup, she’s presumably referring to her public split from rapper B.o.B two years ago.
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Sevyn Streeter credits Chris Brown, with whom she first teamed up in 2010 for his In My Zone mixtape, for inspiring her to be bold with her music. “Over the years, I’ve learned a lot from him in terms of his writing process,” she says. “[He’s taught me about] being fearless when it comes to creating and not putting yourself in a box when it comes to writing.”
Since 2010, she has contributed to Brown’s platinum-selling albums F.A.M.E., Fortune and X and signed to Brown’s CBE Entertainment, which stands for Culture Beyond Your Experience. Sevyn Streeter hopes her fans will recognize the pains she’s taking to develop her music and particularly her live shows.
“I always say all the time that I don’t take for granted the fact that my fans are spending their hard-earned money to come to my show and have a good time with me,” she says. “Literally, if I have to dance my behind off and sing at the top of my lungs on stage and be exhausted or pass out when I’m done, it’s well worth it for me.”
Sevyn Streeter plays the Cambridge Room at House of Blues, 2200 N. Lamar St., at 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 26. Tickets are $20 at houseofblues.com.