Not many artists can reach the success of Syleena Johnson. The four-time Grammy-nominated artist has reached all corners of the industry—from performing to producer to songwriting to reality television to being one of the hosts of FOX Soul's Cocktails with Queens. In Hip Hop, Johnson is widely known as the voice who helped carry Kanye West's classic "All Falls Down." As the story goes, she came in the 25th hour to help West and he famously says on the track: "Now, Syleena, you just like a safe belt, you saved my life." The pair even reunited for Donda.
During this holiday season, Johnson continues to keep herself busy. Bungalow Films and Music produced three holiday films now streaming on Hulu, and they called on Johnson and her collaborators to create accompanying albums. The soundtracks for All I Want For Christmas, Santa Games, and My Christmas Financé host a mix of recognizable artists and a few new faces. It was purposefully curated this way, says Johnson, to hear voices that we've grown to treasure while also making room for the new generation.
"I incorporated myself and Toxic, we just thought of the different people that we love and that we have great relationships with," Johnson told us for our Christmas interview. "And so, we were able to incorporate some of our favorite artists on this album to help push the album so that the new artists can be heard as well. It’s like a pleasant surprise to be able to hear the ones you love and be like, ‘Oh, who is this? I like her.’ And then you’ll go look up the rest of her stuff."
Read more from our interview with to see what Johnson said about these three movie soundtracks, advice she has for rising artists, feeling at home with the culture on Fox Soul, and why she's spent her career as an extroverted introvert.
This interview has been slightly edited for clarity.
HNHH: Thank you so much for taking the time today! So, you're not only helping to produce these records, but you, of course, are featured on them as well. Tell us all about the albums and collaborating with such a combination of talent. And I saw you reconnected with Keke Wyatt.
Well, they are Santa Games, All I Want for Christmas, and My Christmas Fiancé. And they’re all in alignment with movies. They’re movie soundtracks, those movies are on Hulu and Tubi. So, we were called to produce this album, myself, Toxic Productions, and Dr. Salicia Productions. Dr. Salicia is my manager and Toxic Productions is my producer. So, that’s easy.
But we were called as a team to produce these records for all three soundtracks and our original intention was to just, find as many new artists and artists that are budding and out here working, to fill the project with new artists. But, we kinda knew that if we just do that, then it may fall by the wayside. People may not recognize it.
So, I incorporated myself and Toxic, we just thought of the different people that we love and that we have great relationships with. And so, we were able to incorporate some of our favorite artists on this album to help push the album so that the new artists can be heard, as well. It’s like a pleasant surprise to be able to hear the ones you love and be like, ‘Oh, who is this? I like her.’ And then you’ll go look up the rest of her stuff.
And then, me and Keke have been friends since I don’t know. Fifteen? Twenty years? We’ve been friends for a very long time. It’s really simple for me to call her up and be like, "Hey girl." I have a studio in my house, so it was just like, girl, come over here and come get on this Christmas song. If she’s available, which is tough because she’s very busy all the time. But she was available and she came up. We made a whole day of it, drinking wine and singing in the studio.
Yeah, I saw Tweet and Kenny Lattimore in there! And outside of music, you've also been holding things down on Fox Soul on Cocktails with Queens. How has that been for you and how do you see yourself evolving in that talk show space?
Well, in 2023, FOX Soul has so much in store. FOX Soul is growing, literally daily, it’s just growing quickly. I’m really, really happy to be part of the FOX Soul family, excellent network, excellent company. I have a great time working with the producers, the CEO is amazing. So, I’m in a great space in regard to FOX Soul. Plus, it’s African American so I get to be in my element. You know, it’s one thing to work out here in the industry, but it is such as blessing to be able to work with your culture, you know what I’m saying? Because they kind of get you straight away. And I’m not saying that other cultures do not. But it is a little easier to work in an environment with your culture and about your culture because you’re well-versed in it.
It's easy for me to sit on a platform that is for my culture and speak about my culture because I like it every single day. My co-hosts are fantastic. I couldn’t ask for a better panel. They’re established, beautiful, smart, talented, passionate women. Sometimes we agree, sometimes we don’t, but we do well with it. We know how to move on to the next thing and go back to our business. That’s the maturity that’s on the show as well.
And I love being a talk show host because I’m a songwriter. And really what we do is what you are as a songwriter, you’re just expressing yourself through song, as opposed to on a platform like this. Really, this is just another extension. Sister Circle was my first talk show. I came into FOX Soul so very well prepared. And it’s much easier than Sister Circle because I just set up—which is in front of a Christmas tree, girl—and just do my thing. Just talk.
I love this platform, I hope it never goes away. I hope it’s the new way of the world. I do want to go in the studio at some point, but I love this platform because it’s flexible. It’s impactful. So, I hope one day I’ll be able to get my own show, my own platform speaking. It will be a little different from the platform that I’m on now. But I hope to be able to merge into something like that, or evolve into something like that.
You were speaking earlier about purposefully seeking out new talent for these Christmas albums. As a veteran, what's a nugget of advice you have for those aspiring to reach your level of success?
That eventually, everything that you work for, you will receive. And that is the truth. Sometimes when you work for a specific thing, you’ll get something else equivalent, but it might not be what you thought you would be getting. But you’ll still be pleasantly surprised.
My advice is to continuously and relentlessly fight for your dreams. Fight for the things that you believe in. And when you get knocked down, it’s okay. Just get back up and keep going. You have your whole life to live—but you don’t have your whole life to live. You see what I’m saying? So, you have to continuously, relentlessly fight for your vision. And eventually, it will come to fruition.
...That’s good. I’ll take that myself, to myself [laughs].
I'll take some of that, too! Alright, this is my last question. It's something I ask everyone. What is something about yourself that doesn't always translate because of the veil of celebrity? Your fans think they have a perception of you, your team, even people you know personally—but those are perceptions based on whatever understanding they have of you. What is something at the heart of Syleena Johnson that people don't see because of their own expectations of who they think you are?
That’s a great question. I don’t think I’ve ever been asked that question in my entire life. I really don’t. Um, I would say that I’m an introvert. People don’t know that about me. I’m an extroverted introvert. But more so an introvert. I will prefer to be in seclusion. I will prefer to be in my home with my family 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Seriously!
I get to the point anymore where I struggle with anxiety and being around people. And this has been something that has gone on in my career that started mid to now in my career. Because in the beginning—no, let me take that back, I’ve always been that way. No, I just thought about it. I’ve always hated people [laughs]. Yes, I struggle with large crowds, big environments. I am an extroverted introvert.
When I tell you I completely understand...girl! [Laughs]
Yes! And when I say extroverted, meaning, in this space with you, I can be extroverted. When it’s time to be on stage, I can be an extrovert. When it’s time to perform or speak or be in an environment with people that I’m paid for, or maybe not paid for. I can be around people. But it’s not my preference. And it can’t last for a long period of time or I will get anxiety.
Well, I truly appreciate your time and again, thank you for speaking with us. Have a wonderful holiday season with your loved ones!
Thank you! You as well.
Stream the soundtracks to All I Want For Christmas, Santa Games, and My Christmas Financé above and check out the tracklists below.
- “Go Tell It On The Mountain” - Rafael “Rae” Evans, Kevian “KB” Bateman, Syleena Johnson
- “Love Fall Down” - Carl Thomas
- “Joy To The World” - Syleena Johnson, Keke Wyatt
- “O Holy Night” - Leela James
- “Oh Christmas Tree” - Danny Boy
- “Snow White Christmas” - Syleena Johnson
- “What Child Is THis” - Tweet
- “Deck The Halls” - Nola Ade
- “My List”- D.Lylez
- “Merry Gentlemen” - Syleena Johnson
MY CHRISTMAS FINANCÉ
- “My First Noel”- Kjay
- “Sweet December” - Reuben McCray
- “Christmas All Year” - Aricka J
- “Perfect Gift” - SOS
- “Hardly Wait”- D.Lylez, Shantina Lowe
- “Angels Heard On High” - Taylor
- “Heard The Bells” - Marian
- “Without You” - Tommie B
ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS
- “Gift For You”- Church Boy Scotty
- “Honor” - Rhymefest Ft. Toxic
- “Nothing Like Christmas” - Joshua Gunn Ft. D.Lylez
- “Silent Night” - Syleena Johnson, Kenny Lattimore, Keke Wyatt
- “Greatest Gift” - Donal Alford
- “What’s In The Bag” - Aricka J