Every year, there’s a new name and face that comes along in music that grabs people’s attentions although they’ve been quietly clamoring away at their craft for years prior. The West Coast has been churning out talent like no other, and Tinashe is yet another example of what the massive Western talent pool (otherwise known as the Pacific Ocean) has to offer to music. Having discovered her music in late 2012, I’ve followed along to witness her progression as an artist through the couple of years, and with a record deal and a debut album in the works, I was fortunate that I was able to have a conversation with her over the phone to get a glimpse of what she’s been up to up to this point.
Through firstly exchanging pleasantries, I asked her what it was like to be in a situation where it feels as if the past couple of years have been a whirlwind fury because everything has moved so quickly (at least from my ‘fan perspective’). With brimming confidence, she stated that “her time was due” because of the amount of hard work that she’d put in when it came to Reverie, In Case We Die, and the most recently released mixtape, Black Water. Everyone is familiar with the term ‘good things come to those who wait’, and not all the time are people patient enough to sit there and wait for it to happen – you have to be assertive enough to go get it. Tinashe definitely maintained her consistency and her time coming is no fluke.
When you’re from Los Angeles and the amount of acts that are breaking out are taking all forms of music genres by storm (majority Urban), I’d imagine that it gives one more confidence when it comes to their work ethic.
“Being from Los Angeles, you definitely feel the competition and it makes me happy because you’re seeing all of these kids on their grind, and it pushes me to keep on mine”
As we all were witnesses to Kendrick’s verse on Control last year, and even historically if you want to go back further into the West’s role of ‘us against the world’, it seems to have worked out for them when it came to upping the ante in terms of enabling others to step their game up and bring what they have to the table in order to compete. There aren’t genuinely any friends in this business, but it does help when there’s unity and alliance within a specific region. As a Northerner, there are definitely lessons to be had it comes to our own scene where there has been (for as long as I can remember) issues of unity and at least helping push each other forward. It’s a long process, but I’m still holding out for some hope.
It’s not only regional that there’s a shift in change, but when it comes to R&B, there has been a lot of change, and some of that isn’t exactly for the better when it comes to the hardcore lovers of the 80s and 90s and what they had to offer. Newer acts (including Tinashe) aren’t the ‘traditional’ singers that we’re accustomed to hearing because the styles change, the lyrics change, and for a lot of people it may seem like it isn’t true R&B, so I definitely asked her input on that.
“Artists aren’t scared anymore to try new things or step outside of the box. I find that more people are stepping out of the Black & White and are adding more colour to it to give it a refreshing vibe…That’s not to say that I won’t head into the direction of EDM, but it could be something that I explore later on.”
That’s what a lot of R&B fans are afraid of, but the generation of Hipsters are going to have to deal with the fact that, yes the newer singers may not hold a note as high or sing directly to your soul like the others, but there’s a wave of change that carries forward for a new audience, and that’s something that needs to be stuck into consideration when appreciating the new talent that comes out (I find myself in these kind of debates often, which is what makes it such a natural argument). One example is (also Los Angeles resident) Jhene Aiko who had a lot of skeptics come out of the woodwork to say she wouldn’t make an impact, yet she sold over 30K first week of an EP and was on tour with one of (if not) the biggest artists in music – Drake. There’s hope for an R&B star in the near and distant future, and I think Tinashe has her eyes set on that.
But, not to move too far into the future, and sticking with the present, she did release a new single, 2 On, with ScHoolboy Q (another West coast artist – I’m sensing a pattern here) and she definitely spoke about how it was important to her to have a West Coast vibe by including both a West coast rapper and producer (also a dash of West Indian) to add spice and catchiness to it. She said it would be a song that she’d play for someone if they were hearing her for the first time, because it ‘shows that she’s no joke’, and that she’s dedicated to her art. With that being said, what about the pressure of a first album? Because Black Water has been critiqued so well and the single was pretty strong forthcoming, how high exactly is the pressure for a debut? She replies:
“I think I’ve put a lot of pressure on myself to make sure that it’s awesome. I think half the reason why my mixtapes and Black Water came out so well was because I almost felt like I didn’t have that pressure because they weren’t commercial releases. I’m hoping that I’m still able to relax and make it great because I definitely do feel the pressure – that’s real.”
The main thing that gets lost in a lot of artists’ albums is that same hunger and artistic integrity that doesn’t carry forward from the mixtape phase to the album phase. Why? I have no idea, but how can one be sure that they maintain that hunger? Again, she responds:
“I think what’s important (especially starting out) is seeing your fans that seeing your fans that fell in love with you when you were starting what you were doing, so I definitely plan to have some stuff on my albums that can be traced back to my mixtapes, but I want the people to really know me as an artist that’s versatile as well, so I want to be able to grow and for them to grow with me. There’s going to be a mix that feels a little older and stuff that’s personal to me.”
I think as fans, we don’t really understand that as much we want our favourites to have the same type of authenticity and substance that we desired and craved while they were on the come up or on their earlier stages (let’s be honest, we’re all hipster-ish), the individual (or individuals if it’s a group) may want to look into becoming something bigger and better than their previous works each and every time. That includes maybe experimenting with different fields to enable that to happen, and of course that may not bode well with the masses, but at the end of the day, if the artist isn’t content putting out music to their liking and are putting out the same things over and over just for fan’s approval, what does that do when it comes to helping them grow? It only stifles them, and I think Tinashe hit the nail on the head when she said that she wants the fans to ‘grow’ with her – it’s the only way we’ll really see what their full potentials can be. Her aim is to be an artist that will be remembered for her music, not a trendy ‘now you’re here, now you’re not’ artist.
As much as this was an interview that stuck with the artist as a whole; talking about music and whatever, I had to throw in something sports related, because it’s just in my nature (I’m not sorry at all). The NFL Playoffs have been in full effect and the NFC Championship Game pits two rivals (San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks) for the 3rd time this season. Going in cold, I decided to get her input on it (and sports in General)
“I follow sports a little bit, but I haven’t this year because I’ve been so busy. I love basketball though (she’s a Lakers fan, so I don’t blame her for missing games – they’ve been terrible this season). I don’t know anything about football, but Go 49ers! I’ll rep the home state.”
Home team love is real love. It’s how I was raised, and it’s how it should be (in my eyes, at least). It was about time that I got through to ask something sports related, because I’ve been itching to do so forever – glad that I got the chance. But to conclude, I had to ask the generic high school yearbook question: ‘where do you see yourself in 5 years?’ I think it’s important for anyone to have some kind of foresight to their lives so that they can live with a sense of purpose – it’s what keeps us grounded.
“5 years from now, I definitely want to be on or have done a World Tour; travelling all over to perform my music, not just North America. I want to be able to win a couple of Grammys, and hopefully expand into other ventures like fashion, getting back into acting – you know, just other things. I want to be always able to expand my brand.”
The one word that stuck with me was ‘expand’, because I don’t think people understand just how important it is to understand that once you’re in the limelight, you are a brand whether you like it or not. What you wear, what you say, where you go, and what you represent – you’re a figure and a walking product. To reap the benefits, you have to be able to market yourself to a larger audience if you truly want to be great. I learned a few of those things from my friend, Matthew Taylor, and it’s really something that has been stressed over the past few months as I’m coming to realize what artists have working for them that they may have the slightest clue about. I’m glad she mentioned that – it shows that she has a plan; it’s important to have one.
What kind of future do I see for Tinashe? A bright one, first off, because she’s not afraid of change. A lot of artists often appear to be deers in headlights whenever they grace the challenge of meeting the expectations of a commercialized crowd, but because she’s versatile and she’s accepting of the pressures that have befallen upon her as she enters a new realm, she has what it takes to not only make a mark, but possibly turn a lot of heads in the process. It’s a new game with new players, and she wants to make the case to be a contender for years to come; I can respect that. We’ll definitely see how it goes. If you have yet to listen to her music, now would be a good time, but for now, and until the next sit down,
That’s My Word & It STiXX