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Interview: Tink

The future of the Chicago music scene is in good hands

Posted by Finn Houlihan

The biggest testament to Tink’s skill is the degree to which other established artists believe in her. With Timbaland as her mentor and the likes of Andre 3000, Future Brown and Sleigh Bells as her collaborators, she has already pervaded a range of genres and styles with her no prisoners lyricism and complex personal moral guidelines. Speaking to her, I got the sense she approaches her career like a CEO of a company approaches their brand; looking far into the distance but never drifting out of reach from the audience. We caught up with Tink soon after her ‘Ratchet Commandments’ video dropped to talk about progress and potential.

How are you?

I’m good, how are you?

I’m great! Lets get into this. It’s been mentioned before that you first got into singing whilst in church with your family and religion is something that appears consistently across your work, most notably on ‘Ratchet Commandments’, especially in the video. Is that something you consciously draw upon?

You know what? It’s not something I bring up in every single song. I think it’s just kind of the way ‘Ratchet Commandments’ came about because I was just screaming “thall shalt not” a lot. But in the video, I wanted to actually take it to church. It was kind of a fun look.

Another thing that comes across in ‘Ratchet Commandments’ is infidelity. It’s the first ratchet commandment. It’s also the narrative of ‘Treat Me Like Somebody’. What’s the significance of honesty and transparency in your music?

Wow, that’s crazy. The thing about my music is that it is just so honest and I try to be vulnerable and I try not to be sugar coating anything, at least in the messages. Just pure and raw. That’s why the first thing I say “Thou shalt not fuck up on a n*gga when you know he got a missus”. My thing is just to keep it raw and people can understand it more when they feel where you are coming from.

A similar idea comes up in a track where you got to collaborate with Andre 3000, ‘UFO’. What was that like?

That was an amazing feeling to hear my verse come after [his]. It almost gave me goosebumps, I can’t really describe the feeling when I was writing the song. I just had to know I really, really had to bring something to the table coming after that legend.

Yeah, you’ve really gotta step up when you’re being heard after someone like that on the same song.

Correct.

Like Andre 3000, your rap style is very precise. Every word is clear and you seem to go for the method of making your lyrics clear when rapping but then using your singing as choral melodies. Where do you get that from?

That comes from my influence growing up. I always listened to artists who touched the soul and I do that with my singing sometimes. When I rap, it’s a harsh, straightforward message but when I sing it’s more soothing. But yeah, it’s soothing when I sing so I try not to give them too much and I want people to understand that I, as an artist do both [singing and rapping].

Timbaland was drawn to you because he saw the talent and potential but what drew you to Timbaland?

It honestly was just behind the scenes conversations that me and Timbs had. Before we started making music, we sat down on a couch and talked for hours just about music. It wasn’t about money and it wasn’t about how much I’m going to be worth. It was really just about “how did you start singing?” and “Who did you listen to as a kid?”. I could see the passion was there and he wasn’t in it just for a buck. He really, really was passionate about music and with artists today, you don’t really find that with producers and artists. People are just looking for quick cash or a quick gimmick.

Do you still have that relationship?

Yeah, we talk every single day and we always talk about the future and we’re both Pisces so we’re creative visionaries and every day he has an idea and it’s kind of rubbing off on me. I’m always thinking about ways to evolve or just thinking a couple months ahead like “what can I do next?”

What do you see as your future right now?

As of now, I’m setting the foundations. This is the first album, I’m just getting people to understand who I am as a person and what I’m about but further along in the future, I want to take my music and tap into different ranges of music. Like I say, when I’m singing and rapping, I get bored easily so I just want to be able to bring hip-hop and R&B together and make it sound like something it has never sounded like before.

So you’re interested in changing the way the genre is facing?

Definitely, yes. That’s huge.

Is it difficult balancing your quick ascent and rise to attention with what’s artistically accessible to you?

Sometimes it is only because as of right now, I can’t go too far. I still have to hold people’s attention and make sure they get it. I can’t go too far left, I have to grab people first. I’m trying not to get too far ahead of myself because people may not yet be ready for certain things, certain sounds. We had a couple songs where we were like “we have to hold off in this because it’s just too far ahead”. I always think about that. I keep my ear to the street and make sure that what I’m doing is going to be accepted, that people are ready for it.
I want to get to that point where I can move left and my listeners will follow and they’ll see how cool it is, yeah.

As a young artist, a lot of media is fixated on the idea of you turning into a woman. How do you feel about that?

To be honest, it is what it is. I know I can’t stay a teenager or a child forever and honestly it seems like a lot because I’ve been making music since I was a kid. I’ve been dropping songs since I was 15. I don’t know if people understand that I am growing up into a young adult. At the same time, some things I just can’t help. My message is changing because I’m seeing more, I’m learning more. My thoughts aren’t the same as when I was 16. It’s just what it is. I like the fact that blogs can acknowledge it and realise that I am growing and it’s not going to sound the same or be the same message.

So when you were making music as a kid, your dad used to help you, right?

Yeah, I started making music in my basement. My dad had a built in studio in the basement but he would record and engineer me. I’m glad my dad was there.

You’re from the Chicago scene and Chicago rap has gained prominence and notoriety in equal parts over the recent years, the drill scene for example. As someone who’s come out of Chicago on a rap basis without the background that people associate with it, what would you describe the scene as?

A lot of people don’t understand that Chicago has a negative light over it but it’s very diverse. We have so many other artists who don’t just talk about the guns, the drugs, the shooting. Everything isn’t just negative out of Chicago. And for me, I want to be part of that group that gives us a light, that makes people look at Chicago in a different manner. I want to say it’s a new wave coming and I want to be a part of it.

Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me.

Thanks Finn.

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