Tinking Out Loud: Why Timbaland's Protégée Is The Voice Of The Youth
Timbaland's protégée isn't trying to be the next Aaliyah. Tink is striving to be one in a million.
Tink is the one and not just because Aaliyah came to Timbaland in a dream and said so.
Born Trinity Home, the humble 20-year-old singer, songwriter and rapper has quickly risen to fame thanks to five solid mixtapes and an unexpected leak of her "Movin' Bass," where she showcased thorough bars alongside hip-hop heavyweights Jay Z and Rick Ross.
But the latest protégé of musical madman Timbo isn't all about sparring on wax. Tink also has the vocal range to belt out power ballads or hold down hooks. Hailing from the crime-infested streets of Chicago, she is a Jill of all trades who sings and pens her own tracks. The multitalented millennial seamlessly marries the genres of rap and R&B while cleverly administering a much needed dosage of ghetto gospel.
Tink takes all, even naysayers and non-believers, to church. Her vocal prowess packs a punch as does her hard-hitting rhymes. “You don’t see that a lot in the game right now so that’s my secret weapon,” she told VIBE.
After hitting the stage as the headlining act of Hot 97’s “Who’s Next?” showcase at SOBs (May 18), Tink hopped on the phone with VIBE to discuss working with her musical mentor Timbaland, the best advice Missy Elliott gave her, and details on her forthcoming debut, Think Tink.—Ashley Monae
VIBE: You've already received a stamp of approval from fans and critics, but who is Tink?
Tink: Tink is the voice of the youth. I’m not one of those artists who talks about unrealistic things or fairy tales. I’m not talking about expensive things and cars. I’m actually talking about what’s going on in my life and every teenager’s life, too. When you think Tink, you should just think of me as that around-the-way girl – relatable and honest. Even in my lifestyle, my entire aura is real. I don’t sugarcoat anything, whether I’m on stage or home in Chicago, or just behind the scenes just chilling. I’m the same person you see on stage, always.
You’re a triple threat: singer, songwriter and rapper. Which came first for you: singing or rapping?
Singing actually came first. As a kid, I grew up singing in church and around the house. My parents are both into music. My mom sings and my dad plays piano so there was always music everywhere. I was singing at a very young age, but I actually got my buzz through rapping. That’s when I decided to switch it up a bit and started to perfect my craft as a rapper, but I always had singing on my mind. The more I got into music, the more I felt like I had to use both to my advantage. I have some fans that love me for my ballads and emotional records, and I have some fans that enjoy when I spit bars and I talk my sh*t. I like to keep it at a happy medium. You don’t see that a lot in the game right now so that’s my secret weapon. (Laughs)
Your sound is not necessarily what one would expect from your average 20-year-old, especially your lyrics. Where do you draw inspiration from?
I know that’s my strength. Coming up as a female rapper, well, a female artist in general, everything is just so black and white. [The industry] expects you to talk about certain things and look a certain way, and want you to talk about sexual things 24/7. But being different and unique is what works for me. I always keep that in mind when I’m writing. I don’t have to follow the trends or what’s on radio right now. I want to stand out. Growing up, I listened to a lot of soulful music, music that made you feel something. I want my music to feel the same way so I keep that in mind when I’m recording. You know, those records that you just know will be dubbed a classic and will never go out of style? Yeah, I want that for myself.
Is the responsibility of being the new voice of the youth tough?
That’s the thing; I’m really just being myself. I stuck to who I was. Things never changed, I may have XYZ amount of dollars but I don’t care to talk about that because that’s not who really I am. I’m not this extravagant big spender. I’m the average chick. I’m like your sister. I’m like your best friend. I do feel a responsibility to be my best self, but it’s definitely not stressful for me. I’m just being myself within my music.
Speaking of the youth, a lot of younger musicians from Chicago are making headlines. How has the city influenced your music?
Chicago is a rough city. It made me raw. I mean it may be a phase, but this is what it is right now. I tell it like it is and although my music may not be drill, it is definitely in your face. That boldness comes from Chicago.
You are signed to Mosley Music Group and Epic Records. How has the experience of working with Timbaland been?
Man, it feels like a dream. Only because I know how it is to be independent. For a long time, I was making music at a computer and pulling beats from my email. So when Timbaland got wind of me, called me and wanted to meet with me, it really lifted my spirit. My confidence was boosted because I felt like I was actually getting somewhere. And even with my music, working with Timbaland is amazing because he pushes me. I always sit and think how many artists he’s touched, and I feel like I gotta bring something to the table when I’m in the studio with him. I can’t slack at all, and I needed that. I needed to still stay true to Tink, but reinvent my sound and Tim helps me with that.
You’ve said before that Missy Elliott is like a big sister to you. What’s the best advice she’s given you?
Missy told me to do what I wanted to do. In essence, I say that because I was wearing my braids and was catching flack for it, but she was like, 'Naw, I used to rock my finger waves and people didn’t understand that but I did it and I was myself.' She reinforced that notion that being you is the best way to go.
You’ve mentioned your distaste for how the industry pits females against one another. Who is a female artist you’d love to collaborate with?
That’s a good question. I honestly want to be in the studio with Beyoncé. I can only imagine what would come about.
Some months after Timbaland expressed at SXSW that Aaliyah came to him in a dream saying that you were “the one,” you flipped her classic “One In A Million.” What prompted this?
It was just that. I was paying homage. It was almost like a dedication to Timbaland and Aaliyah’s relationship. My only thing about doing the remake was that I wanted to be sensitive about the way we went about it and giving it to the world. I didn’t want people to take it as I’m trying to bite off her wave or even have people thinking I’m trying to be the next Aaliyah because there will never be another Aaliyah. I just want people to understand that this was a tribute and I was paying homage, and keeping her legacy alive.
Just by listening to some of your older music, you can clearly hear your evolution not only as an artist but a person. Looking back, what would you tell your 16-year-old self?
I would tell my 16-year-old self to follow your own mind. When I was 16, I was doing what was popular. If I could go back, I would tell myself to not be afraid to be alone and not to follow others so much.
What can we expect from your debut album, Think Tink?
My album is basically the mindset of the average teen, the average woman, and the average girl. I made this entire album speaking about the different scenarios we encounter growing up, whether it involves love or violence. There are some real deep stories within this entire album, and it’s one of those records that anybody can take something from it. It doesn’t have just one direction. I did that on purpose because over the years, my music has evolved. I don’t just talk about one thing and that’s it. The album has something for everybody; it’s relatable and honest – brutally honest. You’re really getting the thoughts of Tink – hence the name, Think Tink.
Photo Credit: Theonepointeight