tinashe-joyride-feature-interview
Dennis Leupold

Tinashe’s ‘Joyride’ Is In High-Gear: “What I Want Is What I Need To Do”

The singer spoke to VIBE about her sophomore album, Joyride and more. 

It’s 48 hours until Tinashe releases her highly-anticipated sophomore studio album, Joyride, and the singer-dancer-pop-star has been lounging upstairs in her suite at New York City’s Roxy Hotel. That becomes crystal clear when she waltzes into the Roxy’s picturesque bar and restaurant wearing sweatpants and a beanie over her platinum bob.

Her breezy demeanor and get-up is quite different from the usually curated fashion and electric energy she brings to every live show, but there’s a reason for that. “So busy,” she exhausts in laughter. “I’ve been mentally preparing [for the album to drop]. Tomorrow I have to be up. I have rehearsal all day… I’m not going to sleep for awhile.” On top of the long press run ahead, she just performed on Good Morning America on Apr. 6. Through her weariness, the singer is inviting and ready to speak about the moment she and fans have been waiting three years for.

In 2015, when she first announced her forthcoming project, Tinashe was riding in the passenger seat of her own musical career. Joyride was expected to drop that same year, but it’s due date quickly became muddled by a string of misfortunes, including a cancelled tour and frustrations with her label, RCA. In 2016, she raised brows after accusing the label of prioritizing Zayn Malik’s debut solo album over hers. She kept on the media’s radar with a dreamy collaboration with Britney Spears and a stellar tribute to icon Janet Jackson at the 2015 BET Awards (Jackson requested her personally), but still no album.

Now, rocky road behind her, she’s scooted to the driver’s wheel, and the view looks pretty glorious. “I feel more confident than ever before,” she asserts, sipping her mimosa in a booth in the corner. “I feel like I’m in a really good place mentally, like the universe is going to align with my energy. I’m putting those vibes out there.” Well, the stars are in formation, and Joyride has finally arrived (Apr. 13). Tinashe spoke to VIBE about the method to her madness, navigating her 20s, and the path to self-discovery in her music and self.

__

VIBE: First of all, congratulations because you’re in the home stretch! But let’s start with your first single off the album, “No Drama.” Was there a feeling or inkling that you had to choose that track as the lead?

Tinashe: I felt like it had something to say. It was power, in your face. It made sense coming back off of a hiatus. It was important to speak to my situation. It had that crazy energy. It feels so urgent and energetic. When we recorded the song, I was like ‘we need to put this song out this week!’ And when we added Offset, it added more energy to the track.

In an era where rollouts for albums are so rushed and chaotic, you did a nice job of leading up to yours, with the string of singles and visuals. Was having a clean rollout part of the vision?

I have had several rollouts of other singles in the past, that haven’t been as well thought out and planned. It was important when we recorded this music this summer, that it was presented in the right way, to the point that we held things back along the way until everything else was ready. That was really important to the presentation and making it look complete and making it look like everyone on the team was on the same page, as opposed to just throwing something out there and seeing what would stick.

I wanted to do Joyride the justice that I felt like it initially deserved.

So, we finished the album over the course of July, August, and around September and October is when we started curating the art around it, shooting the videos, getting all of the photoshoots and the creative vision together. And then over the course of the next months, it was fine-tuning. I think that was really smart. It felt good.

The album definitely sounds like a solid, cohesive body of work. But in particular, you seem to have the slow-burning club songs down to a T. They’re slow and sultry and unconventional, but still work perfectly in the club.

Maybe that’s just tapping into two sides of me that are both equally important. It’s having that energy, stuff that you can dance too… Dance is such a big part of what I do and how I express myself. So it’s important that a lot of my music has that danceability factor. But then at the same time, historically, I’ve really loved creating vibes and moods and music that feels sensual and dark. So, it’s combining both of those things together.

Are you a perfectionist when it comes to your live performances?

For sure! My live show, it’s such an important aspect or element of who I am as an artist that it’s really critical that the live show is representative of who I am because that dance element and connecting with the fans is so crucial.

If we were to lay out your discography – Aquarius, Nightride, etc. – it’s pretty easy to find the differences between them in terms of theme and mood, but what would you say is the difference in regards to your artistry and technique?

I created music from a different approach with this last go around. I was more purposeful on how I would finish tracks in determining which elements I could improve and which elements were still missing. This project also has a lot more energy than pretty much every other project that I put out in the past, which was a conscious effort for sure.

You know better than any of us how strenuous this process was, why did you choose to hold onto Joyride as the title?

For a number of reasons. I still felt like it truly represented where I was in my life, what I’m going through. The concept stuck with me as far as the highs and lows, and enjoying the journey and taking it as a young person going on this adventure through life. A lot of it was pride and not wanting to quit on something that I started. I wanted to do Joyride the justice that I felt like it initially deserved. I felt like it would have felt like a really unfinished piece of the puzzle or something that would’ve felt incomplete.

Was there anything that you did distinctly different as far as vocals, techniques, etc?

I used a wider range of vocal stylings on this project. There’s a lot of tracks that are in my lower register. There’s also some tracks that are completely in a higher register, kinda playing with different vocal techniques.

In my career and in the rollout of this project, there were highs and lows. There was super fun times. There was discouraging times, times where I felt like I had to come into my own and be a woman and own my intuition.

There’s belting songs, softer songs. Even a lot of my projects and mixtapes in the past have been more sultry and the vocals come from a softer perspective. These vocals have more body. There’s a lot of usage of things I learned along the way and things I wanted to experiment with.

So, you built a studio in the Hills to work on the project, Right? How did that change the dynamic of your creative process?

Yeah, it really changed everything for me. I feel like it was the really big turning point because I had all of these thoughts and songs… I had been working on the project already for almost two years at that point. So I had a lot of material, but I just felt like it was discombobulated. I needed to focus and hone in on what I was doing to finish it to the best of its ability. So having a home base that was centered around creativity and creating music 24/7 helped organize my thoughts. It made me more purposeful because I had a better understanding of what I was working with, what I needed, where I wanted to go.

Did you ever feel like it was hard to separate the artist from the regular girl because you were essentially eating, breathing, and sleeping out of the same place you were creating?

I don’t know if it’s separating it necessarily, but there’s something to be said for recording songs with lots of different people in lots of different studios and locations and you have bits and pieces of things that you like, but not full songs that you really love. You can feel sometimes that it gets a little out of hand and you need to reel it back in and focus on the pieces that you love. How can you make them better? For me, I’m much more comfortable working in a home studio environment. Even if I get something that I really like, when I bring it back into my own personal space, I can elevate it even more.

What was the best memory from working in the Hills?

It was the summer house. We called it the “Hollywood House.” My friends would come over all the time. We would have Taco Tuesday parties. I would cook tacos and invite everyone over, and we would have a really great energy. We’d wake up in the morning, and we’d go down to the Chateau Marmont and have mimosas and then come back and work all day. Go out to dinner, then come back and work all night. Everyone was so positive, and we were having so much fun there. I gained a sense of confidence knowing that I did this. I can get this awesome house and live this cool lifestyle and make music.

Did you find parallels between the process of finally dropping this album to being in your 20-somethings and navigating your own life?

Absolutely. That’s why the concept is so important to me. In your early 20s, there so much uncertainty as far as what’s going to happen next and where’s my life going to go. ‘Where am I gonna live? Who are my friends?’ There’s so much newness that happens all the time. There’s highs, there’s lows. You’re able to have so much fun, but then you’re juggling responsibilities. All of that, is reflective in the music.

At the end of the day, I don’t feel like I fit into any of these genres perfectly, and that’s truly what makes me the most fulfilled as an artists is to dabble in different things and have different influence, and not have to stick to one sound all the time.

In my career and in the rollout of this project, there were highs and lows. There was super fun times. There was discouraging times, times where I felt like I had to come into my own and be a woman and own my intuition.

When you say “be a woman” and “come into my own” do you mean as far as speaking up for yourself and voicing your opinion?

Yeah. It’s not even necessarily speaking up but coming to your own conclusions yourself and owning your own instincts and trusting in yourself and creative power. I think that’s something that is always important to continue to maintain. It’s easy for that sometimes to get derailed, and it’s important to come back to that.

Do you think that it’s particularly hard to navigate that as a female artist?

Yeah, absolutely. And when you’re coming into your sophomore album, it’s a completely different set up than the first project. You have all the expectations of the public, people inserting their opinions – from the media to the fans and the label – about which direction you should take. That can definitely play into how you view your own music and path. I think it took some time for me to truly understand what I want is what I need to do. I need to follow that gut instinct.

Do feel like your fans’ impatience clouded your judgement in terms of creating your vision?

For sure. I’m the type of person that doesn’t like being told what to do. Fans are like, do this, put out the album, make it sound like this. And then I’m like, ‘Screw you guys! I’m going to do what I want. And sometimes that’s not even what I want. It’s just a reaction to feeling like people are trying to control me or box me in.

In interviews, people always seem to ask you whether you’d categorize yourself as a pop star or and R&B singer. Do you ever think people don’t understand what a pop star is?

Yeah, there’s a categorization issue. Being a black woman adds to the confusion. Coming from a place that’s “urban” or rhythmic, confused people initially. To me, the pop stars that I always look up to, were the Britney Spears’, the Christina Aguilera’s, the Beyonce’s. That’s what I viewed as a pop star. So when people started to minimize me and make me an R&B or this or that, it would just rub me the wrong way. Now, I just try to brush off all titles and do me. At the end of the day, I don’t feel like I fit into any of these genres perfectly, and that’s truly what makes me the most fulfilled as an artists is to dabble in different things and have different influence, and not have to stick to one sound all the time. It’s super boring.

What advice or words of wisdom would you have given yourself before jumping into this journey?

Be patient. I would always get so excited about the new music. I’m like, ‘It has to come out now!’ That at the time felt like the best case scenario. But in hindsight, it’s like you see the time that it did take was important for my creative evolution. So, appreciate the time that it takes, appreciate the stuff that you go through. I think the other thing that I’d tell myself is that nothing is really going to go according to your plan, and that’s alright. When things don’t happen the way that you expected them to happen, it’s not the end of the world. Just re-evaluate and keeping pushing forward. That’s life. And also, none of this stuff matters as much. At the end of the day, it’s just about the fact that I’m still able to create my music, maintain my business, travel, and play shows. That’s really the dream. I’m in it, so enjoy it.

What’s the vision behind the album art?

I wanted it to be all from a futuristic perspective. I wanted to take the Joyride concept even further, to say it wasn’t just a ride through this world, but a ride through time and space. You’re creating your own universe. I’m creating my own destiny, and Joyride universe, and taking that out of this world in a sense. Say, we’re on this crazy adventure, and I wanted the art to represent strength, power, and confidence from a body perspective. I also wanted to mirror Nightride in the sense that they both have this silhouette. And then adding the element of cyborg robot is representative of me creating myself and being the master of my own universe. It’s really out there.

As an artist the journey is probably never finished, but as Tinashe, when do you think you’ll reach your full journey of self-discovery?

I don’t know if that ever stops. That’s probably what always keeps me going, is that I have this hunger and drive to improve upon myself, not even as an artist but a personal level. Just to become a more well-rounded person, more confident, and more happy and calm and centered. All of those things play into how I go about creating my music. I feel more confident than ever before. I feel like I’m in a really good place mentally, like the universe is going to align itself with my energy. I’m putting those vibes out there. I’m still growing and evolving and looking to forward to how I will continue to do that in the future.

What do you want your fan base to take away from this album as far as you and your growth as an artist, and what do you want them to take away for themselves?

So, I would like them to take away from me, that you don’t give up on something. This project really did come out. That I’m a real artist. I feel like there’s this weird misconception that if something feels more mainstream that it’s less artistic or less respectable, which is not true. The same energy or thought is going into these as well. So, I would like people to respect the art. And then from their own perspective, I think the music itself speaks to this level of confidence. It’s important for me to give people a sense of escapism. When they listen to this project [I hope] it makes them feel good regardless of factors in their life. I want them to empowered, sexy, like they can have fun. Even the more vulnerable songs, they still come from a place of power.

From the Web

More on Vibe

Kamaiyah/GRND.WRK/EMPIRE

Kamaiyah Talks Long-Awaited Debut 'Got It Made' And Independent Status

On a cloudy afternoon in New York City, rapper Kamaiyah is dressed for comfort, wearing a purple sweatsuit, and the purple beads adorning her signature box braids match her fit. She’s made a stop at the VIBE office during a day of interviews, accompanied by a crew of three women, including her newly appointed A&R Justice Davis. Kamaiyah is observing more than speaking, preserving her voice since she is recovering from a nuisance cold. But the East Oakland native’s energy switches from laidback to zealous as we discuss her lead single “Still I Am” for Got It Made, her long-delayed forthcoming project dropping February 21.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

After almost 4 years I present to you my project “ Got It Made “ 2•21•20 the wait is over we going up and this mutha fucka slap 💁🏾‍♀️ flood my comments with 500 ☂️’s and I’ll drop a song tonight 👀 (Presave link in my bio)

A post shared by Kamaiyah🧿 (@kamaiyah) on Feb 3, 2020 at 11:00am PST

On the CT Beats track, the go-to producer for her hypnotic g-funk sound, she earnestly raps, “I done took plenty losses/ That's why I feel like I deserve to keep flossin'/ This shit is exhausting/ When you boss up and run your own office.” The verses point to her departure from Interscope Records and YG’s 4 Hunnid Records and the launch of her new label GRND.WRK (pronounced groundwork), in partnership with Empire last August. She decided to dip after the release date for her project Something To Ride To was pushed back multiple times. This makes Kamaiyah one of few women in hip-hop, and perhaps the first from the West Coast, to run her own shop.

“It's very important and vital because a lot of people feel you need a man to make you an artist,” Kamaiyah said. “You need a man to mold you into what you need to be.” But Kamaiyah — who has been rapping since she was 9, recording in the studio since she was 11, and dropped a critically acclaimed mixtape A Good Night in the Ghetto (2016) before she was signed to a major deal — already knew what kind of artist she wanted to be before she signed on the dotted line.

In the months since she left the label, she began building her office in the upstairs area of her loft; finished recording, mixing and mastering Got It Made, a project she was planning before she parted from Interscope; and her manager Brandon Moore became her partner on her new venture. 2020 will be the first year Kamaiyah has full control of her career since breaking into the mainstream hip-hop world in 2016. This was always part of her master plan and why the previous arrangement did not fit her.

“I signed too fast, but I never wanted to sign,” she reflects. “I was always the artist that was like, 'I don't want no deal.' I wanted to hustle because I knew where I come from. Everybody does it independently. But at that time it was the best decision for everybody. I took that L for the team and we learned a lot. It was like four years of music business school.”

Kamaiyah wants to carry on in the spirit of Bay Area hip-hop legends like E-40, known for their independent spirit of hustling their CDs out of their car trunks. But she also wants the pop accolades of hip-hop superstars like Drake, Missy Elliot, and Oakland’s original hip-hop icon MC Hammer. Her biggest hit to date is YG’s "Why You Always Hatin?” also featuring Drake, which charted at no. 62 on the Billboard Hot 100. But she wants more. Success for Kamaiyah means Grammys, Billboard No. 1's, and gold and platinum plaques. Partnering with Empire, a digital-first independent distributor, and a label launched by San Francisco native Ghazi Shami in 2010, could be her winning ticket. In the past decade, Empire’s launched several successful hip-hop projects such as Kendrick Lamar's Section.80 album and Anderson .Paak’s album Malibu. This partnership can give Kamaiyah the independence and support toward the mass appeal she’s seeking. Having dealt with project release delays in the past, her strategy going forward is consistency.

“Great quality music at a rapid rate...People just want to see you [working]. And if they know you consistent, they gon’ consume the music.” Kamaiyah also wants to use her platform to sign new talent, especially in the Bay Area, where she said artists can benefit from music business education when their records go viral. “Once they get the traction and the record, it becomes this egotistical thing and it's like ‘I made it cause I'm cracking out here.’ But they don't realize it's a whole world to build towards.”

Her first project Got It Made will be the blueprint for GRND.WRK. The project is feel-good music her fans “can shake their asses to and vibe out to and ride out to,” she said. For instance, she teamed up with veteran Trina for the f**k boy revenge track “Set It Up.” They role-play as two women who have been cheated on by the same man. “We get together and we go against the ni**a instead of us going against each other,” Kamaiyah says. On “Get Ratchet,” which she calls a “modern bounce” record, she taps DJ Espinosa, a San Francisco native known for winning Red Bull Music’s 3Style DJ competition, to spin at the end of the track. For “Digits,” a song about getting someone’s number, she brings on fellow Oakland rapper Capolow, a newcomer she’s excited to give a bigger platform to. She describes the track as “magical gangsta sh*t.” On past projects, Kamaiyah sampled '80s and '90s R&B (i.e. “I’m On” and “Leave Em”) but says the only track on Got It Made that has a sample is “1-800-IM-HORNY.” She intentionally avoided the high cost of clearances, an obstacle contributing to past project delays. She won’t mention names but says she enlisted “legends who created those records that we’re sampling” to shape the project's sound. Fans can expect Kamaiyah to begin touring the project in April.

Although she’s finally releasing her project, her fans might be curious about the status of her other promised records such as Woke and Don’t Ever Get It Twisted. Will they see the light of day? “Anything I did at that part of my life I have PTSD from,” Kamaiyah said frankly. “It was done with good intentions, but then it became something negative and when you put that out, the world is going to feel that. And energy is transferable so I'm not putting out that shit.”

While Kamaiyah was facing career obstacles in recent years, she witnessed the impact of tragedies close to her community. The death of Nia Wilson, an 18-year-old Black woman who was murdered at a train station in the Bay Area Rapid Transit in 2018, hit close to home as Kamaiyah has family close to Wilson’s family. (John Lee Cowell, who is accused of stabbing Wilson to death, is currently on trial.) “Do I feel like he should be convicted? Absolutely. To the furthest extent. You took this woman's life. She barely got to live.” Then there was Nipsey Hussle’s murder in 2019. Kamaiyah said she had a long talk with Nip a month before he was killed last March. He wanted to see her reach her full potential, especially as a woman representing the Bay Area. “He’s telling me, ‘What you mean to our culture we never had’,” Kamaiyah said. That last conversation put the battery in her back when she was on the fence about her music. “I'm frustrated career-wise and that's a person that was like, ‘Don't stop because we need you in this culture.’ So I gotta hustle 10 times harder ‘cause other people see the long end of the vision.”

Justice Davis, Kamaiyah’s A&R, is ready for Kamaiyah’s vision to come to life. Davis began working as Moore’s assistant and after giving input, moved up the ranks. As a Los Angeles native, Davis said she brings the knowledge of her city’s culture together with Kamaiyah’s Oakland hustle. She wants to see Kamaiyah grow as a businesswoman, artist, and for their team to prosper. “[I hope] for people to see her talent and know she really is the queen of the West coast."

Continue Reading
Jack Dempsey for Crown Royal Apple

Joe Freshgoods Put On For Chicago With Royal Apple Goods Collection & Pop-Up

The Windy City's chilly air seeps into the building as the main door cracks wide open. Busy crew members scurry between rooms, ensuring every fixture and branded display is arranged perfectly before the clock strikes 3 o'clock. A group of focused workers huddles nearby to go over loose ends and delegated tasks. Throwback hip-hop jams float throughout the warehouse, teasing the chill vibes to come. Time is of the essence and it's almost showtime; Confirmed guests will soon start trickling into Moonlight Studios in the next hour or so. It's the calm before the storm at The Royal Pop-Up, a two-day event curated by Crown Royal Regal Apple and its creative director, streetwear designer extraordinaire Joe "Freshgoods" Robinson.

In the first room to the right, a crew of black, swagged-out mannequins stands tall in the middle of the room, rocking yellow hoodies, black and white tees, pants and bandanas etched in J-F-G, Crown Royal, and red apples. With the 2020 NBA All-Star Weekend serving as the backdrop, fashion and basketball enthusiasts alike are set to get an exclusive glimpse of the limited-edition capsule collection, Royal APPLE GOODS, designed by Chicago native Freshgoods in collaboration with the Canadian whiskey brand.

Not too far away stands the DJ of the night, fellow creative and entrepreneur, Vic Lloyd, setting up his station as he prepares to set the musical energy for part of the day. To the left of him, a pair of workers in all-black prep the tote bags they'll be pressing with APPLE GOODS' design and logos. In another room to the far left, nail artists Tacarra "Spifster" Sutton and Slay Lewis are settling into their stations where they'll be taking manicure appointments to deck out the nails of anyone looking to add an extra flair to their fit. Two barber chairs are about 20 feet away for attendees down for a fresh cut or a quick line-up by the South Side's own Roger “Rodge” Williams of Raw Cutting Room.

Staying true to his hometown has always been Freshgoods' wave. While getting his feet wet as an intern at Leaders 1354 and working at Fashion Geek, he started his own apparel brand Don't Be Mad, eventually co-founded Fat Tiger Workshop with Lloyd and others, and caught the eye of major brands like adidas, McDonald's, New Era, and more. So it's no surprise that Freshgoods hand-selected some of his home city's top creators and makers to help make the pop-up experience that much more authentic and true to Chicago.

In the last room, friendly bartenders are preparing the Regal Apple Bar where specialty cocktails will be served in golden cups. On the opposite side, a sneaker cleaning station is ready to keep guests' kicks crispy, while two framed, Crown Royal Regal Apple-themed backdrops are perched in front of a brick wall, perfect for those looking to capture the moment in the form of a picture.

In an unused room in the back of the studio space sits Joe Freshgoods, relaxing on a black, plush couch, rocking the hoodie from the Royal APPLE GOODS collection, a pair of loose-fitted, tie-dye pants and his latest, sold-out New Balance 992 collaborative shoe. Despite the craziness that is All-Star Weekend and a jam-packed schedule of appearances and connecting with friends, Freshgoods is chill, present, and ready to chat about working with Crown Royal, Chicago’s underestimated fashion scene, his favorite '90s fashion trend and more.

--

Tell us about the Royal Apple Goods capsule collection. What inspired the designs?

Royal Apple Goods was pretty much inspired by basketball, my love of lettering and a bit of my colorway. I wanted to make cool basketball merch. Just stuff that you can go to the gym in and rock. I just wanted to make it a dope basketball-themed collection.

We noticed that you decided to work with some fellow Chicagoans for different parts of this pop-up. Why was that important to you?

Oftentimes, when these big activations pop up in different cities, they never really tap into the community. It was pretty dope to be able to have my people around town who I collaborate with —a lot of the barbers, DJs, artists, nail techs, people that are moving and shaking in Chicago. Everybody that's working in each booth [at this event] is someone that people respect. I think if we're doing a project in a city as big as Chicago, you want guests and people to recognize, "Oh, that's [Spifster] the nail tech." Because a lot of these people are really booked. You don't often get to see these artists in one room at one time. Like Rodge, you’ve got to book him two weeks in advance. I know with Spif, she's booked six months in advance. It's rare to be in an area where you can just go from station to station, get merch from me, get your nails done by the hottest nail person, get your hair done, and listen to good tunes. It was just important to just tap in with the local community. It just made sense.

With your style mantra being "Clothes is art defined by the times," how do you define today's time in fashion?

I think for me, you hear that streetwear is dying and that it's always like a thing where I still thrive on the art of, "Oh, wow." I love merch related to a time, you know? Everybody that gets my merch today and tomorrow, it's going to be dope to say, "Yo, I went to this event that Joe helped put on, and he had merch."

I love making clothing like concert merch. That's my whole vibe. If I was a rapper that did a show in Chicago, this would be my merch for that show, you know? That's how I approach a lot of my products with different brands. This is what I wanted to do with Crown that made sense for the community. Right now, I've got the hottest shoes dropping today, but I'm doing something different with Crown Royal. I like to give some stuff away, so this feels good.

If you were to create say a retro '90s fit, what would that look like? What's Joe wearing from that decade?

I was always a fan of the Naughty By Nature overall. I don't know. I like that rugged Timberland...I just like that real rugged, man-man, streetwear look, you know? Obviously, I love to dress colorfully, but I've always been a fan of that construction worker wave of the early '90s. That was with all the sweatsuits and all. That's always been my wave. Yeah, real Treach, Naughty By Nature vibes.

In a recent interview, you mentioned how Chicago kind of plays the little sister to other cities and is often overlooked or left out in different ways. What do you think this week means for your home city when it comes to fashion, the culture, and everything?

I think this week is very important. When Chicago first got the news that there was going to be a very big basketball week, it was pretty dope. This is one of the first times since being a kid to have all these people from out of town here. Since I've been an adult, there hasn't been a Super Bowl here or anything. I don't know, and we had this big thing about Chicago where it's like, "Am I safe here?" But it's a beautiful city.

The Royal Pop Up was a vibe during #NBAAllStar weekend. Here's what you missed: https://t.co/etxoU0pPnp pic.twitter.com/gVS4nmmUHt

— Vibe Magazine (@VibeMagazine) February 20, 2020

I think it's one of the top food cities to me, in my opinion. Yes, it's a cold city, but it's pretty awesome to see all these events going on. All this positivity. Complex Con was here. That was big, but this is bigger. It's so cool to see all my peers doing their projects, and everybody supporting each other. There's no beef. Everybody's about community. It feels good. With this big basketball weekend, I'm glad so many people are getting to experience Chicago for the first time like this.

It's insane and to imagine the last time All-Star Weekend was here a little over 30 years ago? It's a sigh of relief for Chicago to be a city of attraction where people are comfortably out and about versus being in Cali or Los Angeles.

Exactly.

With the NBA All-Star game set to honor the late Kobe Bryant, what’s one of your favorite memories of Kobe?

Kobe was so serious on the court. He performed to the highest level. Every time he stepped off the court, and you saw Kobe in commercials, it was like whoa. I was always a big fan of his commercials, especially the one with Kanye. When he was dancing with Tony Hawk...it was always dope to see that, "Oh, he’s human," even though he was a shark on the court.

Every time Kobe would just make people laugh. In certain in-game moments, he would dance a little bit. He was so stern on the court, but every time Kobe showed personality, every time he was a comedian, it was just funny because it was coming from Kobe.

As a man of many talents, can we expect you to indulge in any other endeavors? What's next? Joe Freshgoods: The Movie? 

Not yet (laughs). I'm really just trying to expand the brand. Right now, I'm building a really great team. I think teamwork is so key to movement. For so long, I was so used to doing things myself, but within the last three, four years of just having a team, it's felt like there are endless possibilities. I'm just kind of expanding. I'm really big on pop-up shops. It's something that I've honed in on as my thing, being able to connect with different communities across the world. I kind of want to get bigger at that. That's the goal for the next few years is to just kind of expand on these pop-up moments, and make them live a little longer in different cities.

What inspired you to take the pop-up shop route with your brand?

It's pretty simple. It's like the Master P formula when it comes to going from state to state selling your mixtape as opposed to having your mixtape in Target, or Best Buy, or in Sam Goody. For example, I could make more money going to New Orleans. No brand ever goes to New Orleans to show love. But with me, I pull up with my team, we do a pop-up in NOLA and actually get to touch the community.

Traditional retail is kind of dying in the sense of going to New York and opening up a big store. That whole model is changing to the point where now I can go to a certain area and pop-up for five days, and do well, go to L.A. and then go to Houston, you know? With that formula, a lot of brands can't do that, but I can and I'm going to keep doing it.

Lastly, if the Royal APPLE GOODS collection had an accompanying playlist, what three songs would be on it?

Ooh, that's a really good one. Aw, man. The Bulls theme song (“Sirius” by the Alan Parson's Project). That's one, that's just a vibe right there. Man, I need a toxic Future song (laughs) Okay, "March Madness" and Hall & Oates' "Sara Smile." Yeah, I like that.

Additional reporting by Obehi Imarenezor

Continue Reading
Scotch Porter

Scotch Porter Founder Calvin Quallis Talks New Haircare Line, Self Care Beyond Products

Calvin Quallis worked multiple jobs that he hated before founding Scotch Porter, but between childhood memories at his mom’s beauty parlor and his own trips to the barbershop, one thing stuck out. “On some of those worst days, I’d go get a haircut and come out thinking I could take on the world,” Quallis said. “So I’ve always known that grooming and self care had the chance to make you feel better about yourself.” After founding a barbershop called Center Stage Cuts  in New Jersey and seeing so many customers with dry, damaged hair in their beards, he began to research ingredients and start making products in his home. In the first 12 months of Scotch Porter – named after his favorite drink (scotch) and his favorite musician (Gregory Porter) – he made more than a million dollars in sales. Since then, Scotch Porter has become one of the most known names for black men’s beard and skin care products.

This year, Scotch Porter is seeing changes. February has seen the launch of a new hair care line, and a new set of ingredients to the beard and skin care products that were already so popular. Plus, the signature brown tubes that hold their products has been changed to new, streamlined blue packaging. Quallis visited the VIBE office to talk about the foundation of the company, 2020’s new leaf, and Scotch Porter’s emphasis on community and lifestyle beyond what their customers put in their dopp kits.

--

VIBE: Black men have always cared about how we look, but in recent years, we’ve been more comfortable using products for our faces and beards. Where do you think that comfort comes from?

Calvin Quallis: I think it’s a couple of things. One, access to social media. We’re always in front of a camera, always visible. When you’re always visible, you want to look your best. Two, folks are just much more comfortable that were in the past considered female-oriented. So, always being in front of a camera, with selfies and the gist, and wanting to look your best and becoming comfortable using products that were originally toward women.

VIBE: I’m not sure that you were the first black beard company that I heard of, but you were definitely one of the first that I had seen that didn’t just seem like a homemade thing. You were very professional. What kind of strategy went into how you presented the product?

I did work at a design firm. So just seeing designers put together beautiful buildings and different projects, and also in my own personal life, I like nice things. So in terms of the overall aesthetic for the brand, I think it comes somewhat naturally, and then also working at a design firm and seeing how they put together projects, and how they start from scratch, and how they think about design. I think that lended a hand as well.

VIBE: When you were selling this early on, was there any convincing you had to do for the customers?

At that time, I didn’t see many folks talking to black men about beard care or hair care. I didn’t see ads on Instagram or Facebook. So when we launched, it was easy to break through the noise. I noticed at the shop that guys were growing out their beards more, and there weren’t products on the market meant specifically for coily, curly, dry hair. So I seen that as an opportunity, and folks weren’t advertising products like that. It kind of made it slightly easier than it is now, because every other day there’s some new product that’s popped up that someone has created. At that time, it was easier to cut through the clutter because there wasn’t much available for guys with hair textures like us, and they weren’t advertising it if it did exist.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

All the hair care you need is right here. Try the Scotch Porter Superior Hair Collection, to clean, nourish, hydrate and style your hair from start to finish. ⁠With key ingredients Kale Protein and Biotin, achieving the healthy hair & scalp you need is waiting for you. 👀 no further... add this collection to your cart. #MensGrooming #ScotchPorter

A post shared by Scotch Porter (@scotchporter) on Feb 11, 2020 at 10:01am PST

VIBE: Tell me about the new hair products you’re launching. 

We’re launching new reformulated hair care products, along with reformulated beard and skincare products. Our new hair care line includes five products: our Hydrating Hair Wash, Nourish And Repair Hair Conditioner, Smoothing Hair Balm, Smooth & Shine Hair Serum, and our Leave-In Conditioner. All of these hair care products, including our beard and skincare products, are multifunctional, so they do more than just one thing. Our hair balm and hair wash don’t only cleanse and condition, but also include some flake reduction actives, and healthy hair and scalp botanicals that help with things like dandruff, and it also helps prevent hair thinning.

VIBE: I’ve been using Scotch Porter for so long that I always associate the image of the brown containers. What made you decide to change up the look?

I’ve noticed for a while, the space is just becoming increasingly competitive. I’ve known for about a year that we needed to reinvent ourselves, and to reup. Make better products, make them more affordable – we’ve been able to reduce the price point on all our products by about 25 percent. Also, pull out things from our products. There’s no BHTs, there’s no parabins, no formaldehyde donors. We’ve gotten rid of phenoxyethanol, and we’ve included really interesting ingredient stories. This, again, is all based on seeing how the landscape has gotten increasingly competitive.

VIBE: I wanted to dig into that a little bit. You were one of the first in the space. What do you think is the balance between sticking with what you know, vs. knowing when you need to change?

Part of it is insight. You’ve got to pay attention to what’s going on around you, with a focus on the consumer. Understand what’s going on in the marketplace, but also thinking how we can better serve the customer by delivering even better products. The products that we’ve reformulated are even better than we’ve had before. Thinking of price points and making products more accessible. Then, just giving folks more value and pulling out interesting ingredients that help with some of the issues that men have as it relates to grooming.

VIBE: One of my favorite parts of Scotch Porter is the emphasis on lifestyle and community. Last year, I went to the pop up shop you had, and I was impressed – not only did you have the products at a discount, but you also had the panel for black men to congregate. You also have the email newsletter, and the print manual; in the former, you recently told customers to go to the doctor. Also, each purchase comes with the NakedWines voucher. It just feels like there’s an intention to make black men enjoy each other and love themselves.

It stems from our mission. Our mission from day one has always been to help men feel their best and to live their most fulfilled lives. These touchpoints are just expressions of that. Even as I think about wellness – over the last 14 months or so, I’ve lost 60 pounds. I’ve been getting better at looking at what I’m putting in my body, and what’s important, and these are the things I need to do if I want to be around longer. I’m still on my journey; I ain’t there yet. But we’ve always been talking about how internal and external wellness are a big part of helping guys to feel their best. Some of the articles you see, or the pop-up shop where we have a discussion around mental health, and even the articles on going to the doctor. It’s a holistic approach to helping men feel their best. For us, it’s never been about just giving you the next goop to put in your beard, and that’s all that you need to look and feel your best. It’s internal and external.

VIBE: The manual and the newsletter have these important messages, but it doesn’t feel like they’re talking down to you. It just feels like one of my homies emailing me about it.

Because that’s the only way you’re going to be able to digest it. And again, I’m on my own journey. I’m not there yet. I’m not rocking a six-pack. And it’s not necessarily about that. Each and every day, what can you be doing to make your life better? For us, that’s what it’s about, and that’s the conversation that we have with guys. It’s not about us being on a soapbox pretending we have it all figured out.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

It’s official! We’re proud to share that #ScotchPorter is now available at select @Target retail locations across the nation. (CLICK LINK IN BIO FOR STORE LOCATOR) • • We’re pumped about our retail expansion as it provides us with the opportunity to bring our #MULTIPurpose better-for-you Beard and Face care products straight to your local #Target store. • • When it comes to accessing products that are non-toxic and healthier for you, you deserve options that won’t break the bank. With key ingredients in our Beard and Face collections including Biotin and Pomegranate Enzymes, our products have you covered. • • Thanks for riding with us, we’re just getting started!☄️ #MensGrooming #TellAFriend

A post shared by Scotch Porter (@scotchporter) on Feb 17, 2020 at 1:55pm PST

VIBE: Within the past couple of years, Bevel sold their products in Target and they were later acquired by Procter & Gamble. Do you have any plans to expand in terms of selling products outside of the website?

On February 9, we launch in about a third of the Target doors with our beard care and skin care products. We’re super excited about that. Target has launched a campaign, and I’m included in the launch for their black history month Black Beyond Measure campaign, where they’re highlighting black founders and their success stories. Excited to be a part of that and share my journey, both with potential entrepreneurs and regular customers.

VIBE: Anything else about Scotch Porter that people should know?

One of the things that’s always been important to me is providing access, opportunity and employment to people that look like us. It’s really intentional. I’d say about 95 to 98 percent of the folks that work with us look like me and you. We provide opportunity, and we provide what I consider great pay. I remember when I was working for somebody else, feeling like I had to fight to climb the career ladder, the limitations that were put on me had nothing to do with my skill set. When I was starting Scotch Porter, I made it very important to hire people who look like us and give them an opportunity to climb up.

Continue Reading

Top Stories