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Reuben Chapman

Tiffany Evans, Her Cross To Bear, And Being 'Open Even If It Hurts'

Evans offers an intimate look into a bad situation she had been shamed into covering and how she has turned her dark clouds into a new chapter in her career. 

Reading as a success story, Tiffany Evans’ early fable follows a young girl propelled into the spotlight after becoming the first contestant to earn a perfect score in Star Search history. Later signing with Columbia Records in 2004, the singer released her self-titled debut album with the LP's frontrunner "Promise Ring" before taking a leave of absence to pursue parenthood. For the next few years, the South Bronx beauty popped in and out of music to drop jewels for her loyal fans. Now, nearly 10 years later, the 26-year-old is making her return to music with a bold new EP.

Last heard on 2015’s All Me EP, the mother-of-two’s forthcoming project ushers a change of pace, specifically Evans being a victim of domestic violence by her former husband. In an Instagram post, which has since been deleted, the songstress opened up about the physical and emotional disputes with her ex.

 

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#TiffanyEvans opens up about her abusive relationship. #Roommates, let’s keep her in our prayers!

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Championing a campaign against victim-blaming, the R&B veteran has placed an emphasis on helping victims heal.

"We’re worried to open up because we’re not really sure we’re going to get the support we need to get through this thing because not only is it physical, it's mental and emotional,” Evans says over the phone from Atlanta. “I just want women to start saying f**k you, you did this. If it's going to heal me and I’m ready to talk about it, I’m going to open up. F**k you, f**k you. Don't have your mom call me, don't have your sister call me, don't have anybody call me for some sh*t that you could have avoided, you could have controlled."

Here, the singer/songwriter opens up about her journey back to music, her upcoming EP, and her struggles with domestic violence and victim-blaming.

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VIBE: How does it feel to be back in the game?
Tiffany Evans: It's a little nerve-racking because you sit with music that you have been working on for so long. I speak about my experiences a lot and I love for my music to tell stories. When you sit with this music and you're not releasing anything, and only you know about it, you kind of get nervous when it’s released, because you don't know what the response may be. You know that you're allowing people to kind of see into your life, personally and everything that is going on. So that was the most nerve-racking part for me. Knowing that this record is not like... it's a true story. And it is something that I have been going through for a while and letting people know that it kind of made me nervous, but to see the response from all the women and the guys too, the guys love the record, it made me very happy. I'm like okay, back like I never left.

The last time you put out an EP was All Me in 2015. What do you think is really different between how you were making music then and how you work on music now?
When I dropped the All Me EP, my head was in a totally different space. I was going through things in my relationship but I was not ready to speak about it. By the time I started working on this new project I am going to be dropping soon—I started working on that around early last year—I just got to the point where I was ready to speak on what the f**k was going on with me and everything I have been dealing with. I'm going to be transparent, be vulnerable. I'm going to be open even if it hurts. Because this is going to help me begin my healing process. One of the reasons why I have not been healing is because I haven't spoken about it. I haven't said anything about it. So my music back then, I was just doing songs that I thought were really dope but they didn't come from my heart. I wasn't... Like I said, I like to really tell stories and be able to say what's on my mind and say, ‘Hey, I have experienced this and I want you to listen to what I am singing about.’ I was not ready to do that then, but I am so ready now. And that is the major difference, my energy toward that is a major “f**k what anybody has to say, f**k whose feelings I'm going to get hurt.” When I released the All Me EP, it was still on the clean side, still on the ‘I'm not going to say much, I'm not going to talk about much, I'm just going to do songs that I think are cool, but they aren't going to touch on my situation.’ I really wanted to make that a goal to open up this time.

Will this EP explore a more vulnerable and insightful look into what has been happening in your personal life?
Yes, and more honestly. I'm a little angry and I want to be transparent. Sometimes it can come off as "don't be bitter," "don't be." But, you know, sometimes you do get bitter and sometimes you do get angry and I want to let people know that it's okay to feel those very human emotions. When you go through so much sh*t and it hurts you, it can change you. I have definitely been changed. I want to start healing but I am angry.

Since you’re saying right now you’re in this stage where you’re angry, and you’re completely allowed to be angry, do you think that you will touch on getting to a point of forgiveness?
I definitely believe that it will lead to forgiveness. I know that I am still dealing with a lot right now, and I'm still angry. I do believe I have tasted bitterness on my tongue and the first part of my healing is me admitting to that truth and not being afraid to say, “this is where I am.” I never want to hate anybody and I never wanted to hurt anybody, regardless of what they have done to me. I just know that it definitely changed me and I do believe that eventually if I distance myself the way that I'm doing and I stay to myself and continue to do what I need to do for my healing, then it will end in forgiveness, but that does not mean that those same people or that same person has to be in my life for me to forgive them.

When you were in the studio recording “Switch Up,” were you in a home studio or was there anything interesting that happened while you were recording?
I was recording at home. I was recording at a setup that me and my writing partner go to and our engineer. We set this studio in the living room, in their apartment. I started to talk about the sh*t that I was going through and I was like, "You know what, I'm f**king done, I'm ready to open up, I'm ready to go off.” I drank some wine, and we all just started drinking and talking. The more that we talked, the more we started getting into the actual track. Then eventually it turned into a freestyle. I started going over the record over and just laying sh*t down—one line here, one line there. We didn't write one thing down, everything was popping up in our heads. It was like, "You know what, I want to say this." I kept up with the melody and it turned into "Switch Up." It's strange how it all came about, but it was a big a** freestyle.

Do you know what wine you were drinking? I need to try it.
Yes. It's the best. Sutter Home, sweet red. I'm a fan of it, I really do like bitter tasting wine, but I also love sweet red wine as well. I just grabbed a bottle from Quick Trip. They sell the Sutter Home wine products at the store. Then I grabbed one and went to their apartment and we started drinking and working. It definitely got us in the mood. They didn't think it would work for them, but it works for everyone. You should try it. I don't know if you've had it before but it's one of my favorite wines.

You said it started over a bottle of wine and here we are now. That's amazing.
Yeah, a little wine, and the inspiration was "ni**as ain't sh*t."

Speaking of, because you needed a glass of wine for this, is there anything you usually have with you when you are recording in the studio?
That's a good question. I sit with a cover, like a blanket. Oh, flip-flops. I know it's strange and it sounds like it has nothing to do with music, but I'm very much a person that needs to feel right before I open up my mouth. So I had some comfy, fuzzy flip-flops and a blanket. Normally that's what I like to record with unless like I'm going to a studio or a public studio and everybody is there. I might dress up in a track suit or whatever, but at the home studio I have flip-flops and a blanket and I was in my own zone with my glass of wine.

What can you share about your upcoming project? Do you have any collaborations in the works? Is there a title or a date?
I know that we are aiming for the first quarter. And it is very, like I said, it's very aggressive. I know you heard vulnerable and open, but it's very aggressive. A lot of times women get looked down upon for being assertive and knowing what we want, and what we want to say and sometimes we get looked at as crazy. The lyrical content is definitely something to focus on when listening to this project when everyone hears it. It’s not just the track but the words and what we say and how we say it. It's just different from anything I have ever done before. I definitely do have some features and I don't want to say anything about them yet.

No, come on, we are in a sharing zone.
I know, I know, but just know this, you guys are in for a major treat. I’m very excited about what I’m doing and who I’m doing it with. I just can't say anything yet. I’m not allowed to. It's just like every day I am like, Lord, when am I going to be able to say anything? Just know that I do have a couple of features and it's going to be lit. It's going to be something a lot of women are going to feel empowered by and the guys will even f**k with it, too. But I'm doing it for my ladies, we go through so much. This whole project is for women and me being a voice for the women and the issues we go through on the daily, and how we hold these ni**as down. And it's not that I'm trying to bash a man or anything like that or doing any male bashing. It's just that we need to be okay with telling our truth without feeling like we did a bad thing by exposing what’s wrong in a relationship or what's wrong with you, and what is going on with you. We shouldn't feel bad about that and too many times we do. I just want this to be the project that women listen to and they are like damn you know what, I’m better than that, and I do deserve more than that. I don't care this guy can be cute, he can sex me right, we can have the best sex, we can have whatever, but if he is not truly right, then I want to say that I love myself enough to say I don't care how cute you are or how handsome you are, how you know how much swag you got, or money. I can walk away cause I know I deserve better.

A lot of what resonates with me is you’re really trying to help fight this stigma of victim blaming. We now live in this era where people blame victims for things that are not their fault.
It's so crazy, I just don't understand. This person obviously went through something, and the only thing you can say is “what did they do? What did they do to get punched in the face?” If I am not putting my hands on you, you're not putting your hands on me. That's how it should be.

That is exactly how it should be.
It's just as simple as that. If I’m not doing that to you, don't do that to me. I don't understand how it goes, or how many people are so quick to throw stones at the victim for opening up. This is why we are afraid to open up. We’re worried to open up because we’re not really sure we’re going to get the support we need to get to through this thing because not only is it physical, it's mental and emotional. I just want women to start saying f**k you. Like, ‘No, you did this.’ If it's going to heal me and I am ready to talk about it, I am going to open up. Like f**k you, f**k you. Don't have your mom call me, don't have your sister call me. Don't have anybody call me for some sh*t that you could have avoided, you could have controlled. It's like everybody always wants to call and say why did you have to do that or why did you have to say that about this person or why did you have to put this out for the public to know? Well, what do you mean? So you knew that this has been going on for years? And the only time you are worried is when I say something?

Do you think that experiencing domestic violence has affected your music and your journey away from and back to music?
Absolutely yes. It affects everything about you because you blame yourself for why things are going the way they are going. You don't feel like you are worthy, like you are deserving of respect and then overall it breaks down your self-esteem but you don't have the confidence for things that you should have the confidence for. My case with music, I was always concerned about not being good enough and that started with number one. I had a lot of family issues. I come from a broken home but when you get in a relationship that is not any better, that only enhances everything at once. I didn't really believe that I was good enough to do music. I was always questioning things and always insecure about sh*t and always in my head about sh*t. One of the things I don't regret, but I just wish that I was strong enough to not let it affect me. And the very thing that I was born to do. I probably could have been in a different place, I don't know. But I’m not trying to put that on anybody or blame anybody. I’m not trying to blame that on the next person. But I’m just being totally honest, if I was in a different headspace and I believed in myself maybe things could have panned out a little differently when it came to my music.

Where do you think you have found your strength in all of this?
I have definitely found my strength in God. I have been leaning on prayer and meditation and, at times, it just really wasn't easy at all. You have those days when you're like, "I'm trying to encourage myself, speak to myself, speak life into myself," and sometimes you just don't believe it, sometimes you just don't have faith. Sometimes you're really affected by things that you go through and you're really stuck, you feel stuck and stagnant. But I've started to pray because there was a time that I stopped praying and I stopped meditating and I really couldn't wrap my head around anything. I started praying and asking God to reveal my own heart to me, the things that I need to change about myself. I started with myself. Things that I needed to be honest about with myself I asked God to start revealing those things with me and allow me to have the strength to build myself up and move on in my life without.

I started praying a lot more and asking God to give me the strength to make a decision to choose. Not to make a decision but to choose. To choose to do what I needed to do. That is where I started to come up a little bit in my spirit, but it's easier said than done. Sometimes you run across good genuine people who genuinely care and want to see you do better and want to see you okay. I thank God for those people. I call them guardian angels. They come into your life, and he sends them to be a light in a dark time, so I have definitely had a lot of that. I didn't even realize it at one point, but I have started to realize it and it definitely made a huge difference.

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The female voice in hip-hop has always been present whether we've noticed it or not. The late Sylvia Robinson birthed the hip-hop music industry with the formation of Sugar Hill Records (and fostering "Rapper's Delight"), Roxanne Shante's 55 lyrical responses to fellow rappers were the first diss tracks and Missy Elliott's bold and striking music and visuals inspired men and women in the game to step outside of their comfort zones.

These pillars and many more have allowed the next generation of emcees to be unapologetically brash, truthful and confident in their music. Cardi B's Invasion of Privacy and Nicki Minaj's Queen might've been the most mainstream albums by womxn in rap this year, but there was a long list of creatives who brought the noise like Rico Nasty, Tierra Whack, Noname and Bbymutha. Blame laziness or the heavy onslaught of music hitting streaming sites this year, but many of the artists on this list have hibernated under the radar for far too long.

VIBE decided to switch things up but also highlighting rap albums by womxn who came strong in their respectively debut albums, mixtapes, EPs. We also had to give props to those who dropped standout singles, leaving us wanting more.

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10 Most Important Hip-Hop Artists Of 2018

We’ve reached another end to an eventful year in hip-hop. From rap beefs to new music releases and milestones, 2018 has been forged in the history books as a year to remember. But more important than the events that happened over the span of 12 months are the people who made them happen.

While fans received a large dose of music from our favorite artists and celebrated some of the most iconic album anniversaries, there are a few names that stood out as the culture pushers, sh*t starters, and all-around most significant artists of the year.

For your enjoyment, VIBE compiled a list of the top 10 most important hip-hop artists of 2018 based on a series of qualifications: 1) public actions - good, bad, and ugly; 2) music releases; 3) philanthropic/humanitarian work; and 4) trending moments.

Be clear: This list isn’t about the most influential, the most talented, who had the best music or tours. While we are commemorating artists for the work they’ve contributed to this year’s music cycle, we’re looking beyond that and evaluating how these particular artists have shaped conversations and pushed hip-hop culture forward.

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NEXT: Intent On Impact, Kiana Lede Is Ready To Leave Her Mark

After learning The Alphabet Song as a little girl, Kiana Lede would always “get in trouble” for singing during class. “My mom was like, ‘why can't you focus?’” she laughs while reminiscing on her career’s formative years. “I was like, ‘I don’t know! Songs are just playing in my head all the time!’”

Whilst sitting in a shoebox-sized room at Midtown Manhattan’s Moxy Hotel on a humid September day, the now- 21-year-old Arizona-bred R&B songbird, actress and pianist speculates that she “may have had ADD.” However, she settles down after taking off her white cowboy boots and flops down on the ivory-clothed bed, demonstrating that her fiery Aries energy can be contained. Cool as a cucumber, Lede shuffles between chewing on banana candies and blowing smoke rings after taking drags from a pen, all while musing about her journey to becoming a Republic Records signee.

“I just grew up singing and doing musical theater, and reading a lot of books, and playing piano way too much in my room by myself,” she says, pushing her big, curly brown hair out of her face. Her expressive green eyes widen as she grins. “It was my thing. Nobody in my family does music, just me.”

After winning Kidz Bop’s 2011 KIDZ Star USA talent contest at 14 (which her mother secretly entered her into), Lede was signed to RCA Records. She was released from her contract and dropped from the label three years later. However, thanks to guidance and friendship from the Grammy-winning production duo Rice N’ Peas, (who’ve worked with G-Eazy, Trevor Jackson, and Bazzi), she released covers of songs such as Drake’s “Hotline Bling” while working to get her groove back. The latter rendition resulted in Republic Record’s Chairman and CEO Monte Lipman flying her out and signing her to his label.

“I got a second chance, which a lot of people don't get,” she reveals. “So I'm really happy that that all happened. I wouldn't be here right now in this room if that didn't happen.”

Thanks to the new opportunity she was given, Lede’s sound has evolved into something she’s proud of—equal parts soul, R&B and bohemian. As evidenced by the aforementioned ensemble, glimmers of each aesthetic can be found when observing her personal style as well. She released her seven-song EP Selfless in July, which features the bedroom-ready “Show Love” and “Fairplay,” which manages to fit in the mainstream R&B vein while also showcasing her goosebump-inducing vocals. The remix of the latter features MC A$AP Ferg. What pleases her most is that it not only garnered a favorable response from fans, but that those listeners found it so relatable.

“As an artist, it's really nerve-wracking for someone who writes about such personal things all the time,” she says. “Just the fact that it is my story… It's good to know that other people know that there's somebody on their side, and they're not the only ones going through it. A lot of people obviously feel this way, and have been through this same thing that I've been through. So I think that's cool.”

Although she moved to various places as a Navy serviceman’s daughter, Lede claims Phoenix as home. This means she hails from the same stomping grounds as rockers Alice Cooper, Stevie Nicks and the late Chester Bennington of Linkin Park. However, growing up in a mixed race household gave way to tons of sonic exploration outside of the rock-heavy scene.

“My dad's black, and both of my parents are from the East Coast,” she says of her musical and ethnic upbringing (she’s black, Latina and Native American). “[My parents] listened to a lot of R&B. My mom listened to a lot of SWV, TLC, Boyz II Men. I didn't realize I knew the songs until I got older. I played a charity show with T-Boz, and I was like 'why do I know these songs?'” Lede also says her father was a fan of neo-soul and gangsta rap, but she personally believes the early-2000s was the best time for music.

“[That era] influences a lot of my music subconsciously, and also, singer-songwriter stuff,” she continues. “I listen to a lot of early-2000s music because I played piano most of my life. I listened to Sara Bareilles, John Mayer.”

An open book, Lede details some of her struggles with anxiety and depression with the utmost candor. After being dropped from RCA, her trust in people diminished, and she experienced long bouts of depression after being sexually assaulted by someone in the industry. The track that she feels most deeply about is “One Of Them Days,” which tackles these issues head-on.

“When I'm anxious and depressed, it's really hard to be happy,” Lede says. “Most of the time, I can do it, but there are just some days where I literally can't separate the anxiety, and I can't tell anybody why, because I don't really know why myself… I was feeling very odd that day, didn't even know if I could write a song. Hue [Strother], the guy who I wrote the song with, he was like 'I totally get you. Lots of people go through this.’’’

As we’ve observed in headlines recently, mental health and being honest about life’s trickier situations can help someone going through the same thing, and Lede hopes her music provides encouragement to those who are struggling. As for how she’s learning to push through her mental health roadblocks, she meditates, runs, and is an advocate for therapy, especially in Trump’s America, where harrowing news reports dominate the cycle.

Another hallmark of Kiana Lede’s personality is her bleeding heart for others. She cites women of color, sexual assault victims and the homeless youth specifically as individuals she feels most responsible to help, since she is personally connected to all three. While she’s aiming to create a project that helps homeless youth specifically, she’s working hard this holiday season to ensure that they have a place to stay “at least for the night” after horrific wildfires displaced many individuals in California.

“My passion is really people. Music is just a way that I can get to helping people,” she says with a grin. “Helping people emotionally and physically are both very important. I never want to stop helping people. I feel if other people can respect me, and I can respect myself, then I'll be happy. Happiness is all that we strive for.”

Recently, Lede played her first headlining solo show, a one-night event at The Mint in Los Angeles. While she was thrilled to see that the show sold-out, she was even happier to see the faces of her audience members, who she said ‘looked like [her].’ “Mixed girls, brown girls, black girls, gay boys,” she explains over-the-phone. Even though she wasn’t in person to discuss her latest huge accomplishment, you could hear the pride and joy through her voice.

As for the future of her career, she’s looking forward to more acting roles. You may recognize her from the first season of MTV’s Scream, and after her recent Netflix series All About The Washingtons with legendary MC Rev Run was cancelled, she has been “reading for auditions” and is “negotiating” for a role in a film set to shoot in NYC. While her time with the Run-DMC frontman was brief, she says he taught her about the importance of “not compromising your art for money.”

What Kiana Lede is most excited about, of course, is making music. She hopes to work on a new EP and then release an album after that. The ultimate goal is to fully realize the dreams in her personal and professional life, and she assures she’s just getting started.

“I want to be able to look back on my career and think 'man, I really poured my heart into this music, and made music that mattered, and made music that made people feel a certain way, whether it's bad, good, sad, anxious, whatever it may be.’”

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