In 2011, Tink’s debut mixtape, Winter’s Diary, introduced the world to a 16-year-old pining and recording ballads from the basement. Ten years, seven mixtapes, and two albums later, the Chicago singer and rapper has built a devoted fan base for her heartfelt, honest, and soulful music. Tink’s process of creating music has stayed largely the same since the basement days, with the exception of more attention to details, including the mixing of her tracks, the production, and of course the timing. “For me, I’m kind of the artist that just holds onto a record,” says Tink, 26, explaining the way she prefers to wait to release a project until she feels it’s truly ready.
That changed with Heat of the Moment, her new 14-track EP, which took only a couple months of recording to put together with executive producer Hitmaka. “That’s why the title is so fitting, because the songs were really made in the moment,” says Tink.
Tink grew up listening to Lauryn Hill, Brandy, and Teddy Pendergrass thanks to her father, an engineer who would leave records all over the basement. She credits him for introducing her to that “soulful shit.” “When you start off, you’re really doing it because it’s a passion,” says Tink. “And then after a while, I noticed I could really make some money out of this passion.” That same passion that led Tink to begin making music at just 11 years old would soon earn her a deal with Lyrical Eyes Management by her mid-teens, leading up to the release of Winter’s Diary.
A year later, a viral video of a young Tink rapping over Chief Keef’s “300” created a new buzz around her skills as an MC and even grabbed the attention of Keef himself. “I remember him [Chief Keef] reposting it with a lot of views and likes,” says Tink. “That’s when I kind of dug into my rapping.” For Tink, this opened up an opportunity to showcase her skills as a rapper — and there was no better time than 2012, when drill music put a global spotlight on Chicago.
“Of course singing is my passion,” says Tink, which is why Heat of The Moment, in essence, is an R&B record. While tracks like “Prove It” and “Whole World Against Me” show Tink going back to her core roots of vulnerable, deep R&B/hip-hop cuts, “Selfish” and “Might Let You” are joyful, feel-good tracks. We talked via Zoom about making Heat of The Moment, sex anthems, tapping into her Nigerian roots and more.
I first want to start off by catching up about this last year with Covid, how was it for you readjusting to that?
It was really crazy. Last year was very different. I had dropped my album Hopeless Romantic around the time that Covid had started. I had to work around a lot of things, but I was happy I got to get some music for the fans. But for the most part, I really had missed doing shows and being able to do interviews in person. It changed a lot for artists.
How were you spending your quarantine? Were you able to write or get into any new hobbies or skills?
Yes. I tried my best to keep writing and working. I definitely was trying to work on a different craft and touched on the piano a little. But for the most part, I was just still writing. My studio was closed off for a while. So I just spent a lot of time in my home being creative and, you know, just trying to stay at it.
What was the process like for creating Heat of the Moment?
We started Heat of The Moment in May. It took us maybe two months. I would spend a week here and there. We recorded a lot in L.A. and San Francisco. So the process was really quick actually, compared to how I normally would work. Each day we probably would knock out at least four records. It was a very different process. The way Hitmaka works is so different from my approach. But I appreciated it, getting to work around other producers and just a team, a real force behind him. It helped make the project come way quicker.
I know Hitmaka executive-produced the project. How does your approach differ from his?
The way I approach a record or my albums, I am consistently working on the songs as I go. So they never really finish the first night, you know what I mean? With Hitmaka, we kind of bypassed going back and tweaking everything. It was more like however we feel that day, that’s what we are going to write about, and tomorrow it could be something totally different, you know what I mean? We just kept pushing and progressing. If we felt the song was strong then we added our effects and he did his production thing.
You’re versatile when it comes to singing and rapping. How did you find the right mix of both on this project?
I think this project was more geared towards R&B, which was good for me because I think my fans definitely appreciate the R&B side of me. These records are R&B — but I did make sure that I wanted to keep some rap involved so that they didn’t forget I can definitely give them bars if they need them. It was really just about taking my sound somewhere else, whether it was rapping or singing. I knew I wanted to do something fresh. You know, I’ve been making albums for so long. I didn’t want to change my style, but I wanted to enhance it. That’s what made it special for me, because I was trying different things, working with different artists. I normally don’t use too many features. On this album I touch bases with a lot of guys, and I think that was the fun part of it because it was like an experiment, something different I never tried.
Speaking of versatility, “Might Let You” which features Davido is a taste of you doing Afrobeats. How did that record come together?
Yes, that record was so crazy! We actually shot the video maybe four or five days ago. The song came together when Hitmaka pressed play on the beat. The studio went crazy, everybody kind of started bopping and some people started shuffling dance. That’s when I knew I needed this record. A lot of my music is so strong and sometimes dark. I felt good about this one. It was happier, and had a brighter sound. And when we added Davido, I was like, he’s perfect! Shout out to Nigeria. It definitely takes it to the international level, which I was excited about because I love reggae. If you listen to my projects, I will try to throw that in. I dab in it. But this one felt so clean and right. It was just like it was a hit as soon as we played at the studio. It was a vibe. You know, a lot of people don’t know this but I am Nigerian too. So just to work with Davido and just interact with him was a dope experience.
Few artists can make a sex anthem like “FMB.” So I wanted to know from you, what do you think are the elements to have a successful sex anthem?
The key ingredient to a sex anthem is your tone. Like with “FMB,” I took a smoke before I cut that record because I wanted my voice to be raspy. But I think it’s all about the tone and of course the lyrics are fire. Wanted to call it “Fuck Me Back,” but they were like, “Oh, we’re going to leave some mystery to it.” I love those records, though. I try to keep it spicy. So that was a fun one.
Women in hip-hop are having a huge moment right now. How do you feel about the recent success of women in rap?
It feels amazing. I’ve always been a cheerleader for women and young ladies in the industry. Just being a black woman myself, I know the challenges we face and I know just how difficult it can be to stand strong in this male-dominated game. So I have a lot of respect for artists who push through and I really see a lot of women moving on with their own agenda. The tone of music is changing. We speak our minds, the same way the guys are, and touch on topics that maybe 20 years ago nobody would think a woman would say or it was too vulgar. But there’s no limitations anymore. I just enjoy that aspect of it so much. You can literally say whatever you want as a woman, and the guys just have to listen and respect it.
Now that you’ve been independent for a couple of years and Heat of The Moment is out, what’s next?
[The next] Winter’s Diary is in the works. At the top of this year my focus was Winter’s Diary, so I do have records set up for that project. I’m not sure if it’ll be this year or at the top of next year, but there will be another WD for sure. There’s talks about a deluxe [Heat of the Moment], the way my fans are reacting to the project. I want to put together more songs for them. So that should be coming soon. Also, you are going to see my visuals, like my biggest thing this year is showing the elevation with the music and also the look and the vibe. It’s going to be a lot of elevation.