"You wouldn't think that he would do that -- a rapper puts out a girl anthem. But it's true and it's real. I think that's why people connect with it."
Releasing the self-aware, girl anthem, "Bad," as the debut single off his forthcoming LP, "The Gifted" (June 24, Maybach Music) was a refreshingly unexpected move for Wale. The song cracked the Hot 100 five weeks ago and has been steadily gaining momentum. "Bad" currently sits at No. 28, its highest point yet. The song also features a riveting performance from rising singer Tiara Thomas. Who's Tiara Thomas, you ask?
The 23-year old singer was discovered by the Maybach Music Group rapper. Thomas remembers the fateful night in 2009 that kickstarted her career like it was yesterday. "I was in Atlanta with one of my friends I went to school with; she was my manager at the time. She's like, 'Hey, let's go to Atlanta for spring break, just to go somewhere,' Thomas recalls. "We went and I had a fake ID. I was under 21 at the time and we just wanted to go to the club. So we went to the club and Wale was there. It was like, 'Hey, there's Wale, let's take a picture with him.'"
The Indianapolis native traded contact information with Wale and record label, the Board Administration, and sent along some YouTube clips, hoping to make a lasting impression.
When Wale finally reached out to Thomas three months later, he agreed to fly her and her father out to New York where he was working on his Seinfeld-themed mixtape, "More About Nothing." The two collaborated on the acoustic-tinged track, "The Cloud," which they eventually recorded an official video for.
But Thomas wasn't done. A self-taught guitarist and prolific songwriter, she soon crafted the track that would eventually become "Bad." The inspiration behind "Bad" came from an unexpected source.
"There was this rap song called 'Some Cut' by Trillville. It used to be one of my favorite songs when I was younger. It's really vulgar. I wanted to find a way to cover the song and make it sound pretty," she says. "I started singing the words and then I just freestyled and started singing. I was like, 'Dang, that's tight!"
The track, reworked with different lyrics, was recorded in the bedroom studio of Thomas' friend and, as before, placed on YouTube in hopes of catching Wale's eyes and ears. Once again, it worked: "Wale listened to it, and he really liked it," Thomas remembers. "I remember he texted me when he finished the first verse, he was like, 'Yo I just finished my first verse, is it dope?' He put his verses on and took the song to a whole new level. He made a story out of it. I's like a girl anthem and that's what I like so much about it. You wouldn't think that he would do that -- a rapper puts out a girl anthem. But it's true and it's real. I think that's why people connect with it."
But Thomas isn't planning on limiting herself to guest verses on other people's tracks. Her debut release, a confident, genre-hopping collection of R&B and singer-songwriter-tinged pop music called "Sallie Mae," is due later this year.
"I do write a lot of R&B music (but) I think it exceeds beyond urban. It could crossover into pop. I'm just excited for people to be able to hear the sound. It's a fresh sound; it's not strictly R&B music," she says. Thomas speaks the truth.
- The Juice