On paper, Tinashe may come off like a former teen rebel: skipping prom and getting kicked out of her high school musical. And her slinky hit "2 On," a paean to the almighty "turn-up," teases out that narrative. But in reality, the R&B upstart -- who's releasing her debut album Aquarius Oct. 7 on RCA -- was simply too busy taking meetings with Hollywood studios and touring with Justin Bieber to take a smoke break behind the bleachers. "I was really independent, ambitious," says the singer, 21, born Tinashe Kachiogwe. "I was focused at a young age. I always knew where I wanted to go."
And now she's finally arriving. "2 On" picked up steam earlier this year, powered by a smoky beat courtesy of DJ Mustard and a Schoolboy Q verse, eventually peaking at No. 24 on the Billboard Hot 100. Drake crooned sweet nothings on the remix, and he isn't the only big name co-signing Tinashe: Aquarius features Stargate, Mike Will Made It, ASAP Rocky and Dev Hynes.
But the flashing lights don't blind Tinashe. "[People] don't know I've been working for so long," she says. "They don't know I've been signed since 2012. They don't know I've been working on this project since the beginning of 2013. To me, it's like, 'Finally!'"