Rising R&B Star Tinashe: 'I Don't See Myself as an Urban Niche Act'
Tinashe is an admitted member of the more-is-more school of thought: "I grew up in the era of steady content, every day, all day," says the 22-year-old, calling in from her tour with Nicki Minaj days after playing Billboard tracks off her upcoming sophomore LP in a downtown Manhattan studio. "Days off drive me crazy -- I just sit around and I think about all the shit I could be doing."
In four prolific years since leaving both an acting career and girl group The Stunners behind in 2011, Tinashe released three alt-R&B mixtapes; 2014 debut studio album Aquarius (featuring her DJ Mustard-produced "2 On" with Schoolboy Q, which hit No. 5 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart); and her free Amethyst EP in March. Now, less than a year after Aquarius, while opening for Nicki Minaj and prepping for a run supporting Katy Perry, she has found time to record 30 tracks for her new, as-yet-untitled album, tentatively scheduled for November on RCA.
The Los Angeles-raised singer-dancer, born Tinashe Jorgenson Kachingwe, is known for a mix of hard-edged club tracks like "2 On" and ethereal alt-R&B, frequently self-produced in her bedroom studio. But for her new album, Tinashe worked with megawatt pop producers like Dr. Luke and Max Martin for a bigger and brighter sound. "I don't see myself as an urban niche act," she says. "I want to have mainstream success that doesn't feel forced or label-made."
Tinashe's new music plays across genres, going dance-pop on Martin's "Player"; ratchet on "Joyride," produced by Hit-Boy and Travis Scott; and hip-hop on substance-praising anthem "Party Favors," by Boi-1da. Joel Compass (FKA Twigs) assists on the sensual "Fire and Flames," while Nic Nac (Chris Brown, Tyga) and indie fave Dev Hynes follow up their smoldering Aquarius contributions. Now all Tinashe needs, she says, is for RCA to catch up to her work ethic.
"There's politics involved in everything. It's about them getting it together to master my schedule. The old rules of 'we need to work this album for the next two years' don't apply anymore."
Listen to music from Tinashe, as well as more artists from this issue, in the Spotify playlist below:
This story originally appeared in the Sept. 5 issue of Billboard.