Tameka “Tiny” Cottle-Harris has a full plate. The matriarch of the Harris family — she’s married to rapper T.I., also known as Clifford Harris — is helping her children, specifically Domani and Zonnique (who just dropped her Love Jones EP), tackle their music careers while also plotting an Xscape reunion and preparing for the sixth and final season of VH1’s T.I. and Tiny: The Family Hustle, debuting April 7 at 10 p.m. ET. Last March, she also gave birth to a baby girl, her seventh child.
Beyond her packed schedule, the singer/songwriter — who also helped pen TLC‘s 1999 hit “No Scrubs” alongside fellow Xscape member Kandi Burruss — recently returned to the Billboard Hot 100 after she was credited as a writer for Ed Sheeran‘s “Shape Of You,” alongside Burruss and producer Kevin Briggs. The pop tune has reigned at the top of the charts for the past seven weeks and made headlines when listeners started to notice rhythmic similarities between the song’s pre-chorus (“Boy, let’s not talk too much / Grab on my waist and put that body on me”) and “No Scrubs” (“No, I don’t want no scrubs / A scrub is a guy that can’t get no love from me”).
Following a vacation in Mexico for her daughter Zonnique’s 21st birthday, Tiny hopped on the phone with Billboard to discuss her latest chart achievement, the forthcoming Xscape reunion and why VH1 bingers should tune into the farewell season of The Family Hustle.
How did you find out you were credited as a songwriter on Ed Sheeran’s “Shape Of You”?
Kandi [Burruss] had called me and told me, “You know we might get some credit for the song a guy named Ed Sheeran did,” and I was like, “Oh.” She was like, “It’s a big song.” I didn’t know about the song, so I started listening to the song and honestly I didn’t hear [the similarities] at first. I had to keep listening and keep listening and I was like, “Okay I hear it, I hear it.” It was amazing because I love the song.
What were some of the similarities that you noticed?
The part in his B-section [that goes “Girl, you know I want your love / Your love was handmade for somebody like me”] right before the hook comes in.
What was your reaction to its reign at the top of the Hot 100?
Kandi had to come tell me like, “Yo, it’s number one for seven weeks now,” and I’m like, “What? Really?” It feels great to be back on the charts and having the number one record for seven weeks and not even be a song that I sung. It’s great.
Have you ever heard any of Ed Sheeran’s songs before “Shape Of You?”
To be honest, no. If I have, I didn’t know who the artist was.
You and Kandi were recently on Big Tigger’s show, announcing that Xscape will also be reuniting. What can we expect from that reunion? Is there an album in the works or plans to go on tour?
Right now we’re not really focusing on an album. We’re basically trying to get our business in order first so we can start doing Xscape business and then working on this biopic, because that is really what brought us back together. Now we’re also talking about touring. We have dates and stuff lined up, we’re just trying out figure out what’s the best situation for us to come out with first.
As a business woman, what is the key to juggling all these different endeavors?
Having a great team. You got to have a great team, great people around you, [have a] positive attitude and [be] a hard worker. You got to be ready to work because it’s a lot of work. It’s a lot to put into this. It looks all glamorous but it is a lot of late nights, no sleep. You got to be prepared and ready for that.
On top of being a mother as well.
On top of being a mother, because you got to have that time for your kids and make sure they’re getting everything they need. So it’s all about help. I had a lot of family members that helped me. Having a great support system.
The Family Hustle is returning for its sixth and final season next month on VH1. What do you hope viewers are going to be most excited about when they tune in?
I hope that they see the growth in our family and they could see what we’re going through now. Everybody’s turning into young teenagers or young adults. My oldest [Zonnique] just turned 21 and has her first EP coming out this Friday [March 24]. Domani has his EP out. I want [viewers] to see their growth. Everybody’s growing into young men and young women and we have a new baby. You get to see her personality and who she is. I just hope they enjoy everything we’re doing as a family. I keep thinking where they started and what they’re doing now.
Why do you feel like it was time to close this chapter after the sixth season?
I think that it was just us trying to go in different directions, I know Tip is doing a lot of movies and other things he’s trying to get into, and I have a lot of different projects I’m trying to do along with trying to get my kids out there. I want to focus on them a lot and the things they want to do. Not to say that we can’t do that with the show but I think it’s time to do something different.
You mentioned that your kids are putting out projects and taking on the family business as well. What kind of advice do you tell them as they embark on their musical careers?
To learn the business as you go. Don’t trust anyone to fully do everything that needs to be done because a lot of times, things slack and people don’t do it and it falls back on you. I just want them to learn every aspect of the business and not just be an artist because when I came up, I was 15. You need to know the business so you could maneuver it and know how to make sure your money is straight.