Popping Up: Tinashe

Bradley Stern | April 11, 2014 6:30 am

Popping Up is our recurring look at new artists making noise on the music landscape. Because, hey — Madonna and Britney were once unknown, too.

While 21-year-old Tinashe‘s finally making her big solo break in 2014, she’s already been making waves just below the radar for years — first as a member of the girl group The Stunners, then as the independent, moody mixtape-crafting siren who managed to catch the attention of the major labels. Now, after stirring up substantial buzz online, she’s stepping out into the clubs and getting “2 On.”

The moody, DJ Mustard-produced cut, complete with a ferocious visual full of next-level fashions and the kind of powerful choreography that’s been absent from pop as of late, has quickly positioned Tinashe as one of the most exciting acts to pop from the rising crop of pop/alt-R&B starlets.

We asked Tinashe to come in and tell us about her path to solo stardom, as well as what’s still to come. And of course, her mission to turn down “Turnt Up” and turn up “2 On.” (Don’t worry — she’ll explain.) Watch our Popping Up sit-down interview above.

NAME: Tinashe (pronounced tee-NAH-shay)

HOW YOU KNOW HER: The Stunners, her mixtapes and now, her slick, DJ Mustard-produced and SchoolBoy Q-assisted RCA debut, “2 On.”

GIRL POWER: Before Tinashe became a solo star, she was riding along with The Stunners and opening for Justin Bieber on tour. “We were together for about four years and for me, it was one of the best, best learning experiences that I could have…it was a great way for me to get my feet wet in the music industry.”

DIY DIVA: After four years in a girl group, Tinashe took herself out of the equation to pursue her own sound and begin recording in a home studio, along with filming and editing her own music videos to create mixtapes. “I really wanted to give people something solid, something they could really bite into that represented who I was as an artist,” she explains.

SIGNATURE SOUND: R&B? Pop? Alternative? It’s somewhere in between — or beyond: “I have a lot of influences from hip-hop, have a lot of influences from pop and a lot of influences from more alternative types of music. I’d like to combine all of those things and I feel like make a new-ish genre for myself. I don’t really like to be so easy to defined.”

WHAT ARE WE ALL 2 ON ABOUT, ANYWAY? We love to get 2 On — and Tinashe helped us understand what exactly that meant: “We are trying to kill ‘turnt up,’ ‘turned up on life,’ ‘YOLO,’ all that stuff. And we are trying to bring in ‘2 On.’ So basically, it just means super hyped up, super extra out on whatever emotion that it is if you are super, super happy, then you are ‘2 On.'” You got it?

FANCY FOOTWORK: One of the best elements of Tinashe’s “2 On” video is her killer moves, choreographed by the über-talented JaQuel Knight. Inspired by dancing pop legends like Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson and Britney Spears while growing up, Tinashe wanted to bring back the moves to music videos: “I was always super frustrated when people stopped dancing in their videos because I thought that was such a great part of it. I really want to bring that back.”

WHAT’S NEXT: Her debut album Aquarius, is due out later this summer. Why Aquarius? “First of all, obviously it’s my sign. It’s another way just making a statement that this is who I am, this is a piece of work that embodies who Tinashe is,” she reveals. “And then also I think there is a lot of other dimensions that means for me, and I kind of explores more in the music on the album, but I don’t want to give too much away.” The rest is written in the stars.

Get an eyeful of even more pop music coverage, from artist interviews to exclusive performances, on Idolator’s YouTube channel.