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tanika, the new aaliyah

At 24 years-old, this Brixton born singer is one of our favourite finds of the year. Seeing her onstage with Naughty Boy in Brixton (she features on his album cover of Daft Punk’s Get Lucky) is like watching a young Aaliyah; tall, lithe and with a voice that belts, this mother of one is bringing a sense of reality to her own brand of "edgy, soulful pop."

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“Some people see I’m in the industry but I still have rent to pay, debts to pay, I still have T-Mobile calling me for the last Blackberry I had,” she laughs holding up the heandset in question. “I’m the girl next door living the dream and working my arse off for it cos even now I’m still an underdog. I still have to prove that I deserve to be here. So I guess I’m just a hustler, trying to share my talent and be the best.” Bad4U, produced by MNEK was a highlight of 2013; a comedy remix of Krept & Konan’s Don’t Waste My Time, with MNEK and Jacob Banks is one of this year’s. Her debut album, featuring everyone from MNEK, MoJam, Faze Miyake, Naughty Boy, Craze + Hoax, and (potentially) Stargate, is due later this year. “I want to put in all the legwork. I really want to build my story and I hope for people to love every song because they love me, not just the song. I want to be appreciated as a person before anything.”

How’s touring with Naughty Boy?
Knowing him as Shahid Khan, he’s one of the best people I’ve ever met. He’s very intelligent and spiritual. That’s why his music has such feeling. He doesn’t make music for radio; he makes it because he feels it. Not everyone works like he does. He starts with the vibe and than brings that into the music.

What song of your own best sums you up?
There’s a performance of a song called Freedom on Youtube. I wrote it about my sister telling me she was into girls. I explain at the beginning, we grew up as Rasta youths and so it was an idea very alien to me. But who am I to judge her on what she wants to do. Freedom; love who you love, as long as you love. I think that it shows my artistry as a person, as a writer. It’s real; there’s no gimmicks to what I do. It was emotional cos she was in the audience, listening to it for the first time.

Are you any good?
Yeah. I’ve worked really hard to be confident to say if I wasn’t me, I’d love me. Would I marry me? Yeah I’m a good person keeping it trill!

What’s your favourite item of clothing?
Since I got these Versus trousers, I’ve been rinsing them. I appreciate the good stuff, but I’ve come from nothing. I grew up with my mum struggling to pay the bills. I’m a High Street girl.

Who’s your style icon?
Rihanna is just naturally turnt up.

Secret crush?
Tinie Tempah. What is there not to like? He is… good food! His aura as well; he’s so well mannered and effortless, his skin is always glowing.

Who are some of your influences?
The Colour Purple, Coming To America, Bob Marley, Mary J Blige, Shania Twain, Etta James, Garnett Silk, Sizzla. I grew up on a lot of those kind of vibes.

What would you buy if money were no object?
A good, good husband.

What’s the worst job you’ve ever had?
Waitressing in a strip club in Watford. I couldn’t concentrate with all the girls clamping their arses together and being in six inch heels and carrying drinks. The first guy I served drinks to, I spilt four down him because there was a girl pussy popping and I couldn’t function properly, I couldn’t focus. I lasted one night.

How do you hope to change the future of music?
It’s just my story. Sometimes it’s great, and sometimes it’s not. Some people have boundaries when they write, but I don’t. I’m not here for the comfortable at all, I’m here to tell my story and be me and disrupt the comfortable, if anything. It’s an album with no A&R ears, or radio ears, it’s what I want to speak about and it’s sung how I want to sing it.

What’s the toughest decision you’ve made?
Leaving my job with no back-up plan and a one and a half year old son to do music. Everyone was like "don't." But I quit my job and hustled it out with a baby by myself.

@iamtanika