If you stumbled upon Chicago-born Tink’s tracks like Bonnie a couple of years back and felt blissfully transported back to a 90s R&B moment, it’s not without reason. The 19-year-old, who recorded her mixtapes Winter’s Diary 1 & 2 in her basement with her brother and dad, grew up on a diet of SWV, TLC and Jodeci. You can hear it most in her voice, with its smooth, effortless, pillow-talk appeal (she’s also a top notch rapper). Now Tink’s been snapped up by the ultimate 90s R&B producer Timbaland, who flew her down to Miami to produce her first proper album. i-D asked her all about her Kelela collaboration, her dancing days and whether men can be trusted.
So you’re recording with Timbaland!
Yeah, we got introduced this year and he’s producing my album, so it’s been crazy. He was in LA and was talking with Da Internz, a group of producers, and they produced a song called Don’t Tell Nobody. He heard it and he fell in love. Three days later he flew us out to meet him. We’ve been recording in Miami.
Obviously he worked with Aaliyah, so it must feel really flattering for an R&B singer like you.
Yeah it’s motivating. He’s worked with so many legends - Missy and Justin Timberlake too.
What’s it like working with new producers as opposed to your dad and brother?
It’s on the next level. When I work with my Dad and my brother, it’s my thoughts and I was kind of producing myself. Now I have ears helping me and different people giving me different thoughts, so it just makes the music so much better.
A lot of your songs are about sex. Wasn’t that ever weird, recording that with your family, especially since you’re so young?
You know what, it’s actually not. I’ve been writing and recording since I was 12, so my Dad sees it as art. When I was 12 I was writing songs for older people coming through the studio, so I’ve always been more mature than my age. It’s not really awkward – my dad, he understands.
"I like to keep my mistakes. I don’t like to overdo my voice. I’m not Beyoncé, my voice won’t be that, but that’s what I think is so different and genuine about it, because when you hear me, it’s like I’m talking to you in front of your face."
And you need to express yourself fully, not worry about what your parents think! You sing about guys and a lot of the songs are about when things go wrong and your lack of trust in them. What are your thoughts on men?
When I wrote Men, I had to reach back and think about those moments, like when somebody doesn’t feel the way you feel. I was looking at the male species and making a song around them. I don’t trust men for nothing. I don’t trust them at all! Especially in my age bracket. If you’re not over 25, there’s nothing to look at.
It’s an age when everyone’s messing around, basically?
What about working with Kelela, Sasha Go Hard and Fatima Al Qadiri? Do you like working with other women?
I really do. It’s what the game is missing. You see a lot of guys teaming up, but not so many females. Working with Kelela was such a different experience. With the music, I’m more “let’s just do it” and I like to keep mistakes in, so it feels original. But she’s a perfectionist. She likes to get it down to a T and the song turned out so beautiful.
She has a great voice.
Yeah, her voice is so pretty.
What about your own voice?
It really came natural. I sung in school a few days in the week. I like to keep my mistakes. I don’t like to overdo my voice. I’m not Beyoncé, my voice won’t be that, but that’s what I think is so different and genuine about it, because when you hear me, it’s like I’m talking to you in front of your face. It has to be different. Some people just sound like other people.
You’re a great dancer in your videos too.
That’s crazy you asked. I danced growing up. That’s when I first hit the stage – I used to dance in a group.
So with live shows, do you think dancing will be a big part of your act?
Yeah, if you see me, I’m always dancing. I haven’t got into anything choreographed yet. I’m just kind of freestyling and having fun.
Aaliyah’s dancing was so good because she always looked so fluid and real.
Yeah, it kind of just felt like she was going with the flow and I like that too.
So when can we hear the Timbaland music?
I can’t say exactly when, but by the end of the year you’ll start hearing some vibes coming from us. I’m really down to take it as far as we can go with the music, then picking the most precious songs.