It’s not every day that your breakout single is with Young Thug, one of the most influential Atlanta rappers of his time.
“A lot of people slept on that one,” Zonnique Pullins said about her first solo single “Nun For Free,” which dropped in 2015. The melodic strings, Thugger’s unconventional vocals, and Zonnique’s attention-grabbing harmonies were just the start for the soloist.
The R&B singer then put out five additional singles before releasing her first EP Love Jones in 2017. Now, entering the summer season, she’s recently dropped two new tracks “Winner” and “#FTCU” for all of her fans to stream while in quarantine.
Rising up from her days in the all-girl group OMG Girlz, managed by her mother Tiny Harris, Zonnique’s new tracks are making crowds feel like they can take a loss and come back better than ever like she effortlessly conveys in “Winner” or leave them wanting to step in the hottest New Orleans nightclub alongside bounce music staple Big Freedia as she sings through “#FTCU.”
“My fans can learn more about me, about my personal life. With my new music, I’m writing [more] so a lot of things are coming from my personal experiences,” says the T.I. and Tiny: Friends and Family Hustle reality tv star.
Deeply immersed in the music world thanks to her celebrity parents T.I. and Tiny, Zonnique is continuing to branch out to define herself outside of the Hustle and Harris brand. One day hoping to collaborate with Timbaland or The Dream in the studio and Rihanna or Summer Walker in the recording booth, the 24-year-old sat down with BET.com to talk about her quest to define who she is on her own terms.
BET.com: Where do you pull your inspiration from when it comes to writing?
Zonnique: For me, I've always written in diaries as a little girl. I still have all of my diaries and keep a journal now. I write in poetry form on a regular when I just want to write, even if it's something extremely random. I have always had my phone so when I'm out and I just feel away or something happens, I write it down in my notes that are titled ‘Concepts.’ I really don't write them down as concepts but I just write down stuff that I go through and then later when I get in the studio, I'll go in them and go 'oh, I can use this as a concept' and make a whole song out of it.
BET.com: What have your mother and father taught you about the music industry?
Zonnique: Both my parents have just taught me to try to be as on top of your own business as you can, like reading all contracts even if you have to have somebody go over it again. Really just being in tune with what's going on around you so people don't always make the decisions for you and so that you can become your own boss.
BET.com: How have you seen the music industry evolve since starting in the business 16 years ago?
Zonnique: I would say going into it even though my parents never made it seem like it was something easy I think just from looking at people and I guess I would say outside looking in all of it looks so glamorous. I always thought, ‘All I have to do is this and that and I'm going to be Beyoncé.’ It's really not like that at all like, there are so many steps you have to take to get to certain places. There is so much politicking that you don't even know just step into the music industry. My parents learned a lot from the beginning. [And I’ve seen] the difference between my fantasy and the reality of it.
BET.com: What's something that you're looking forward to with your music once the coronavirus pandemic ends? What's something that’s on your music bucket list?
Zonnique: I'm definitely shooting my videos first. That is the main thing that I'm really just wanting to do so bad. We wanted to do it before we even put the music out, but you know, Corona kinda stepped in and now everything has been pushed back. If we’re on lockdown for six more months, we have to think of a quarantine video. I'm so sad about it because I haven't shot a video in so long and that's like my favorite thing to do is to shoot videos.
So, I'm really hoping [the coronavirus crisis] is actually over soon but if not we have to do a quarantine style video. For my project, I definitely want to put it out in the next few months. [The coronavirus pandemic] is really where we're trying to plan around which is so crazy and different, but hopefully, I can put out my project in the next two months or so. Just putting out my body of work is what I would like to do in my next.
BET.com: On a recent episode of Friends & Family Hustle, Monica gave you sound advice on choosing what single to release during your intimate listening session with her, your mother, and Reginae Carter. She said, “It has to be some level of substance in order to sustain.” What is the recipe for a great single?
Zonnique: I would say that it's hard to say because I never had a hit single so I can't really say 'Oh this is a perfect recipe.' But I would just say that's something that immediately sounds like a winner or immediately makes somebody feel a way or they can't get it out of their heads, that is what I look for.
I would think that [a song having] substance like my Auntie Monica said I think is very important, which is why I feel like she wanted me to go with the song where I'm singing more than anything which she had a great point because my singles are usually not my strongest vocal points. I usually want to go with the ones that I feel like everybody's gonna be able to bump in the car. So, I have to try her way [when I release my next song], but definitely just something that [you] can't get out of your head type thing.
BET.com: What is one thing that has surprised you about your craft?
Zonnique: I would definitely say that's my writing because I was not a writer. I never had to really write. It was so new to me to go to the studio and everybody's waiting for me to put something in the booth. I struggled with that a lot [in the] beginning like, even now sometimes like when I work with my boyfriend. I don't work with a lot of people in the studio. I'm still very shy, you know, even though I am not as shy as I used to be, I still have the shy trait. But when I work with my boyfriend, he forces me to get in the booth and sing on his songs and stuff and just to get to work together, which is really good for me. But I'm always kind of second-guessing myself sometimes. I'm just like, 'Y'all like it?' He's like, 'You know, it's good. Like why do you keep asking me that? You know it sounds good. And you know what you are doing is good.'
I think with these singles that I put out, especially having people tell me like, 'Oh, I love this, you're growing, or this is the one.' People just give me so many comments that it makes me realize, I'm actually good at this because I wrote the song. I had a little help from people I was in the studio with, but I wrote most of it. I feel like that was my thing where I was like, ‘Maybe I'm actually good at this.’
BET: How do you want to be defined as an artist as you continue to evolve?
Zonnique: I simply want to be defined as an artist like I really don't care to be famous or anything like that. I just want to put out great bodies of work, that's all I really want to do. I don't like to do anything else. I tell people even if I wasn't an artist, I would like to just create music for other people. I just want to be defined as an artist. Some people define me as a reality TV star and some people define me as T.I. and Tiny's daughter but I would just love to be defined as an artist. Period.
Listen to Zonnique’s latest singles “Winner” and “#FTCU” below:
(Courtesy of Zonnique Pullins)