Tinashe wants record labels to do more to support their Black artists in meaningful ways. The R&B singer, who became an independent artist at the top of this year, has often spoken up throughout the years about the lack of support she felt while on RCA’s roster as an artist who straddled the lines between R&B singer and pop.
In a new interview with Rolling Stone, Tinashe opened up about her experience in the industry and pointed out the differential treatment that artists who make music traditionally considered R&B receive in comparison to their pop counterparts. Though she acknowledged some of the steps label’s have already taken, Tinashe felt that the concept of music being distinguished by genre should be done away with.
“I think it can be fixed, but I’m going to go as far as to say we need to abolish genres in general. I think that the way that many of them came to be and have continued to progress is very much so based on race and the segregation of music based on race,” she noted. “By putting artists either in an urban category or an R&B category or rap category, a hip-hop — these really general umbrellas that we use to define different genres — it creates a huge sense of isolation for the creative when they’re trying to experiment, especially for creatives that don’t necessarily feel like they fall into one of the genres, which was my experience.”
Even though she dabbled in a myriad of music genres, the “2 On” songstress felt that she was pigeon-holed into being an R&B artist. Part of that had to do with the fact that record labels are segregated by genre, which correlated to how pop acts received more promotional support than artists considered urban.
“When I first came on the scene, I felt a real aversion to being labeled as like a new R&B girl,” Tinashe shared. “Not because I didn’t love R&B, but because I could see, especially within my own label, how different the team operated that was marketing [and] pushing the urban department at the company, and how it was not the same department that was pushing the pop acts.”
She continued, “It really didn’t make sense to me when I felt like I would put myself into a genre that had a feeling, and felt limited in terms of budget. Or they were literally on a different floor of the building and didn’t communicate with each other. It was never like, we’ll work together to promote a song or an artist. It was this team or that team. That’s really dangerous for somebody who kind of falls in between in the middle, like me, for example. And I’m sure there are many other artists. Like, I was lucky that they at least tried and, you know, attempted to make it work. But it was really deep-rooted, how the companies are set up to operate almost separately, independently of one another.”
Tinashe also spoke on the music industry’s latest efforts to get rid of the antiquated term “urban,” which has long drawn criticism. Earlier this year, amid nationwide protests over the police killing of Houston native George Floyd, various entities within entertainment announced the change. Most notably, the Recording Academy made changes to the titles for awards categories. Nonetheless, the 27-year-old feels that issues regarding the differential treatment of Black artists are a lot more “deeply-rooted” than a simple title change.
“Changing the name from, like, urban contemporary to R&B or whatever is just like a new title for the same issue. It doesn’t get rid of the problem of categorizing people and putting them into places where there’s just less promotion, less mainstream f***ing respect,” she said. “It’s deep. Across the board, it’s not just from the labels, it’s also the radio stations. What they choose to put [out], people who book live performances, award shows. Those things all play a huge part in what makes artists really mainstream and successful, and to not have the same amount of exposure and support in those areas is really detrimental.”
(Photo: Tommaso Boddi/Getty Images for Republic Records)