Chicago might be the busiest place in hip hop right now. You've got artists like Lupe Fiasco and Common holding it down for conscious heads and backpackers, Chief Keef and all the ‘Lils’ (Durk, Herb, Bibby, Reese) carrying the torch for the Trap-adjacent “Drill” sound and even guys like Chance the Rapper and Vic Mensa creating their own lane.
However, even with all that diversity, it’s still a man’s world in the Chi. In 2015, Tink (who attended the same high school as NBA superstar Derrick Rose) looks to break the male-centric cycle of hip hop in the Windy City.
Before her set at the world famous Palladium in Hollywood, the versatile 19-year-old sat down with BET.com to talk about connecting with Timbaland, being compared to Drake and changing the game for women in hip hop.
BET.com: You’re working with Timbaland, and based on his social media, it looks like he has some lofty expectations of you. How did you two link up?
Tink: He was in L.A. and I have a song with Jeremih, “Don’t Tell Nobody,” produced by Da Internz. They were in a session together and basically [Timbaland] was just asking, “Who’s this chick? She’s dope. Her sound and creativity.” He was impressed and he hit me up. I flew out to L.A. the next day and got going. Music was made just like that.
As a newer artist, talk about what you learned working with someone like him, who’s helped to create megastars?
He taught me a lot. It’s hard to explain the specific creativeness to it because it’s like a producer-to-artist thing. Timbaland, he a legend. He knows music and I trust him. I remember growing up, I used to listen to him and look up to him. Him, Missy Elliott and Aaliyah, so the influence is strong.
And how hands on is he with the day-to-day creative process?
I’ll tell you straight up, he has a beat, he gives me his speech, it’s like a pops-to-daughter speech about the track and what he feels when he hears it, then I go to the next room and I elaborate. I break it down and give it my understanding and my edge. It’s a back and forth. We don’t crowd each other, we just express thoughts and make it.
How influenced are you by the music that’s coming out of Chicago right now?
Recently, it hasn’t influenced my sound a lot. Music in Chicago is dope, but coming up I always knew I was just a little different than everybody around me. My music is a bit different than the Drill sound, but I still give you that same realness and authenticity. It just made me wanna stand out. I want to change the way radio sounds in Chicago and everywhere.
For women in hip hop, it seems like there’s this immediate adversarial dynamic with other female rappers. Is that something you think about now that you’re getting more recognition?
We need work. I’m all about just being real. I want to be the artist for females that’s just like the girl around the way. I think hip hop's a little bit oversaturated right now. There’s so many guys in hip hop and they're accepted for what they do, but with females it’s like there can only be one, so I just want to be that special artist to come and be different and say something other than what other people are nodding to at the moment. There’s a sense of pressure on females to be glamorous and sexy and honestly that’s the reason why society is the way it is. People look at that and think, “I have to look like that in order to be considered somebody,” and it just trickles down and it affects everybody. It makes me wanna step up that much more.
You’ve been called the "Female Drake." Do you consider that flattering or is that something you want to try and shake?
That feels good. Of course everybody says “Be yourself” and "You never want to be the next so-and-so" or "the female so-and-so" but let’s be honest, I applaud greatness and to be mentioned in the same sentence with greatness, it makes you feel good. I’m human.
What should the fans expect from Tink in 2015?
Just be ready. 2015 is going to be a big year. I’ve set goals but all I can say is in 2015 I just want to raise the standard in music. I want to be the shift of hip hop. People can also look out for me. I'll be on the show Empire on Fox. It’s my first acting gig on a TV show. It’s juicy.
How did that come about?
They told me they had an open spot and I came in just like any other casting call. I gave an audition and they called Timbaland the same day. I didn’t know that I had made it but they called him and told him, “She was dope.” I guess I’m a natural.
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(Photo: Tink via Twitter)