WONDERLAND: It’s 2014 and a relatively unknown artist by the name of Tinashe Jorgenson Kachingwe has released her debut album, Aquarius. Although existing in a previous iteration as a quarter of girlband The Stunners, Aquarius is Tinashe’s first venture as a solo singer. The record is a list of banger after bop, featuring Dev Hynes, Future, Schoolboy Q and A$AP Rocky and garners her comparisons to Aaliyah and Janet Jackson. The likeness is so strong Ms Jackson herself asks Tinashe to rep her at the BET Honours Awards. Nicki Minaj and Katy Perry quickly sign Tinashe up for opening slots at their shows and after enjoying an entrance straight the summit, Tinashe announces that her next record, Joyride is set to come out in 2016.
Fast forward to November 2017 and Tinashe calls me from an undisclosed location, she’s taking a vacation for the holidays. “I had such high high, high, high, high expectations from the beginning,” she admits. Even if time has slipped by you, Tinashe’s fans have certainly clocked the passing of her release date and Joyride is still a no-show. Its eponymous 2016 tour was — would you believe it — cancelled when the LP didn’t materialise. “I was an eternal optimist: there was no one that could tell me it wasn’t going to work or I wasn’t going to achieve my goals,” she explains, injecting a slice of realism into the mystique surrounding her music. “I know now it might be more difficult than it first was.”
Tinashe has never been quiet about wanting to reach the sugary heights of popstars like Britney Spears or Christina Aguilera. “I grew up with all of these pop girls that were such a big inspiration to me,” she says. But the 24-year-old’s perspective has shifted, and she maintains it’s for the better. Blame it on money, blame it on producers, writers or single releases, she still can’t pinpoint a sole reason the record remains unreleased, but the frustration that should be bubbling beneath appears entirely dissolved.
To appease her fans, and perhaps the artist herself, RCA released Tinashe’s gritty mixtape Nightride in the interim. While the tape heralds a downtempo sound, Tinashe promises Joyride will be its grander, more energetic companion. “I like to be able to have different sides of me, and I don’t — as a creative person — like to feel like I’m bound to one particular genre or style,” she explains. Imagine it as the erratic friend you see whenever they roll into town, spontaneous, off-the-radar and unpredictable but undeniably magnetic.
With the exception of Nightride, her bombastic single “Flame” and a few collaborations, Tinashe has mostly remained off radar. That is, until last summer when she began trending on Twitter: an interview with The Guardian featured a section where she discussed discrimination and how it’s affected her as a black musician, something that ignited a slew of backlash. In the story she was quoted saying, “There’s colorism involved in the black community, which is very apparent. It’s about trying to find a balance where I’m a mixed woman, and sometimes I feel like I don’t fully fit into the black community; they don’t fully accept me, even though I see myself as a black woman. That disconnect is confusing sometimes. I am what I am.”
“I think perhaps it was something I was trying to touch on that I don’t think I presented correctly or in the correct context,” she says earnestly. “For that, I’m regretful.” She’s not shy about admitting her mistake, but she does want to use her position to help people. “The only thing that I can do with my platform, voice, ability and privilege is represent things that are important to me to bring people together,” she says. “One issue I’ve advocated for is the lack of black women in music and having people marginalise us — something I’ve felt personally.” Specifically, she wants to see more women engineering and producing records. “I’ve worked with very few female engineers and producers behind the scenes,” she tells me. “That’s why I need to talk about it and advocate for young girls to do it. All I know is what I see.”
While it’s been a series of challenges for Tinashe, she’s never wanted to give up. Not once. “There was a sense of discouragement for a while with the delays,” she offers of her trajectory, “however, I feel like what I’m about to come with is better than ever and because of that I don’t think it will harm my career. It pushed me to be better.” Even now, Joyride has no hard release date, though it’s looking like spring 2018. And while fans and critics may have their doubts, Tinashe maintains confident about the state of the record more than ever. She believes it’s in its final stage. “I don’t think there will be another version — the one right now that is being mixed and created will see the light of day,” she confirms. “Everything is falling into place, even though no one necessarily knows it yet.”
She concedes her fan base has been through the gauntlet with her as she has been working to get Joyride out. “I think it’s easy for people to count you out when there have been several delays in music,” she reasons. “It is such a process to even get music out that it can be frustrating for the fans to relate to the artist — I don’t think they understand the parts that go into the process.” But she believes that once they hear Joyride, the wait will be worth it. With Tinashe embracing the shortcomings that led her to this moment, her humbled perspective might be what brings her back to the forefront once again.
Taken from the Winter 17/18 Issue of Wonderland; out now and available to buy here.