Tinashe Kachingwe- The next big thing?
“I definitely know that things are changing,” Tinashe Kachingwe says, stepping away from a photo shoot to chat with ELLE.com on a recent fall day. “I guess I have a hard time processing everything. It’s pretty surreal.” Yes, it’s been a whirlwind few months for the 21-year-old singer, who performs as Tinashe (pronounced tin-AH-shay). Last week, she released her debut album, Aquarius, a sultry collection of smooth R&B, dance pop, and slinky soul dashed with a contemporary hip-hop edge, which has fans and critics dubbing the impossibly beautiful singer the next big thing in music.
Ask Tinashe if the hype beast has sank its teeth in quite yet, and the singer, who also counts actress, songwriter, record producer, and model to her credit, can only laugh. “It has been such a step-by-step process,” she says of her blossoming career, which has already included a range of projects in the entertainment industry, like a longtime stint on Two and a Half Men and membership in the girl group The Stunners. “It’s never one solitary event that has changed my life. It’s a bunch of little pieces that built and built up to where I am now.”
Where she is now is providing the music industry with a female R&B star that, while embracing pop music, still feels like your indie-loving friend’s best-kept secret. Perhaps it’s the way Tinashe gently manipulates her vocals, sometimes taking her words almost down to a hushed whisper on songs like the Janet Jackson-toasting “How Many Times.” It’s all done in a restrained style that a Beyoncé or Rihanna perhaps could choose to display, but doesn’t, at least not often.
When she talks about her own music, and more specifically her debut full-length album—which features her breakout song, “2 On,” a collaboration with rap-production impresario DJ Mustard—Tinashe finds it difficult to parse out the exact words to describe her style. It seems, she says, to come naturally. “At the beginning I knew the general challenge,” she says of a two-year process to her debut album, that saw her releasing a pair of mixtapes and writing 200 songs for her LP before beginning the painstaking process of narrowing it down to 18 songs. “I didn’t know exactly what the album would sound like or the vibe,” she says. “I didn’t really know where it would go until it was basically at least halfway done. And once I felt like I had at least half of the songs then I really kind of honed in on it and put the pieces together and finished the puzzle.”
“There was a lot of stuff that I had to get rid of that people would probably love to listen to,” she admits of having to throw away over 175 songs. “But to me, I dunno, I just tried to follow my instincts. That’s how I got to the final track listing. It was about being versatile but still feeling cohesive and just trying to get people acquainted with who I am as an artist.”
Incorporating hip-hop into her decidedly R&B sound, Tinashe says, is only natural. “I just love hip-hop and the genre,” she says. “I’m into it. So I like to be able to integrate and mix it with all my music and use influences of it that I like.” It’s no surprise then that of-the-moment rappers like Future, A$AP Rocky, and Schoolboy Q all appear on Aquarius.
“It’s a creative evolution across the board,” she says of preparing for taking her music on the road over the coming months and further refining what her style and signature look will become as her star continues to rise. “Fashion is an extension of expressing who you are,” she concludes. “I love to entertain and put on a show. And that’s definitely a part of that.”