Tinashe Didn't Ask To Be A Celebrity, She Was Born One

While other ninth graders were learning algebra and studying Romeo & Juliet, Tinashe Jorgensen Kachingwe — better known as simply Tinashe — was working her way up in the music industry. She knew she didn't need a formal education in order to become a pop-R&B sensation, so she left high school to focus on her career. And now, at 21, Tinashe has a C.V. that would make most artists turn green with envy. A former girl-group member, skilled dancer, with three mixtapes under her belt, producer credits, and a set of pipes that can go from smoldering temptress to riot grrrl aggression like that, Tinashe's a powerhouse.
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She's been training for this moment since the age of four. After joining the short-lived group The Stunners at 14, Tinashe went on to work with Future and Schoolboy Q, while her peers buried their faces in final exams and college applications. Fast forward a few more years, and Tinashe's signed to a major label and started making waves in the underground scene. Her first single "2 On," a dark-corner-of-the-club banger, showcases her unique blend of R&B bedroom jams and pop.
With indie producers like Ryan Hemsworth eating her material up, it's safe to say she's got fame in the bag. Now, with about six weeks left before the release of her first, official LP Aquarius (dropping October 7, 2014), Tinashe's slated for big leagues. Sure, she's a newcomer, but celebrity, it would seem, has been pumping through her veins from day one.
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PHOTOGRAPHED BY ALIYA NAUMOFF.
A ton of critics are saying you’re the next Aliyah, but I don’t like comparisons. So, who is Tinashe?
“Well, the thing about me is that I feel like I have a lot to offer in many different areas. From a performance element, I’ve been training in dance since I was about four years old. I want to bring back an amazing live show. I want people to see great performance on stage and in my music videos, as well. Aside from the performance part, I bring a level of depth to my music that isn’t explored as much in popular R&B. I’m trying to bridge the gap between “artistic-ness” and commerce, I suppose. As an individual? I have a lot to offer. I’m only 21. I’ve really set this whole thing up by myself, creating mixtapes in my bedroom. I want people, especially young girls, to look at me and see that they can go out on a limb, take a chance, and go after their dreams.”

You’re vibe is very much in line with what’s happening with this PBR&B movement. Do you think we’re sick of the old R&B?
“I don’t know. I think the old R&B just kind of went out of style for a minute, and people wanted it to sound a little fresher. R&B has a very specific style. But, the thing that I love about music nowadays is that people are combining genres together. It’s not so black and white anymore. It’s happening across the board. Look at pop music; it’s taking a lot of influence from other things — EDM, as well. Every song nowadays is heavily influenced by other genres. So, I think that’s really what this new wave of R&B is. It is R&B. It’s just heavily influenced by hip-hop, alternative music, and those type of things.”

Nomia belt; not available online.
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PHOTOGRAPHED BY ALIYA NAUMOFF.


You're only 21, but you've said you consider yourself a late bloomer. Why?
“I'm just always in my head. I have super unrealistic expectations for myself. When I was a kid, I planned on being a celebrity at, like, 16. So, when I was still working, turning 18, I always felt like I was behind schedule. But now, I can see that everything was timed perfectly. Everything happened for a reason, and I had to go through the things that I went through in order to prepare for the place that I’m at now.”

What kinds of pressures do you put on yourself to keep yourself motivated?
“I just always want to be the best. That’s my mentality. That always keeps me going forward. I’ve had the same dreams since I was about three years old. I’ve been working in the music business full time since I was about 14. So, the fact that I’ve dedicated all this time and energy, you know, I don’t see any other option.”

How did you fit music in with academics?
“I didn’t. I left school after ninth grade. I wanted to dedicate myself to music.”

What was that like?
“It was the best thing that could have happened because I was able to dedicate 100% of my time and energy to what I wanted to do. I felt like school was such a distraction at the time. I didn’t feel like it was something that was helping me achieve my end goal. So, you know, to skip that step and go into career mode was really important to me.”
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PHOTOGRAPHED BY ALIYA NAUMOFF.
Your first LP is coming out this October. What was it like going from making music in your bedroom to a professional studio?
“I collaborated with a lot of creative people. I’ve worked with a ton of producers and a lot of different artists. Just working with different people as opposed to just doing everything myself was a definite learning process. It’s a slower process, for sure. I’ve been working on it for a year and a half, while the mixed tapes I produced within a month.”

Do you miss the mixtape process?
“Yeah I love sitting in my room and vibing out for, like, a month.”

Is there a theme to this LP? The past three mixtapes each had a definite theme.
"It combines the essence of all my previous work. I’ve stayed true to who I am. Obviously, there’s some progression as I’ve grown as an artist, and I’m influenced by new things and what not. I think my fans will be really happy with it. I think it really embodies who I am and where I am creatively right now.”

And, where is that?
“[Laughs] I don’t know! I’m 21 and doing my thing. You paint that picture.”
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PHOTOGRAPHED BY ALIYA NAUMOFF.
What’s been the most surprising thing that’s come with all of this recognition?
“Honestly, my feelings toward it all are very surprising to me. It’s very surreal and yet very casual. I have a hard time really looking at the big picture because I know that if I had told myself about where I am today a year ago or two years ago, I would be freaking out. I would be like ‘Hooooooly crappppp!’ But, once you’re, like, in it, it’s hard to process.”

Are there any disappointments with all the recognition?
“The biggest thing is all of the haters are coming out of the woodwork. I’ve never really had to deal with negativity before — especially online and in social media. People were really very positive before. And now, all of a sudden, people are getting really mean, and that’s different for me.”

True, but that’s all the more incentive to be all “fuck the haters.”
“Yeah! I mean, obviously, I believe that something is shifting. People are getting nervous or angry, but I suppose it’s better that they’re talking about me in general, whereas last year when no one knew who I was.”

Ruthie Davis Shoes; not available online.
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PHOTOGRAPHED BY ALIYA NAUMOFF.
I was introduced to your music through Ryan Hemsworth’s remix of “Boss.” A lot of your stuff gets remixed in general. Are you okay with that?
“Yeah, I love it!”

Is there a dream person who you would want to remix your stuff?
“I don’t know if I have, like, a dream person. Maybe the Neptunes? Somebody like that would be dope.”

What would be considered selling out for you?
“A totally popped-out album, like Katy Perry pop. Don’t get me wrong, I love Katy Perry. But, for me, I just want to keep a level of depth and artistry to the stuff that I do. I said I want to be known as a pop star, and I want to transition into that world and create records that are universally recognized, but I just want to be able to maintain a balance between that and artistry.”
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PHOTOGRAPHED BY ALIYA NAUMOFF.
You’re from L.A., but are in New York all the time. So, I have to ask: L.A. or NYC?
“L.A. feels like home to me. But, I’ve definitely grown an appreciation for New York. I must admit there is no other city like New York. The energy here is just magical. However, I do like the fact that L.A. is laid back, and it’s chill.”


There are a ton of other young, talented artists out there. Who are you most excited about?
“I’m excited about being a part of this new age of hip-hop. Party Next Door is one of my favorites.”

Federica Moretti hat; not available online.
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PHOTOGRAPHED BY ALIYA NAUMOFF.
What would you say is the best thing that has come out of 2014 as of right now?
“I can’t say that anything has been more influential, or changed my life more, than ‘2 On.’ Ever since that dropped, I’ve been performing shows everywhere. I’ve been traveling the world.”

Any disappointments?
“Not so far. “
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PHOTOGRAPHED BY ALIYA NAUMOFF.
What’s the best advice you’ve been given?
“The best advice I ever received was from Liza Minnelli at Rosa Mexicana in New York. She said ‘Keep your circles small. Have one person that you trust, and then one person that checks up on that person.’”

Excuse me? Liza Minnelli? Tell me everything.
“That’s literally the whole story. I was in Rosa Mexicana, and she came in. I freaked out and said, ‘Hey, Liza Minnelli! I’m Tinashe, nice to meet you! And, she was like, ‘Well, this is my advice!’ We then went into our respective nights.

As one does, after meeting Liza Minnelli.
“Yeah, it was crazy. That was definitely one of my favorite, most random celebrity encounters.”

Sneaker Art by Sara Rabin.

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