Welcome to The Drop, Refinery29's home for music video premieres. We want to shine the spotlight on women artists whose music inspires, excites, and (literally) moves us. This is where we'll champion their voices.
When TeaMarrr first caught Issa Rae's eye, the singer had already been enjoying a significant amount of success as an indie artist. Her 2018 single "One Job" had granted her viral status on the internet; the song was a tough but catchy takedown of a mediocre boyfriend failing to meet his basic duties "The dick is fire — that's what I signed up for" she rapped on the bouncy track. "But after all this time, you're so damn insecure."
In October 2019, TeaMarrr became the very first musician to be signed to Rae's Raedio, a record label created in conjunction with Atlantic Records. In the months that followed, the Los Angeles singer discovered that the imaginative universe she created through her music was able to come to life in the most spectacular way with the support of a major record label.
The visuals for her newest release under Raedio, the remix to "Kinda Love" (a follow-up to the original song that premiered in 2019), reflect that new limitless creativity. In the rebooted single, which features Rhythm + Flow winner D. Smoke, TeaMarrr paints a picture of a love story gone awry; when her dream man arrives on her front doorstep, the singer quickly realizes that perfection isn't always what it's cracked up to be.
Colourful and picturesque, the video is a warm welcome into TeaMarrr's expansive, ever-evolving world. Here, there are no rules, except where her trademark teacups are concerned; don't ask where she gets them from, don't ask what's inside of them, and don't ever try to drink out of them unless she personally offers you a sip.
Refinery29 spoke to TeaMarrr about the new single, manifesting her dreams, and building both her personal brand as an artist one teacup at a time.
Refinery29: How did you come up with the concept for the original "Kinda Love" music video, and what made you want to continue that storyline of building your ideal man in the visuals for the remix?
TeaMarrr: "I'm really big on things coming from me and having them reflect my ideas, my soul. My team doesn't rush me — they know things take time before coming to me. But I'd always had the idea of 'Kinda Love' having to do with a factory, and the label was down with it immediately. I'm so used to being low budget and indie, so I didn't know if it would happen, but the label made it happen."
"I actually met D. Smoke at the Soul Train Awards. I said 'what's up' to him and was excited to see him SiR perform. Just being friendly and wanting to stay in the loop, I randomly hit him in the DMs and was like, 'Smoke, do you think you could do a verse? I feel like it could be could be really dope!' He hit me back immediately. I sent this long ass paragraph, and he responded in two minutes like, 'Sure, no doubt.' Within a week, I got his verse, and I loved it."
"After that, we got this $10K budget to shoot the video...I trust [director James Bland] with my vision, and he had the idea of continuing the workshop and seeing what it would be like to live with the man I made from scratch. That's where the video came from — being put under pressure and whipping out whatever came to mind. It sounded outrageous, but people were like, 'wait, this could work!'"
As part of your new deal with Raedio, your platform grew exponentially, granting opportunities for you to do great things like tour with SiR on his recent Summer Forever Tour. What's it been like for you to have this bigger stage?
"It's nuts because I've been a fan of SiR since 2014, so for me to be the person who opens up for him on his first tour was unreal. The tour started in my hometown and ended in his, and I even got to go to Europe for the first time ever in my life. It was so magical."
"I actually once tweeted that I was going to work with him, and then I actually got to go on tour with him. I had people coming up to me like, 'oh, you Haitian-Haitian!' But I really do speak things into existence — the words that I speak are the spell. You have to speak magic into your life."
How did you get connected to Issa Rae — what that also a result of manifestation?
"I definitely think I manifested working with Issa, but it was more of a subconscious thing. I've been a fan, and Awkward Black Girl was my actual life and still is. Issa's basically been writing my life story, so it's only right that I work with her."
"There were so many seeds that were planted. When I first made the records, my manager Kareem sent it to James Bland, who used it in his YouTube series Giants that happened to be an Issa Rae production. So it was like I was planting these little bitty seeds without even knowing what would come of them."
"My music videos do kind of remind me of Insecure too, like the colours and the aesthetics. And I've been trying to tell people to find me a role! If I could write myself into the script, I'd probably write a character that's similar to me. It would be cool to have a character that's more or even less dramatic than I am."
"But I would love to act! Music wasn't actually the thing I originally wanted to do — it was acting. That's why I always find a way to act in my videos. You'll never find a video of me just glammed up in the camera doing glamor shots and lip syncing the lyrics. I have too much of a story to tell."
From your music to the videos that accompany them (complete with your many tea and teacup references), your creative imprint is very unique. How important is it for you to have a distinct style as an artist?
"I'm so firm and strong about having a specific image. People might not remember my name all of the time, but if they remember the essence of me, the colour of my hair, the cup in my hands...I want that branding to be consistent, like the number 3 on Chance the Rapper's hat. He was my biggest inspiration, branding-wise, in the very beginning."
"It was easy to create that branding because all I've ever been is myself, and I've never had to change that. I stay true to who I am — and then I make it expensive."
What's the tea on your next projects? I know you'll be performing at this year's Essence Festival of Culture for the very first time this summer, but are you working on new music while you prepare for that stage debut?
"As long as I'm living and breathing, I'm always working on something. I'm working on a smaller project because I want to tell the little story before the big story. We have an album ready, but I need a little more time before I spill my tea, before I give you that wine in my cup."
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.