Tiara Thomas has always known what she wants.
“When I was 12, I said I was gonna win a Grammy,” the singer-songwriter shares in the latest Go Off, Sis spotlight.
This year, the 31-year-old crossed that goal off her list after taking home a Grammy for Song of the Year for “I Can’t Breathe,” a stunning response to last year’s national protests against police violence in the Black community, which she wrote alongside H.E.R.
A vision in a bucket hat and braids, the songwriter’s style is an entire summer mood, with a voice that makes you want to hear more and magnetic energy.
Thomas, who grew up in the church and still cites gospel great Kirk Franklin as her favourite artist — though, don’t get it twisted, she loves to “mix genres” — gives credit to her relationship with music for that vibe. “[Music] just kind of makes you open up and be free and feel comfortable. It is a very freeing feeling, to get all of this energy out to the world,” she shares.
That freedom isn’t always easy to hold on to, especially as a Black woman in the music industry. But after collaborating with Wale on “Bad” (2013), which she wrote in her college dorm room and uploaded to YouTube, Rihanna — yes Rihanna — hopped on the remix and the song became a hit.
“As a fan, I was like ‘Oh no, now Rihanna’s singing the song.' But, that was short lived. Because when I listened to the song, I was like, ‘Wow, she sounds like me...she’s singing it like me... ’ It quickly turned into excitement.” The bump in visibility — and her bank account — wasn’t lost on Thomas.
Fast forward a few years, and Thomas is performing on some of the world’s biggest music stages while sharing her voice. “For the Black and brown community, this is something we’ve been dealing with for years and years and years...we were able to turn it into a piece of art.”
Tune in below to hear more about Tiara’s musical journey, how she's using her voice to find freedom, and what she’s up to for the rest of 2021.