In an era when female artists of all genres surrender to the pressure of the money-hungry, image-obsessed and shallow music industry, 21-year-old Tiara Thomas follows the beat of her own drum–or guitar, rather. Opening for rapper Wale and guest starring on his More About Nothing mixtape, the Indiana native is slowly becoming a recognizable name in the music scene.
Her most significant support comes from her plethora of Youtube videos which feature Thomas not only covering hits by Aaliyah and Drake, but performing her own material as well. The self-taught guitarist’s versatile talents as a rapper, singer and songwriter make her a refreshing, undeniable talent and a future force that will soon invade the realm of popular music.
Sound On Mars had the honor of becoming more acquainted with the future superstar’s background, inspiration, thoughts on the current musical climate and future plans. If you are craving to find a new artist to attach yourself to, look no further.
Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us, Tiara. For those unfamiliar with your work and style, how would you characterize the genre of your music?
I think I’m hip-hop, sometimes I’m R&B, there’s alternative rock stuff I play–but I would have to say, if I had to put myself in a category, it would be neo-soul…more hip-hop because I love the aspect of taking a song that has no rapping in it and throwing a beat box or rap verse on it. So, I would probably say hip-hop.
Who are your biggest musical influences?
I love 90′s music. All of the girls from the decade–Brandy, Monica. I was and still am a huge, huge, huge fan of Aaliyah. And, of course Lauryn Hill–she was obviously popular in the 90′s but that’s when the The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill came out, which is like my favorite album ever. I like 90′s music a lot, especially 90′s R&B.
Yes, that was definitely a great time for music. So, what inspires your music? What do you write about?
I write about real people shit. Things that real people can relate to. If I really had to write a song about getting my hair and nails done, I could do that. But I choose not to. And that may be what more people want to hear me talk about, but I choose to write things that are real, something that someone can relate to.
I also like writing about things that people don’t and won’t normally write about. For instance, I have a song called “Curious” and it’s not even finished, but it’s about a 17-year-old girl in high school who has a boyfriend and is interested in another girl. And it’s true! Girls do that! Girls have boyfriends and fall for other girls. That kind of stuff happens. And, I think it happens a lot more than a lot of people would like to think it does especially with high school girls and teenagers, but it’s something that people can relate to.
Transitioning into a more general topic, what are your thoughts on the current state of the music industry?
I think there are artists who are killing it and doing an amazing job right now. I love Kanye West and of course I love Beyoncé. And then there are some artists and things I hear that I don’t understand. I think people are starting to not want to think. I think the music industry is based off of what people want to hear. I don’t think a lot of people want to hear real, real shit. I don’t want to say the music industry sucks because I still love artists that get a lot of play on the radio but I think it’s a lot different than it was.
And, how does it contrast to the way it was back in the 90′s, for example?
Nowadays, it’s like people have song and they never hear from you again. That’s so crazy to me. It’s like people are getting signed for one song and then they’re done. I think the music industry needs more people that can last. I think the industry could use more creativity–everybody’s stuff is sounding exactly the same. You know, you hear the techno songs or the party songs and they all sound the same. You can’t even tell who’s singing them anymore. The industry could use a lot more diversity and creativity and someone who can last at least 5-10 years.
When you look at someone like Drake and his meteroric rise to fame, it seemed to happen fairly fast. Do you think it is different and more challenging for a new female artist to have this type of rise or is it the same for all new artists?
I think its different because, although there are girls that rap and play the guitar and do it well, you don’t see a lot of 98 lb. black girls rapping, singing, writing and playing the guitar. You don’t see that a lot. In general, I have a lot of sympathy for women coming into the industry. They expect you to be a certain way–they expect you to have a humongous butt, humongous boobs and for you to come out in a bra and panties for people to like you. Looking at how it is for guys, sometimes it makes me mad…like, damn! I wish I was a guy trying to make it in the music industry! That way people wouldn’t look at me like a piece of ass! But I don’t know. I can’t say if it’s harder or easier, but I definitely think it is different.
Speaking more specifically about female rappers, many put pressure on Nicki Minaj as the rapper to resurrect female hip-hop. As a female rapper, do you feel an obligation to help uplift female hip-hop and improve its relevance to the genre?
Definitely. I think a lot of female rap has to do with sex appeal and it depends on what you talk about. It all comes back to what do you want to listen to? Do people want to think? Do people want to hear Lauryn Hill? Something deep or do people want to hear something not-so-deep. It all depends what you want to hear.
But I hope I can change female rap and inspire a lot of other girls to rap. There are a lot of girls in my position who think rap is only for boys. That is not necessarily true. You can make rap you own like I’ve made rap my own. I didn’t want to be the typical female rapper, so I picked up a guitar and decided I was going to rap and sing with it. I hope I inspire other women who rap to be open about it.
Well, it seems your’e making moves toward that goal–you’ve already worked with a popular rapper. Tell us more about how you met Wale and ended up working with him?
That was super, super dope. Seven months ago, I didn’t even know Wale. I ran in to Wale at a club in Atlanta with my friends. Somehow, we made our way to V.I.P. and we bumped into him. Now that I think about it, it seems unbelievable how that happened. From there, everything popped off. I didn’t hear from him in like three months, so I didn’t think he was interested. But one morning, I got a text and he said he was going to fly me out for a meeting and he flew me out a couple of weeks later to New York.
I went to Roc Nation and I met Wale’s manager and Jay-Z’s manager and we got into the studio that same day and recorded “The Cloud” which is on his More About Nothing mixtape. A few weeks later, I asked Wale to let me open for him in New York as a birthday present. Eventually, he made it happen and opened up for him in New York and then another one in Virginia.
How did it feel to be on stage and to take your career to another level?
I was nervous because I was like alright, these people are going to be like ‘who is this girl? We came to see Wale and this girl came on the stage!’ But it’s like as soon as I walked on to the stage, people were screaming my name and knew who I was. Wale had mentioned my name on Twitter so I had gotten a bunch of new followers on Twitter and they were checking me out and knew what I looked like and everything. But they were screaming my name and it was so crazy. It was really dope; both Virginia and New York were really dope.
That sounds amazing. So, are you currently signed to a label or seeking a record deal?
No. With the signing thing right now, I think a lot of people get caught up in being signed. And for me, right this second, it’s not really that big of a deal to me. I rather do shows, get in the studio, get an EP out and get more fans. At the end of the day, I want labels to be fighting to sign me. I want to give people an opportunity to know who I am, to understand who I am and fall in love with me as an artist.
Are you in the process of recording an EP or album?
I’m trying to work on my EP. But with school and everything, I have a lot on my plate. It’s kinda overwhelming because I’m always on the move. I’m always writing music and playing the guitar–every night before I go to bed because it helps me sleep.I have tons and tons of material. So, I’m working on getting my EP out there.
When you finally release your EP or album, what will it say?
Hmm, I don’t know. I feel like saying something inappropriate. Something in your face. Whatever I put out, I’m going to be talking about things that make people go ‘what?’ Just because I don’t care. It’s my music and I’m going to do what I want with it. If people like it, they like it and if people don’t, they don’t have to listen to it. I hope that everyone will love my music though!
Okay. I want to set up a scenario. If you had the opportunity to have your dream collaboration on your first album, who would it be with?
Initially, when I was asked this question, I would say Kanye West. He’s a genius and I want to work with him. I love Kanye West. And then, there’s a new artist who I think is amazing–Miguel (“All I Want Is You”). I would love to get a song with Miguel. And that proves is not about who’s the biggest superstar because not a lot of people know who Miguel is yet. But even if no one knew who he was and I had to get a feature on my CD, I would chose him because he’s amazing.
Lastly, where do you want to be 10 years from now?
I would love to have a Grammy or two. Or three. I would like to find someone like myself, who’s hungry and driven like I am; another young artist trying to make it who has incredible talent that I can help can get out there because I know what it feels like to be a starving artist. I know what it feels like to want it so bad I want to find and sign an artist like that in 10 years. I would also love to have a collaboration with Kanye West and a couple of other dope artists. I just want to take over. I want people to know what I do.
To see more of Tiara’s videos, visit her Youtube page!
…We see a takeover in the near future…..THANKS AGAIN, TIARA!