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A Peek Inside Tank, The Lover

The "Savage" singer on his new EP, what he's learned in love, and just how he keeps his marriage "grown and sexy".

#xoMan

R&B superstar Tank and I have a lot of things in common. Sort of.

We both love R&B.

We're both church kids.

And we both decided to spend some of our time quarantined learning and playing new songs on our piano. Unfortunately for me, that's where the buck stops.

You see I can play, but Tank can PLAY play. And I can arguably sing but Tank can undoubtedly SANG. And those who know, know that there's definitely a difference.

So when the Grammy-nominated artist hopped on the phone to chat with me on a busy afternoon in April about his new EP aptly entitled While You Wait--I was all ears. Each song on the six-track project is composed of strictly keys and vocals. Which is a breath of fresh air in the overly synthesized, auto-tuned-laced music world he's been accustomed to for nearly 20 years. And when I asked him to explain his reasoning as to why he opted not to add a lot of "flare and fizzle" this time around, he admitted to wanting to produce something that spoke to just how close we were all forced to be during this time. "We got everybody home right now: we got the kids; we got mom and dad; it's the grandma. I really wanted something to really add to that connection or just describe it," he tells xoNecole. "And be the soundtrack to it in a sense." A different yet still musically satisfying move for a man who effortlesly oozes all things sex, love, and pain on a pretty regular basis. (Looking at you, "When We".)

We recently got the chance to catch up with the "Savage" singer where we discussed his new EP, what he's learned in love, and just how he keeps his marriage "grown and sexy". Here's what he had to say.

xoNecole: First things first, how are you?

Tank: C'mon now, I'm awesome. You know, it's quarantine time, people are closer, they got to be connected. It's the perfect time for R&B baby! (laughs)

You know what I’m glad you feel that way, let’s talk about it. Your EP, 'While You Wait' is--

Did you like it?

I did, I honestly did. You really stripped it down to the bare bones you know--just piano and vocals. What was your thought process behind deciding to do it that way?

My Elevation EP had so many different colors: turn up, turn down, or turn in--it's got all of that. But I really wanted to dedicate a full piece to everybody because sometimes my music can be a little "not totally for everybody" (laughs). Sometimes my music can be '21-and-older' or maybe '25-and-older', we don't get to unite the entire family under one body of work. So, I really wanted to dedicate something to that.

I can understand that. And you know, you touched on this a little bit ago. But I feel like I can't say the name Tank without also saying the term “R&B”. The two go hand in hand in my mind.

Oh, wow.

And I’m sure a lot of your fans would agree. So for you, what is it about the essence of R&B that makes you keep producing that type of music and the fans coming back to enjoy it? 

I'm a church kid, right? So, it's always been about creating something that feels like something. R&B for me is just that. It's being able to dedicate a melody, a lyric, instrumentation to make moments. When I think about the R&B songs I was raised on, I can connect moments to it, I can connect people to it. There's a feeling that comes on and it comes over me. It's almost like this high, but it's also like a high in a time machine all at the same time. It's like, 'Let's go back to where this feeling was.' And I've always wanted my music to do that. So, that's what keeps me loyal to this.

"When I think about the R&B songs I was raised on, I can connect moments to it, I can connect people to it. There's a feeling that comes on and it comes over me. It's almost like this high, but it's also like a high in a time machine all at the same time. It's like, 'Let's go back to where this feeling was.' And I've always wanted my music to do that."

So normally, this is the part where we like to switch gears a bit and get a little close and a little intimate. Are you up for that?

Well, you know. I mean, this is what I do (laughs). You need to ask yourself that question.

You’re right--let me assess. The answer is yes.

Let's do it.(laughs)

I feel like I also can't say the name Tank without also automatically thinking: grown and sexy. What are some ways you like to keep things grown and sexy in your own marriage?

When it comes to marriage and relationships--and especially in relationships like mine where we've known each other for so long--there are all these conversations about trying to find new and innovative ways to keep the spark going, to keep the fire going. I think a lot of that is creating memorable dates, carving out real time. The thing that I'm continuing to grow in is the thoughtful side of being romantic. Which is something that as men we have to continue to work on. Because we can become disconnected, especially once we get to working. But women are good at staying connected. So for me, the 'grown and sexy' is all about staying connected and me thinking about my woman.

You know if I'm out and about, it's grabbing something and being like, 'Wow, this will be cool for my wife.' That's the type of thing I'm working on and trying to do more of. And carving out that time so that we can get away twice a year and carving out another moment where we can shoot to Vegas for three days. Or shoot to Cabo for three days. Because once you start having kids (laughs), it all gets in the way of being able to take that time with the person you love. And that's the important part of it, right?

"The thing that I'm continuing to grow in is the thoughtful side of being romantic. Which is something that as men we have to continue to work on. Because we can become disconnected, especially once we get to working. But women are good at staying connected. So for me, the 'grown and sexy' is all about staying connected and me thinking about my woman."

Right.

Because nobody wants to do a quickie ALL of the time, you know what I'm saying?

Not all the time.

Exactly. Sometimes you really want to sit there and take that thing apart and properly digest that thing without having to get up and run away.

Well since we’re on the subject kind of, I imagine you have a "Mood Playlist", and I know you know what I mean by that.

I do know what you mean and it's 90's music.

All 90's music?

Yeah, it's mostly 90s. Maybe some early 2000s--but none of my music. I don't need to be listening to myself. I don't do that. Maybe I'll sprinkle in some of the new artists, some H.E.R. Summer Walker's got some nice things out. Bellinger has some nice things, [so does] Sammie. But lovemaking for me is a 90's vibe.

I can get with that. So, if you had to describe Tank the lover in three words and three words only, what would they be?

Mmm. Three words only, OK. Passionate, attentive, aggressive.

I think we all got a little glimpse of all those in “Dirty".

Oh yeah.

So when you think about your relationship 10, 15, 20 years from now, what do you want it to look, feel, or sound like?

I just want it to be--and what I've alway wanted it to be--is really cool and really fun. I just want to laugh and drink tequila. I'm a 'glass half full' kind of guy. And for me, I'm always trying to figure out how to relieve the stresses, which sometimes come naturally. But it becomes more, the more you dwell in it and the more you lay in it. So, I'm always trying to stay stress-free. We are fortunate to live a life where the stresses that our parents grew up with, we don't have those. We've been blessed in a different kind of way. So, sometimes the Universe for balance purposes will try to create things and we have to step back and say, 'You know what, this really aint that important.' So every year, I want to laugh, I want to have fun and I just want to do as much of it as we can together.

What's the biggest difference you've found between Tank at the beginning of your relationship with [your wife] Zena and the Tank now?

I think as men we're always growing and evolving. It's just learning the relationship and learning the person in the relationship. And I think what we continue to grow in is the sacrifice. The idea of putting someone first has to be a choice that you make every single day. And it's not a thing you're going to get right everyday or all the time. In the beginning of what we were and what we were becoming, I didn't totally have that concept or even know what that meant because music for me has always been my first marriage. It was my first love. But then when you start going into the space where you're becoming one with another person, they kind of take precedence over that. So, for me in the beginning, I didn't really have a concept of what that was. And as we've grown and continue to grow, I'm being better about that constantly.

"The idea of putting someone first has to be a choice that you make every single day. And it's not a thing you're going to get right everyday or all the time. In the beginning of what we were and what we were becoming, I didn't totally have that concept or even know what that meant because music for me has always been my first marriage. It was my first love."

Last thing before you go, what do you know now about love that you didn't know before?

I'll say two things: one is that love isn't the maker of anything. Love didn't "make you" do anything. Now, it was a deciding factor in whatever decision you came up with, but love didnt make you do anything. And two, if it's done the right way, love must be and has to be unconditional. I learned that in having kids and having my daughters. My relationships with my daughters aren't perfect, they aren't perfect. I'm not perfect. But they're my daughters. I love them with all of my heart, I don't care what happens between us, my love for them will never change. Period, point blank. And the person you decide to go all the way with, they are now part of that unconditional system. It's not supposed to be perfect, none of us are perfect, by design, we aren't perfect. So, if you walk into it expecting anything other than that you're fooling yourself. You really have to walk into this thing knowing that, there is work ahead and it's going to take understanding without conditions in order for all of this to last.

While You Wait is available to stream everywhere NOW. And for more of Tank, keep up with him on Instagram @therealtank.

Featured image by Shutterstock

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

Featured image by Shutterstock

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