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.
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."
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".
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 Waitis available to stream everywhere NOW. And for more of Tank, keep up with him on Instagram @therealtank.
Featured image by Shutterstock
This was first evident more than a decade ago when she quit her job as the corporate executive of a Fortune 500 company during a Periscope livestream. “I’m not sure if there’s an alignment of [our] future trajectory. I’m going to work for myself. I'm promoting myself to work for myself,” she said at the time before flashing a smile at the viewing audience. As she resigned on camera, a constant stream of encouraging messages floated upwards on the screen.
By 2021, she’d fashioned her work as a corporate consultant and her personal life with her husband and three adopted daughters into a reality show, She’s The Boss, for USA Network. This year, she released the New York Times bestselling memoir Nothing Is Missing, written as she was in the process of getting a divorce and dealing with her eldest daughter’s struggles with substance use.
Convinced that there’s no way the 39-year-old has achieved all of this without intentional strategic planning, I asked her about it when we spoke less than a week before Christmas. I’d seen videos on social media of her working on 2024 planning for other brands, and I wanted to know what that looked like following her own year of success.
She listed a number of goals, including ensuring that the projects she takes on in the new year align with her identity “as a Black woman, as an African woman, as a mother, as someone who has lived a [rebuilding] season and is now trying to live boldly and entirely as themselves.” But, I was shocked by how much of her business planning also prioritized rest.
Despite the bestselling book, a self-titled podcast, and working with numerous corporations, Walters said she’s been taking Fridays off. This year, she doesn’t want to work on Mondays, either.
“A lot of us think we work hard until retirement hits. I want to progress towards retirement,” she said, noting that she’ll check in with herself around March to see how successful this plan has been. The goal, Walters said, is to only be working on Tuesdays and Thursdays by sometime in 2025. “It is intentionally building out what I know I would like to have happen and not waiting for exhaustion to be the trigger of change.”
"A lot of us think we work hard until retirement hits. I want to progress towards retirement... It is intentionally building out what I know I would like to happen and not waiting for exhaustion to be the trigger of change."
Walters said the decision to progressively work less was partially in response to her previously held notions about her career, especially as an entrepreneur. “When I first started, I thought burnout was a part of it,” she said. “What I didn’t realize is that even if you’re able to bounce out of burnout or get back to it, there’s a cumulative impact on your body. If you think of your body as a tree and every time you go through burnout, you are taking a hack out of your trunk, yes, that trunk will heal over, and the tree will continue to grow, but it doesn't mean that you don’t have a weakened stem.”
But, the desire for increased rest was also in response to the major shifts that occurred three years ago when she was experiencing major changes in her family and realized her metaphorical tree was “bending all the way over.”
“One of the things we have to recognize, especially as Black women, is that there is this engrained, societal, systemic notion that our worth is built around our productivity,” she added. “That is some language that I think is just now starting to really get unpacked.” In recent years, there’s been an increased awareness of achieving balance in life, with Tricia Hersey’s “The Nap Ministry” gaining attention based on the idea that rest, especially for Black women, is a form of resistance. Even online phrases such as “soft life” and “quiet quitting” have hinted at a cultural shift in prioritizing leisure over professional ambition.
"One of the things we have to recognize, especially as Black women, is that there is this engrained, societal, systemic notion that our worth is built around our productivity."
If companies are lining up to consult with Walters about their brands and products, then women have been looking to her for guidance on starting over since she invited them to livestream her resignation 12 years ago. As viewers continue to demand more from content creators in the form of intimate, personal details, Walters has navigated her personal brand with a sense of transparency without oversharing the vulnerable details about her life, especially when it comes to her family.
The entrepreneur said she’d been approached to write a book for several years and was initially convinced she was finally ready to write one about business. “I started to do that, and then I went through my divorce. When that happened, I said, why would I write a book telling people to get the life that I have when I’m not sure about the life that I have,” she said.
Instead, she decided to write Nothing Is Missing and provide a closer look at her life, starting with being born to immigrant Ghanaian parents (“You need to know my childhood to know why I’m passionate about entrepreneurship.”) through the adoption of her three daughters and eventual divorce. Despite her desire to share, however, she said she felt protective of the privacy of her family, including her ex-husband.
When discussing this with me, Walters said she was reminded of a lesson she learned from actress Kerry Washington, who released her own memoir, Thicker Than Water, just a week before Walters’ book release. Washington’s memoir grapples with family secrets, too, specifically the fact that she was conceived using a sperm donor and didn’t learn about it until she was already a successful TV star. While Washington reflects on how the decision and subsequent deception impacted her, she’s also careful to hold space for her parents’ experiences, too. “A lot of things she said was that she had to recognize where she was the supporting character and where she was the main character,” Walter said.
This is something Walter worked to do in Nothing Is Missing when discussing her daughter’s struggles with addiction. “I was very intentional about making sure that I did not reveal more than what was required,” she said. “If I say something about someone’s addiction, I don’t need to go into the list of the substances they used, how they used them, what I found. [I don’t need to] walk into a room and paint a picture of what it looked like for people to understand.”
Walters said some of the most vulnerable moments in the book barely made a ripple once it was released. She was extremely nervous to write about getting an abortion, she said. But no one has asked her about this in the months since the book was released. Instead, people have been more interested in quirkier revelations, such as the fact that she once appeared on Wheel of Fortune.
“I have bared my soul about this thing I went through in my youth that has changed me for people, and people are like, ‘So how heavy was the wheel when you spun it?’” she said, chuckling. “It just goes to show that people never worry about the thing that you worry about.”
With the success of Nothing Is Missing, Walters said she still isn’t planning to release a business book at the moment. But, as she navigates parenting a teenager and two adult children while also navigating a relationship with her new fiancé, Walters said she believes she has at least one or two more books to write about her personal journey. “There is sort of an arc of where my life has gone that I know I’ve got something more to say about this that I think is important, relevant and necessary,” she said.
In just three years, Walters’ life has undergone a major transformation. There’s no telling what the next three years will have in store for her, but it seems likely she’ll retain an inspired audience wherever life takes her.
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In the vibrant heart of Atlanta, the dating scene received a stylish upgrade courtesy of the dynamic Dr. Stacii Jae Johnson. I recently witnessed her matchmaker extraordinaire skills live in action at a speed dating soirée with a Mr. & Mrs. Smith twist. This event wasn't just an opportunity for singles to mingle; it also set the stage for Amazon Prime Video's buzzworthy new series coming in Feb 2024, adding a cinematic flair to the evening's potential connections.
Stepping into the world of speed dating for the first time, I couldn't shake the mix of nerves and excitement fueling my anticipation. The idea of meeting new faces in a fast-paced setting felt like the dating version of a rollercoaster ride—thrilling yet slightly nerve-wracking. Little did I know this night would spark a newfound eagerness to dive back into the dating pool.
Navigating the curated world of speed dating under Dr. Stacii's guidance, I found myself captivated by the creative ambiance and Mr. & Mrs. Smith theme. With Amazon Prime Video's collaboration, the evening not only held the promise of potential romance but also stirred anticipation for the upcoming series, creating a unique conversation starter among attendees.
As a 28-year-old navigating the dating landscape, this experience marked a turning point. The allure of speed dating not only melted away my initial reservations but also ignited a sense of hope and curiosity about what the future might hold. The event acted as a stylish nudge, prompting me to embrace the dating adventure with fresh enthusiasm, regardless of my past lack of serious relationship experience.
In an exclusive interview with Dr. Stacii, we delved into the world of dating advice for single Black women navigating the modern dating landscape. Dr. Stacii's wisdom, honed from years of experience, promises to be a beacon for those seeking genuine connections in a world saturated with swipes and fleeting encounters.
“The small talk is amazing. It's a great starter. But what I liked about this speed dating event hosted by myself in partnership with Prime Video for Mr. and Mrs. Smith, it allowed for real conversations to happen and real connections to be made,” emphasized Dr. Stacii.
“One of the things that I even stated was to keep your mind open. That's why we pushed so much with questions that were intriguing and questions that then can open the door to a level of thought that would not probably have been in the conversation with a normal speed dating event.”
Keeping an open mind is key in today’s dating scene. Dr. Stacii and I were able to chat about the struggles of being on dating apps and how social media is starting to alter people's perception of dating, where we should and shouldn’t go on a first date, and what's acceptable and what's not. She also gave some great advice for singles looking to still make meaningful connections, how to approach dating with steps to find out what we really want, and how to articulate that when we're looking to date.
“I think online dating is a great starting place for men and women and, of course, speed dating events like the ones that I host that come with loaded questions that can add to real connection,” Dr. Stacii responded. “Online dating for men and women is an opportunity to connect to more people than we would on a daily because we're all working, some of us taking care of children, and all of us have bills. It’s an opportunity for you to meet people quicker than you would normally.”
For some women who are still working through past traumas from previous relationships or even situationships, Dr. Stacii touched on how they can navigate dating while still healing from these experiences. “All of us were given the blueprints that our parents, caregivers, community, social media, or even trauma gave us. But none of us were really given a blueprint of what works for another individual and what doesn't. Online dating and dating in general is not something where you work through severe trauma, depression, or anxiety that you have over dating. You do that in therapy.”
In the modern dating scene, a lot of women have become comfortable shooting their shot at men they are interested in. I’ve personally slid in a few DMs myself and sometimes try to come up with clever, catchy sayings to really get their attention. Dr. Stacii and I discussed how women can operate in their feminine energy and gave tips on giving signals to men while in public.
Dr. Stacii Jae Johnson
“It's totally OK for a woman to shoot her shot. After you give a man a clear point of entry, you're letting him know that you're interested without a shadow of a doubt. After that, you allow him to receive you and then take the lead. I don't think there's anything wrong with initially sliding in someone's DMs, but women need to make sure to do their research and look thoroughly at the guy to make sure they don't see them involved in any relationship. Also, look at the character of the individual so it’s not just being led by a handsome picture of the guy or a car. These are all things that mean nothing to building healthy, romantic relationships.”
Rejection plays a huge part in the process of dating, and sometimes you have to learn how to “charge it to the game.” Dr. Stacii noted that men often take rejection harder than women. “Sometimes men want to approach but more times than not, they don't because some men are way more sensitive than women to rejection. Sometimes rejection from a woman to a man may be a little bit more harsh.”
It is a common aspect of dating and women who shoot their shot definitely experience it as well as men. Dr. Stacii gave some great tips on how to navigate rejection gracefully and maintain a positive outlook for the next time you want to take a swing at it. “Use dating as an experiment. Even how you shoot your shot. Asking, ‘What did I say that time that maybe didn't get a response or the response that I would have wanted?’ Use each encounter as a way to learn. A lot of times with women, they don't remember that there is a marketability in dating. If you are not acting as the woman who is in the market for the man that you want, then what can you do to get that marketability aspect that may be attractive to him? Make sure your marketability is in alignment with what that type of man would want.”
As I reflect on the whirlwind experiences—the dynamic "Mr. & Mrs. Smith" speed dating event and the insightful conversation with Dr. Stacii—I can't help but feel equipped with valuable insights for the dating landscape in 2024. Dr. Stacii's advice for single Black women navigating modern romance has been both enlightening and empowering, providing a roadmap for personal growth and connection.
Armed with this newfound wisdom and a renewed sense of enthusiasm, I'm looking forward to applying these lessons to my dating journey. Dr. Stacii's book, "Date Girl! 143 Reasons Why I Believe Women Should Date Multiple Men," is now on my must-read list, promising a deeper understanding of the complexities of dating.
As the countdown to February 2nd begins, I'm eagerly anticipating the premiere of the Amazon Prime Video series "Mr. & Mrs. Smith." With its promise of romance and espionage, both on-screen and in real life, I'm ready to embrace the twists and turns that the year holds for me. Here's to a year of growth, connection, and the exciting journey that awaits in the realm of modern romance.
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