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
Writer. Empath. Escapist. Young, gifted, and Black. Shanelle Genai is a proud Southern girl in a serious relationship with celebrity interviews, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and long walks down Sephora aisles. Keep up with her on IG @shanellegenai.
Unapologetically, Chlöe: The R&B Star On Finding Love, Self-Acceptance & Boldly Using Her Voice
On set inside of a mid-city Los Angeles studio, it’s all eyes on Chlöe. She slightly shifts her body against a dark backdrop amidst camera clicks and whirs, giving a seductive pout here, and piercing eye contact there. Her chocolate locs are adorned with a few jewels that she requested to spice up the look, and on her shoulders rests a jeweled piece that she asked to be turned around to better showcase her neck (“I feel a bit old,” she said of the original direction). Her shapely figure is tucked into a strapless bodysuit with a deep v-neck that complements her décolletage.
Though subtle, her quiet wardrobe directives give the air of a woman who’s been here before, and certainly knows what she’s doing. At 24 years young, she’s a “Bossy” chick in training— one who’s politely unapologetic and learning the power of her own voice.
“I'm hesitant sometimes to truly speak my mind and speak up for myself and what I believe,” she later confessed to me a couple of weeks after the photoshoot. “It's always scary for me, but now I'm realizing that I have to, in order to gain respect as a Black woman— a young Black woman— who's still navigating who she is. And you know, I'm realizing that closed mouths don't get fed. And if I keep my mouth shut just because I'm afraid of what people's opinions of me will be or turn into, then that's not any way to live.”
For Chlöe, the journey into womanhood is about embracing who she is, without succumbing to the perceptions of what others think of her. From the waist up she’s everything you’d imagine. A gorgeous goddess with the kind of sex appeal that some work hard to embrace but fail to exude. But unbeknownst to anyone not on set, her bottom half is covered by a white robe, surprising coming from the girl who boasts “'Cause my booty so big, Lord, have mercy” on her first hit single “Have Mercy.”
But that’s the beauty of Chlöe. There’s more to her than meets the eye. More than what a few sensual photos sprinkled throughout an Instagram feed could ever tell you. Just like the photo-framing illusion of her portrayed from the waist up, what we know about the songstress is just the tip of the iceberg. There’s so much more beneath the surface.
Some hours later Chlöe leans back in a high chair as her locs are transformed from a formal updo to a seemingly Basquiat-inspired one. It’s pure art, and at her request, no wigs are a part of the day’s ensemble. She’s fully embracing her natural hair, a decision that wasn’t always a socially accepted one.
In the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia, (Mableton, to be exact) Chlöe began to explore the foundation of her self-image. At an early age she and her younger sister, Halle, demonstrated a vocal prowess and knack for being in front of the camera that caught their parents’ attention. Soon after, they were sent on a parade of local talent shows and auditions, and eventually broke into the digital space with song covers on YouTube.
It was during these early years that Chlöe first learned that the entertainment industry could be unforgiving to those who didn’t fit a particular beauty standard. Despite the then three-year-old snagging a role as the younger version of Beyoncé’s character, Lilly, in Fighting Temptations, casting agents requested that her natural locs be exchanged for more Eurocentric tresses. Ironic, considering that growing up Chlöe saw her hair as no different than that of her peers. “I remember specifically in pre-K we had to do self-portraits and I drew myself with a regular straight ponytail, like how I would put my locs in a ponytail,” she says. “I just never saw myself any different.”
Chlöe would also learn the true meaning of a phrase that would later become an affirmation posted on her bedroom mirror: “Don’t Let the World Dim Your Light.” After attempting to wear wigs to fit in, the Bailey sisters instead chose to rock their locs with pride, which undoubtedly cost them casting roles. Yet they would have the last laugh when making headlines as the “Teen Dreadlocked Duo” who landed a million-dollar contract with Parkwood Entertainment, and the coveted opportunity to be groomed under the tutelage of a world-renowned superstar.
Credit: Derek Blanks
While that could be the end of a beautiful fairytale of self-empowerment, the reality is that it’s just the beginning of the story of her evolution. For most girls, the transition into womanhood takes place in the comfort of their own worlds, often limited to the number of people they allow to have access to them. But for Chlöe, it’s happening in front of millions of critiquing eyes just waiting for an opportunity to either uplift or dissect her through unwarranted commentary.
Many in her position wouldn’t be able to take that kind of pressure. But Chlöe is handling it with grace. “I feel like all of us as humans, we have the right to interpret things how we want,” she says. “I put art out into the world and it's up for interpretation. I'm learning that not everyone is going to always like me and that it's okay.”
Chlöe isn’t the first artist to receive criticism for her carnal content, and she certainly won’t be the last. In 2010, Ciara writhed and rode her way to banishment on BET when the then 24-year-old released her video for “Ride.” In 2006, 25-year-old Beyoncé received backlash for “Déjà Vu."
"I put art out into the world and it's up for interpretation. I'm learning that not everyone is going to always like me and that it's okay.”
So much so that over 5,000 fans signed an online petition demanding that her label re-shoot the video because it was “too sexual.” Even 27-year-old Janet didn’t escape critical headlines when she shed her image of innocence for a more risqué appearance with the 1993 release of janet.
It’s almost as if public reproach is a rite of passage for young Black women R&B singers on the road to stardom. Good girls seemingly “go bad” whenever they embrace the depths of their femininity, and fans only like you on top figuratively. But Chlöe has learned not to bow down to other people’s opinions, but to boss up and control the narrative. As the saying goes, well-behaved women seldom make history. If sex appeal is her weapon, she wields it well.
On set, Chlöe exudes the energy of Aphrodite in an apple red, off-shoulder dress with a sexy high split. In between shots, she mouths the lyrics to Yebba’s “Boomerang” as it echoes throughout the space in steady repetition at my recommendation. The hour grows late, yet Chlöe is heating things up as eyes stare in deep mesmerization of the girl on fire.
Credit: Derek Blanks
Through music, she explores the depths of her being, a journey that seems to be, at its foundation, rooted in self-discovery. Whereas their debut album The Kids Are Alright (2018) boasts a young Chloe x Halle empowering their generation to embrace who they are while finding their place in the world, their second album Ungodly Hour (2020) shows the Bailey sisters shedding the veil of innocence for a more unapologetic bravado.
What fans looked forward to seeing is who Chlöe shows herself to be on her debut solo album In Pieces. In an interview with PEOPLE, she confesses that releasing her first project without her sister was “scary.” "It was a moment of self-doubt where I was like, 'Can I do this without my sister?’”
Chlöe has never been shy about sharing her insecurities or her vulnerabilities, all of which are laced throughout the 14-track album. “I want people to have fun when they listen to it and to just realize that they're not alone and it's okay to be vulnerable and raw and open because none of us are perfect; we're all far from it. And I think it's healing when we all admit to that instead of putting up a facade.”
The gift of time has given the self-professed “big lover girl” more encounters with romance and heartbreak. Love songs once sung for their beautiful riffs and melodies become more than just abstract lyrics and are replaced by real-life experiences, which she tells me is definitely in the music.
In her single “Pray It Away,” for example, she contemplates going to God for healing instead of going at her ex-lover for revenge for his infidelities. “With anything dealing with art, I am completely vulnerable,” she says. “I'm completely myself, I'm completely open and transparent. So it's pretty much all of me and who I am right now.”
Has Chlöe been in love? That still remains to be said. Of course, she’s been linked to a few potential baes, but dating in the digital age isn’t as easy as a double tap or drop of a heart-eyes emoji. It requires a level of trust and vulnerability that’s hard to earn, and easy to mishandle. To let her guard down means to potentially set herself up for disappointment. “It’s difficult dating right now, honestly, because you really have to kind of keep your guard up and pay attention to who's really there for you. And you know, I'm such an affectionate person and I love hard.
"So when I meet the one person that I really, really am into, it's hard for me to see any others and I get attached pretty easily. And you know, I don't know, it's…it's a scary thing.”
Credit: Derek Blanks
“With anything dealing with art, I am completely vulnerable. I'm completely myself, I'm completely open and transparent. So it's pretty much all of me and who I am right now.”
While broken hearts yield good music (queue Adele), what’s in Chlöe’s prayer is the desire to be happy. What does that look like? Well, she’s still figuring that out herself. “Honestly, I'm the type of person who I don't truly learn unless I experience it. So it's like I can view and watch my parents and watch the loving relationships that I see in my life and be like, ‘Oh, I want that. I would love to have that.’ But then I also have to experience [love] on my own and see what my flaws or my faults might be or see what my good things about myself are. I feel like it's really all about self-reflection. And even though our base is our family and that's our foundation, we are still our own individuals and we have to find out specifically the things about ourselves that may be different from what we saw from our parents when we were growing up.”
Her ideal beau, she tells me, is someone she can feel safe to be her fun, goofy self with, but who also gives her the space to be the boss chick chasing her dreams. A man who understands that just because the world compliments her doesn’t mean she doesn’t want to hear those words from his lips or feel it in his touch. A bonus if he shows up on set after a long hard day of work with vegan cinnamon rolls. You know, the basic necessities. “I like whoever I'm with to constantly tell me they love me and that I look beautiful because I do the same. I am a very mushy person, and if I see something or you look good, I will never shy away from saying it out loud. And I want whoever I'm with to do the same, be very vocal. Tell me that you love me. Tell me what you love about me because I'm doing the same for you because that's just the person I am.”
Until she meets her match she’s married to the game, and for now, that seems to be perfect matrimony.
Credit: Derek Blanks
On stage at the 2021 American Music Awards, Chlöe solidified her position as a force to be reckoned with. It was a full-circle moment. In 2012, bright-eyed and baby-faced Chloe and Halle would walk onto the set of The Ellen Degeneres Show and blow the audience away as they bellowed out their future mentor’s song. Ellen would present the sisters with tickets to attend the AMAs, assuring them that they would be back and had a promising future. Nine years later, Chlöe descends from the sky cloaked in a snow-white cape and matching midriff-baring bodysuit for her debut performance. It’s the first time she’s graced the stage of the very award show that she was once an audience member of.
As she shakes and shimmies and boom kack kacks out her eight counts, it’s clear that she’s in her element. Just like her VMA performance a couple of months prior, and the many more stages she’ll continue to grace, she brings an energy that has earned her comparisons to the beloved Queen Bey herself. An honorable statement, considering few R&B songstresses are getting accolades for their entertainment capabilities. It’s on these very stages, in front of hundreds of astonished eyes and millions more glued to their televisions at home, that she tells me she feels most sexy. Powerful, even.
But off stage, it’s a different story.
It’s more than just the commentary about her image and media-flamed rumors that get to her. Mentally, she’s in competition with herself. The desire to be the best burns at the back of her mind with every performance, every production, and every time she steps into the booth. Before, she could share the weight of this burden with her sister. Being a part of a duo meant she could turn to Halle for quiet confirmation and encouragement without a word being exchanged. But lately stepping on the stage means stepping out on her own. And despite being a breathtaking, five-time Grammy-nominated star, Chlöe doesn’t escape the reality that sometimes we can be our own worst critics.
Over the last year, she’s been coming to terms with who she is on her own while overcoming the fear of failing to become who she’s destined to be. While the world waits to see how Chlöe wins, the real triumph is in every day that she chooses herself and continues to walk in her purpose. “I don't really have anything all figured out, honestly. But what I try to do, a lot of prayer. I talk to God more and I just try to do things that calm my mind down and just breathe.”
To whom much is given, much will be required. She’s been chosen to walk this path for a reason. Once she fully embraces that everything she’s meant to be is already inside of her, she’ll be an unstoppable force. “My grandma, Elizabeth, she just passed away and my middle name is her [first] name. So I feel like I truly have a responsibility to live up to her legacy that she's left on this earth. I hope I can do that.”
There’s no doubt that she will. With a role in The Fighting Temptations at three years old, a million-dollar record deal, a main role on five seasons of Grown-ish, five Grammy nominations, a number one solo record in Urban and Rhythmic Radio, a debut solo album, and starring roles in recently released movies Praise Thisand Swarm (just to name a few), Chlöe’s certainly already made her mark, and she’s just getting started.
Photographer & Creative Director: Derek Blanks
Executive Producer: Necole Kane
Co-Executive Producer: EJ Jamele
Producer: Erica Turnbull
Digitech: Chris Keller
DP: Alex Nikishin
Gaffer: Simeon Mihaylov
Photo Assistant: Chris Paschal
2nd Photo Assistant: Tyler Umprey
Features Editor: Kiah McBride
Special Projects: Tyeal Howell
Hair: Malcolm Marquez
Makeup: Yolonda Frederick
Fashion Styling: Ashley Sean Thomas
For More: Cover Story: Issa Rae Comes Full Circle
Ciara Says Russell Wilson 'Speaks Life' Into Her Independence In Response To Recent Backlash Over New Song
Singer and entrepreneur Ciara isn't holding anything back regarding the criticism she's received on social media for her single "For Da Girls" and the infamous dress she wore at the 2023 Vanity Fair Oscar Party.
For context, the reason surrounding the "For Da Girls" controversy, a song that praises women’s independence and self-love, stemmed from many feeling that the message Ciara was promoting could be observed as a contradiction because she is happily married with three children.
As for the sheer metallic ensemble that the 37-year-old wore at the Vanity Fair Oscar Party in March, Ciara faced backlash because some people felt that her dress was inappropriate --especially for a married woman-- despite the fact she went to the event with her husband Denver Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson.
That same month, Ciara addressed the adverse social media reaction during an interview with Essence magazine while attending SXSW in Austin, Texas. In the discussion, the "Goodies" vocalist opened up about her initial intentions for her latest single and how her husband motivates her to be herself.
Ciara on "For Da Girls" Backlash
Ciara revealed that "For Da Girls" is about empowering women, commemorating their independence and ability to tackle anything.
"It's really about female empowerment. It is about celebrating our independence as women and that inner strength that we have and how we're so capable," she said.
When the subject shifted to the track's online scrutiny, the songstress shared that she didn't harbor any bad feelings toward it because she knew the right people would enjoy the song.
"I think those that may not be so confident may feel a certain kind of way, but those that are confident in themselves, especially [regardless of] a male's perspective, know what that is," she stated.
"And they love what that is, and they celebrate what that is, and they support what that is. They uplift what that is in us. So that's like a good bit of my inspiration and where I'm coming from with this record."
Ciara On How Russell Wilson Embraces Her Independence
Later, Ciara disclosed how the negative attention had impacted her marriage. The "Ride" singer expressed that because Russell knew who she was beforehand and "respected" her independence, he continued to speak life into it when they decided to get together.
"The thing that I love about my husband is that he speaks life into my independence. Before I came into his life, he knew who I was. And he's always respected that from day one," she explained.
As the conversation went on, the mom of three shared that she considers being an independent woman a wonderful thing as it attributes to many things such as knowing your worth.
"I think there's something really beautiful about the woman that knows who she is and is confident in who she is. She's fearless. She goes after what she wants," she said. "Even if you're a stay-at-home mom, there's still an independence that you have to make the house go round to make things happen. Or the girl that's out there grinding, trying to get it. I've been that girl since I was a little girl. I mean, I had to do a lot on my own. Whether it was from the vision of the songs I would write, starting with 'Goodies,' or whether it was from running my own label – that's who I am."
Regardless of what anyone thinks, Ciara continues to inspire her millions of followers by unapologetically being herself.
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Feature image by Monica Schipper/Getty Images