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.
Chief Mom Officer: 23 Quotes From Working Moms Finding Their Balance
The truth is, Black moms create magic every single day. Whether we're juggling motherhood with a busy 9-5, a thriving business, or staying at home to run a household, no day is short of amazing when you're managing life as a mommy. This Mother's Day, xoNecole is giving flowers to CMOs (Chief Mom Officers) in business who exemplify the strength it takes to balance work with motherhood.
We've commissioned these ladies, who are pillars in their respective industries, for tidbits of advice to get you through the best and worst days of mothering. Here, they share their "secret sauce" and advice for other moms trying to find their rhythm.
Emmelie De La Cruz, Chief Strategist at One Day CMO
"My mom friends and I all laugh and agree: Motherhood is the ghettoest thing you will ever do. It's beautiful and hard all at the same time, but one day you will wake up and feel like 'I got this' and you will get the hang of it. After 4 months, I finally felt like I found my footing to keep my kid and myself alive, but it took vulnerability to take off the cape and be honest about the areas that I didn't have it all together. The healing (physically and emotionally) truly does happen in community - whatever and whoever that looks like for you."
Alizè V. Garcia, Director Of Social & Community Impact at Nike
"I would tell a new mom or a prospective mother that they must give themselves grace, understand and remember there is no right way to do this thing and have fun! When I had my daughter three and a half years ago, I was petrified! I truly had no clue about what to do and how I was going to do it. But with time, my confidence grew and I realized quickly that I have all the tools I need to be the mother I want to be."
Nikki Osei-Barrett, Publicist + Co-Founder of The Momference
"There's no balance. I'm dropping sh*t everywhere! However, my secret sauce is pursuing interests and hobbies outside of what's required of me and finding time to workout. Stronger body equals = stronger mind."
Lauren Grove, Chief Experience Architect, The Grant Access, LLC
"I try to give myself grace. That’s my mantra for this phase of motherhood…grace. I won’t be able to get everything done. To have a spotless house. To not lose my cool after an exhausting day. Those things can’t happen all of the time. But I can take a deep breath and know tomorrow is another day and my blessings are more plentiful than my pitfalls."
Rachel Nicks, Founder & CEO of Birth Queen
"You have the answers within you. Don’t compare yourself to others. Curate your life to work for you. Ask for help."
Tanisha Colon-Bibb, Founder + CEO Rebelle Agency + Rebelle Management
"I know love doesn't pay bills but when I am overwhelmed with work or client demands I take a moment to play with my baby and be reminded of the love, energy, science, and Godliness that went into his birth. I am brightened by his smile and laugh. I remember I am someone's parent and not just a work horse. That at the end of the day everything will work out for the good of my sanity and the love within my life."
Christina Brown, Founder of LoveBrownSugar & BabyBrownSugar
"Learning your rhythm as a mom takes time and can be uncomfortable when you’re in a season of overwhelm. Constantly check in with yourself and assess what’s working and what’s not. Get the help you need without feeling guilty or ashamed of needing it."
Mecca Tartt, Executive Director of Startup Runway Foundation
"I want to be the best for myself, my husband, children and company. However, the reality is you can have it all but not at the same time. My secret sauce is outsourcing and realizing that it’s okay to have help in order for me to perform at the highest level."
Jen Hayes Lee, Head Of Marketing at The Bump (The Knot Worldwide)
"My secret sauce is being direct and honest with everyone around me about what I need to be successful in all of my various "jobs". Setting boundaries is one thing, but if you're the only one who knows they exist, your partners at home and on the job can't help you maintain them. I also talk to my kids like adults and let them know why mommy needs to go to this conference or get this massage...they need to build an appreciation for my needs too!"
Whitney Gayle-Benta, Chief Music Officer JKBX
"What helps me push through each day is the motivation to continue by thinking about my son. All my efforts, though exhausting, are to create a wonderful life for him."
Ezinne Okoro, Global Chief Inclusion, Equity, & Diversity Officer at Wunderman Thompson,
"The advice I received that I’ll pass on is, you will continue to figure it out and find your rhythm as your child grows into new stages. Trust your nurturing intuition, parent on your terms, and listen to your child."
Jovian Zayne, CEO of The OnPurpose Movement
"I live by the personal mantra: 'You can’t be your best self by yourself.' My life feels more balanced when I offer the help I can give and ask for the help I need. This might mean outsourcing housecleaning for my home, or hiring additional project management support for my business."
Simona Noce Wright, Co-Founder of District Motherhued and The Momference
"Each season of motherhood (depending on age, grade, workload) requires a different rhythm. With that said, be open to learning, to change, and understand that what worked for one season may not work the other...and that's okay."
Janaye Ingram, Director of Community Partner Programs and Engagement at Airbnb
"My daughter's smile and sweet spirit help me to feel gratitude when I'm overwhelmed. I want her to see a woman who doesn't quit when things get hard."
Codie Elaine Oliver, CEO & Founder of Black Love
"I try to listen to my body and simply take a break. With 3 kids and a business with 10+ team members, I often feel overwhelmed. I remind myself that I deserve grace for everything I'm juggling, I take a walk or have a snack or even head home to see my kids, and then I get back to whatever I need to get done."
Jewel Burks Solomon, Managing Partner at Collab Capital
"Get comfortable with the word ‘no’. Be very clear about your non-negotiables and communicate them to those around you."
Bridget Bogee, Marketing Lead At Meta
"Ask for help and always prioritize making time for you."
Julee Wilson, Executive Director at BeautyUnited and Beauty Editor-at-Large at Cosmopolitan
"Understand you can’t do it alone — and that’s ok. Relinquish the need to control everything. Create a village and lean on them."
Salwa Benyaich, Director Of Pricing and Planning at Premion
"Most days I really try to shut my computer off by 6 pm; there are always exceptions of course when it comes to big deals or larger projects but having this as a baseline allows me to be much more present with my kids. I love the fact that I can either help with homework or be the designated driver to at least one afterschool activity. Work can be draining but there is nothing more emotionally draining than when you feel as though you are missing out on moments with your kids."
Brooke Ellis, Head of Global Marketing & Product Launches at Amazon Music
My calendar, prayer, pilates class at Forma, a good playlist, and oatmilk lattes all help get me through any day.
Courtney Beauzile, Global Director of Client and Business Development at Shearman & Sterling
My husband is a partner who steps in when I just can’t. My mom and my MIL come through whenever and however I need. My kids have many uncles and aunts and they will lend an ear, go over homework, teach life lessons, be a presence or a prayer warrior depending on the day.
Robin Snipes, Chief of Staff at Meta
"Enjoy the time you have to yourself because once kids come those times will be few and far between."
Monique Bivens, CEO & Founder at Brazilian Babes LLC.
"For new moms, it is very important that you get back into a habit or routine of something you use to do before you were pregnant. Consider the actives and things that give you the most joy and make the time to do them."
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Featured image by Westend61/Getty Images
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Tracee Ellis Ross On Why She Declined The Idea Of Someone Else Running Her Hair Company
Actress and entrepreneur Tracee Ellis Ross recently revealed the driving force behind her desire to become the owner of her haircare brand, Pattern.
According to its site, Pattern is a haircare company that provides a wide range of products, from shampoos, conditioners, oils, creams, and many more to individuals with curls, coils, and tight hair textures. Although Pattern would launch in 2019, the idea for the company first came to Ross a decade before --in 2008, when her hit show Girlfriends wrapped-- following a brief encounter at a beauty supply store and many wanting to recreate her past looks.
At the time, those individuals couldn't achieve the exact results because limited natural hair products were offered to the public. That instance became a pivotal moment in the star's life because she spent eleven years experimenting with professionals to create products that best suit those within the natural hair community.
In a May conference with Fortune's MPW Next Gen, Ross opened up about the struggles she faced early on as an entrepreneur trying to get Pattern off the ground and why she declined the offer to have the company be run by someone else.
Tracee On Past Struggles And Why She Chose To Run Her Company
During the discussion, the 50-year-old revealed that she is Pattern's "majority owner" because the company's overall mission to cater to those in the natural hair community was built from her "experiential knowledge."
"I'm a majority owner of my company. [Other celebrities with brands] aren't the founders of the company. Often, they join a company that exists," she said. "The mission [at Pattern] is born out of my experience. It's born out of my own experiential knowledge."
Further in the interview, Ross would add that she avoided partnering with an expert for Pattern because she felt she had gained enough knowledge experimenting with products in her bathroom.
"I didn't want to partner with an expert or a 'professional' because I felt—like so many—I had become my own best expert in my bathroom because the beauty industry was not catering to us," she stated.
Despite refusing to have a partner within her company, Ross found creative ways to build it. It includes paying a chemist with her own money to bring her visions of various products to life, and sending those samples to retail stores, ultimately leading to partnerships.
The final piece that helped Ross during her journey was receiving advice from business partners on ways to improve the brand, one of which came from Ulta Beauty CEO and Footlocker CEO Mary Dillon.
The black-ish star claimed that Dillon helped her realize how she could use her celebrity status and journey to promote Pattern, which she did. Because of that, Patten has now become a favorable haircare brand among many.
Tracee On How She Plans To Use Her Company To Create Opportunities For Others
Toward the end of the discussion, Ross disclosed how she plans to use the power of being Pattern's CEO to help others.
The High Note star explained that being an owner of a company has given her access to be around other CEOs interested in what appears to be becoming more profitable, and with that, she wants to expand that access to other people.
"I know that I have access to sit at a table with a CEO in a way that perhaps another founder doesn't. And when I do that, I make sure that those conversations are not only centered around Pattern," she said. "They're centered around creating and expanding the access for all of us."
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Feature image by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for The Webby Awards