There is no lack of creativity in Tierra Whack’s brand. Her music, style, and delivery are a breath of fresh air in today’s music space, where inspired creativity is all too common. In essence, the Philly born rapper is creating a wave that has everyone on the edges of their seats.
After releasing her first official music video for her song, “Mumbo Jumbo”, it is clear that Ms.Whack is a musical outlier our generation is lucky to posses. We caught up with Tierra for a phone interview days before she was set to open for super-producer Flying Lotus in her hometown of Philly.
Her eager tone made the interview easy and informative. She revealed the meaning of her name, how she approaches the rap game, and that sometimes her friends think she’s too humble.
The major takeaway? If Tierra Whack isn’t on your ‘artist to watch list’ already, she will be very, very soon.
It is said that a lot of creatives develop their musical taste between the ages of 5-11 years-old. What type of music were you listening to and do you think it’s influenced the artist that you are today?
My mother had me hip to Missy Elliot and Buster Rhymes, Outkast and Lauryn Hill, so during that time these people were my idols. Too much of anything you start to soak it in and then it starts to become you. So it definitely influenced me. I started writing poetry very young too and eventually it turned into rap. But, Before I was even born my mom would use pregnancy headphones and I would listen to music in her belly. She said that was how she would get me to move around, kick, and punch, while I was in the womb.
When did you officially start rapping and who was the first person to notice your talent?
At around 13/14 years old I told myself I wanted to put my poetry to a beat. So my mom was the first person to notice my talent.
Since you started so young, did you manifest your success early on or are you surprised by it?
My friends tell me I’m too humble sometimes, but I don’t think you can be too humble. I just think when you work so hard on something and you’re focused on this one goal, there’s no other outcome but success. Starting off so young and sticking to it and not getting off track gave me tunnel vision. I never wavered away from it or took a break. I stayed at it, so I almost expected it because this is what I’ve worked hard for.
How has Philly influenced who you are as an artist and as a person?
Philly is like, grimy *laughs*. It’s everyman for themselves. Coming up, and even still, everybody was trying to do the same thing in the same way. I told myself, I want to do this, but I’m going to make sure I’m different from everybody. If everyone’s wearing red, I want to wear green. If everyone’s going right, I want to go left.
Seeing my older friends and cousins doing battle rap defiantly made me hungry for it. Philly keeps me hungry, this is where I’m born and raised so it keeps me grounded.
What do you think about women being pigeon-holed as a monolith in rap? Does it make you approach the rap game differently?
Technically, no. However, the moment I realized I wanted to rap, I told myself I have to hold my own. In anything I feel like if you want to be successful you have to be just as good or better if you’re doing something that everyone else is doing. So that’s how I approach it.
Do you think your music has changed since you started rapping?
The goal is alway to keep growing and striving. I’m older than I was two years ago, three years ago, four years ago. I’m going through different experiences and learning more lessons in life so I would definitely say yes. It’s grown for the better. When I was younger I was shy, so I was experimenting with my sound and the way I formatted things. As I got older, I got more personal in my records and I started welcoming the changes in my sound. So yes, change has definitely taken place.
I’ve seen you live and your energy is magnetic. You captivate the crowd so much during your sets, it’s surprising that you were shy at one point.
That’s the thing, before every show I get so, so, so, nervous but my favorite thing to do is perform. That’s when I get the chance to release everything. I get to jump around and act like a fool and it’s fun. When I’m in the studio, I’m doing all of that stuff but no one sees that. But when my song comes on and people are watching, I’m just like yo, we gotta have fun. Performing is like an escape. I can relieve stress and just be me.
I feel like nowadays in order to build the following that you have, you have to build a community around your music. I feel like lyrics play a huge part in that. In saying that,what is the source behind your lyrics?
It’s what my mind, body, and soul manifest. It’s a feeling. That feeling turns into a thought and then the thought is put on paper and then I record it. When I hear a beat I like, it’s kind of an out of body experience. It’ll speak to me and then I’m ready to record. You can’t explain it, you only know when you feel it.
So for those who don’t know, what does the ‘Whack’ in Tierra Whack stand for?
It’s actually my last name but no one believes it *laughs*. I was using a nickname when I was younger but as I got older I realized that I’m growing up, I’m doing different things and now it’s time to just come out as me. So I told myself I wanted to use my real name. Since 6th grade, people would call me by my last name. It’s funny because it’s also like a play on words, but it’s my name. It’s on my birth certificate and my social security card *laughs*.
Mumbo Jumbo, the first official visuals you released. Why this song and why now?
I didn’t want to sell myself short or my fans. I had plenty of videos shot but this one just felt like “boom.” So for this one I had to come strong, I felt like I’ve had a lot of trial and error but this one just felt right. I showed my people and they were like “Wow!” So I just had that feeling of, “This is it.”
Well it was definitely worth the wait! So what was the meaning behind it?
Listen, whatever the viewer thinks it is, that’s what it is. That’s what true art and music is about.
So, what can we expect from you in 2018?
Well I’m going to have a birthday and I’ll be touring. I want to see the world so hopefully that happens.