Singer Tank Talks The Importance of Authentic R&B, Living In His Purpose, & New Album, SAVAGE
When you think of R&B, it’s almost impossible to not think of Tank and his storied contribution to the culture alone. The vocal king has charted a number of unparalleled classic hits, such as “Maybe I Deserve” and “Please Don’t Go”, indisputably earning him his spot at the crown of the music industry for over two decades now. Since emerging onto the scene, in 2001, with his debut album, Force of Nature, through his dynamic sound, the ‘R&B General’ has successfully cemented an everlasting imprint, album after album. Tank continues to transcend the genre’s barriers, connecting with his audience through musical transparency, while crafting memorable melodies that will forever remain timeless.
Having effortlessly released seven studio albums—all vocally unmatched, Tank is, without a doubt, a peerless powerhouse—known for his creative versatility and soulful sensuality that lies within every lyric. You cannot deny that this man is steadily setting the bar and honorably paving the way for those who follow. He embodies a work ethic that is definitely one to be applauded and utmost respected.
Subsequently to releasing his 2016 Sex Love & Pain follow-up album, the 41-year-old is now back with his eighth release, titled, SAVAGE. The anticipated album is set for September 29th and features eleven tracks, with guest appearances from songstress Candice Boyd, J. Valentine, Ludacris, and Trey Songz. Earlier this year, Tank blew everyone out of the water as he skyrocketed up the charts with the lead single, “When We”, landing at #12 on Billboard’s Adult R&B chart. As you can see, that, of course, was another hit, leaving everyone to anxiously await what was next. He then unveiled the title track off of the album, teasing the listeners, even more, on what was to come. From the looks of it, #TeamTank is certainly in for a lot of ‘savagery’, this time around.
Aside from the music, the Grammy-nominated singer has been building his acting creds. Back in January, he starred in the BET-exclusive New Edition three-part biopic, The New Edition Story, portraying the legendary music executive Jheryl Busby. He also appeared in Bounce TV’s Saints & Sinners.
Currently, Tank is embarking on his 18-city ‘SAVAGE’ tour.
We recently caught up with him to talk all things SAVAGE, his duty to keep real R&B alive, and so much more…
Parlé Mag: I want to hop right into your latest single, “When We”, from your forthcoming SAVAGE album. Seeing the current state of R&B and its lack of authenticity, in what ways do you feel “When We” represents what we needed for the R&B culture?
Tank: Well, here’s what I would say. In terms of what’s needed or what’s missing, those kinds of terms, it just depends on how you look at it. You know what I mean? For a kid who’s fourteen or fifteen, right now—listening to Jacquees, or listening to H.E.R., or Bryson Tiller, he feels like he’s getting R&B because this is his time, this is his era, this is how they’re expressing it. So, if you ask him, “What’s missing from R&B?” He’s going to say, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” You know? It’s subjective.
Parlé Mag: Right.
Tank: But, when you speak to an artist, like me, who’s been doing it for twenty years, and I say, ‘The only thing that’s missing, from when I used to do R&B, is the feeling that was connected to it. See what I’m saying? There was a feeling connected to it, a feeling that made you do something—one way or another. It made you either call a woman and try and fix it or call a woman and figure out what she was doing—if she could come over, turn the song on while things were getting a little intimate. There was a feeling involved that hasn’t carried over, from my day of R&B to this day. For me, I think that my job and my responsibility is to keep the feelings alive, keep the emotions that R&B has been known for—to keep that alive. That’s what “When We” represents. It represents a feeling; it’s a very sexual feeling! It’s a very sexual and aggressive feeling, but, nonetheless, a feeling. The song is going to make you do something to somebody!
Parlé Mag: Oh, indeed! [laughs]
Tank: [laughs] That’s what this song represents, and that’s what the movement is.
Parlé Mag: As I said, “When We” comes prior to the release of your eighth studio album, SAVAGE. So, what was the creative process like, behind crafting a sound that could still showcase your musical growth and versatility but, at the same time, remain true to the ‘Tank sound’?
Tank: I think you said it before I could say it! [laughs] It was about tapping into what’s happening and injecting that thing that I’m known for, keeping that there, as well. The ways we did that was, we’ll get producers like Cardiak, produce that record, and say, ‘Man, I need that fire! You got that young fire. I need it!’ I stay tapped in with the producers and the sound of the sonics. I was a rapper before, so understanding how lyrics and melodies are spun around, I got that magic. From an experience standpoint—which, for me, all music is created off of—oh, I got the experience. Don’t worry about that part! So, just coming up with the concept of music, itself. Like, “When We”, when I heard the music, I said, ‘Oh! Okay! Somebody’s getting torn out the frame on this one!’
Parlé Mag: [laughs]
Tank: ‘This is what this music sounds like! It’s speaking to me!’ You know what I’m saying? I can write about this stuff in a way that it feels like something, but it also caters to the people listening to ‘their R&B’ right now. And, that was the challenge—making some classic, current R&B.
Parlé Mag: Let’s take it back a couple of years to your album, Stronger. After the fall in album sales, you said that that would be your last album. Since then, you’ve released Sex Love & Pain II and, of course, the new album to be released this year. So, what changed from then to now? What made you say, “Okay, I need to get back at it, at least for the people who have genuinely supported me.”
Tank: Well, you know what happened? It was a thing where I said, ‘I’m not going to do ‘this’ anymore. I’m not going to do ‘this’ kind of music, ‘this’ kind of album.’ Sometimes, as an artist, and going on later into your career, you start taking advice, like, “You should do this, and if you do this, the people gon’ love you for that! You should do this and do that!” You know? You get caught up in doing things for people, and when they don’t show up, it’s the ultimate let down.
Parlé Mag: So, would you say that album was something that someone else ‘wanted’ you to do?
Tank: I would say, that album was a collaboration of thoughts—which is not normally the case for me. My album is normally my thoughts, how I feel, where I am, at the time. The producers I want to work with, the lyrics I want to write.
Parlé Mag: Of course.
Tank: My albums are me. That Stronger album was a very collaborative effort, in terms of the thinking and the process going into it. I won’t say it was a bad album; it was a great album. It was great music on that album. Was it music that the Tank fans—the people who know me for Force of Nature, One Man, Sex Love & Pain, ready to hear? Nah. They weren’t. They wanted Tank; they wanted me. So, I said, ‘You know what? That won’t happen again. Don’t worry about that. You don’t want that? I won’t give you that. What I will give you is this Sex Love & Pain II. I will give you Tank, unapologetically. I will give you who you’re looking for.’ And, we saw the difference. So, that’s what that was; it was a frustration in just saying, ‘I’m not going to do that. I’m not going to do this for people. I want to be happy with this, ultimately, and that’s what it’s going to be.’
Parlé Mag: Was there ever a part of you afraid that the result of Stronger would hinder your future projects?
Tank: Nah, I don’t walk into things that way. I always feel like it’s going to work. That’s just my attitude. I’m the ultimate positive thinker. Anybody who knows me would tell you. We could be sitting in the middle of a burning forest, and I would say, ‘Listen, it’s hot right now, but I’m telling you, in about five minutes, the fire is just going to go out.’
Parlé Mag: Definitely a positive thinker!
Tank: “We don’t have any water!” I’d be like, ‘Don’t worry about it. Trust me, the fire is just going to go out.’ [laughs] Just know, before I burned up, I didn’t believe the fire was going to burn me!
Parlé Mag: Well, that’s the way to be!
Parlé Mag: Now, you’ve been in the game for a great amount of time. Would you say that, as an artist who’s stayed consistent and true to his craft, throughout the years, you’ve gotten the recognition that you truly deserve? If not, why do you think that is?
Tank: I’m getting what God has for me. He’s giving me everything that I need and more. You have to look at it from this standpoint. I came in the game as a solo artist. My first album dropped in 2001. There were artists who had bigger records, were selling more albums—everything, more than me, and they can’t buy a record deal. They can’t find a space on Billboard for their single to be played. They can’t find a venue of fifteen hundred, two thousand people to show up and watch them perform. Am I looking for awards or somebody to tell me that I am who I am? No. God shows me, every day. Every day that I wake up and I’m not trying to figure out how to pay my bills, I’m not trying to figure out how to take care of my kids, I’m not trying to figure out when my next show is, when my next album is coming out. I have a partnership; I have a label. My own record company label partners with Atlantic Records. They don’t give that to just anybody who doesn’t deserve it or doesn’t want it. I look at those things for myself; I don’t need anybody to tell me that. I don’t need an award to tell me that. I don’t need nobody to tell me that. I can see that I’m blessed. I can see that—twenty years later, I’m getting bigger, and I’m getting better. I can see it. So, people will come around when they come around.
It’s amazing that people are just discovering me now. “Oh my God, where has he been?” I’ve been right here. But, like I said, in God’s own timing. I’m letting Him do what he does. I just do the work.
Parlé Mag: Amen! So, let’s switch gears a moment. Recently, you received a lot of backlash for performing at D.C. Pride. Being an entertainer, who just wanted to put on a great show for his fans, how did you feel, the day after, seeing so many people bash you for just simply fulfilling the duties of what you were called to do?
Tank: Well, I mean, I didn’t see a lot of that. I saw people try it. Like, in the first half of day. Then, I saw a lot of people come to my defense like I had never seen before. People saying, “Wow. The audacity of you to be mad at Tank for going to perform for his fans.” We’re living in an age where, with everything that’s going on, right now, we need each other. There have been times with barriers and walls up, and segregating people—on this end and that end; we all need each other. Once you understand that, you’ll get out of the way of whatever that is—that judgment that you pass on to other people, in order to feel like you are somebody. Me performing at Pride wasn’t to make a statement. Me performing at Pride was me performing for my fans like I do every weekend. It’s no different. The fact that a male R&B singer hadn’t been to Pride, ever, was disappointing, and I was sad that I was the first.
Parlé Mag: Wow.
Tank: I was sad that I was the first because that says, ‘Man, we have such a long way to go.’ We have yet to understand what true love is. We have yet to understand it.
Parlé Mag: Why do you think people are so critical of R&B singers and the standards of their masculinity?
Tank: I don’t know. I wish I could answer that question, but I don’t have any of those issues. So, I can’t speak to anybody else’s insecurities. You know what I mean? It’s hard for me to understand. I would ask my other male R&B singers, ‘Why wouldn’t you go perform at Pride? What’s the problem?’ I would ask them if I ever get a chance to. ‘What are you scared of? If you’re confident and secure in who you are, what does it matter?’ I think people have this judgment, and this idea about homosexuality that just isn’t true. The truth is that they are human beings. If you really look at humanity, we’re all different. That’s what makes us unique! We’re all different; we all have things about us that make us cool or not cool or make us whatever. Embrace those differences and actually be able to sit down and have a conversation about those differences. That’s the key to life. But, if you never get to that point, then you don’t know what you’re missing out on. You really don’t.
Parlé Mag: To do what you do and to do it as long as you’ve been doing it, that right there deserves the utmost respect. How have you been able to maintain longevity in such a competitive industry that is steadily evolving?
Tank: You just said it! I’m competitive.
Parlé Mag: I see I just answered for you, again! [laughs]
Tank: Yes, I love it! Thank you. [laughs] I’m hearing what’s going on. Drake comes out with a new song, I’m like, ‘What he saying? What he do?’ Chris Brown comes out with a new song, I’m like, ‘What he doing? How he dancing? Let me see them dance moves. What he got?’ Trey comes out with a new song, ‘What he say?’ I’m in it. I’m not so lost in my own self and my own creativity that I don’t keep eye and ear to the street to know what’s bumpin’ and what’s crackin’. That new Cardi B poppin’? ‘Let me hear that. Let me hear what’s going on. What are we doing?’ I’m in it, so having that competitive spirit and, also, having an ear in it and being a player in it, it keeps me connected. It keeps me fresh; it keeps me ready to compete! Also, I’m not afraid to ask for help. If I hear something that’s happening, that I can’t quite figure out, I’ma call a producer who’s doing it, I’ma call the writer who’s writing it. ‘How do we get this? How do we inject Tank into this, into this space, into this activity? How do we do that?’ And, we figure it out. We figure out the science of the music, and then we figure out the business of the music. That’s how it works!
Parlé Mag: The good, the bad, the ugly, we can assume that so much comes with this lifestyle that you’re living, but what would you say has helped you to prevail through it all?
Tank: I don’t know if there is one thing, man. I just believe. I just believe something about my life. I just believe something about my gift. I just believe that I’m supposed to be here. A lot of times, that’s the thing that can take people out of the game—the fact that other people don’t believe in them. Then, they’ll slowly, but surely, stop believing in themselves. You can’t do that to me. You can’t. You can’t make me believe something different about who I am and who God has created me to be. You can’t. I just believe that I’m supposed to be here. I believe that I have a message. I believe that I’m supposed to be providing opportunities, a chance for other people to live out their dreams. I believe that I’m supposed to be inspiring people to continue to sing, write, produce, act, and just live in the height of their gifts. I just believe, and I’m going to continue to believe.
Parlé Mag: I can see that your faith is very strong.
Tank: I mean, yeah, you can call it faith. I think there’s a step past faith, where actions are involved. Faith is the internal thing; faith is probably the mental part and the spiritual part of that process. But, there’s a part where you actually have to get up and do something. Faith without works is dead. That’s what the Bible says, so along with that faith comes this belief. There comes this activity that has to take place, based on your faith and belief. So, you know, we gotta take that a few steps further.
Parlé Mag: Stepping away from the music a bit, you’ve also done quite a bit of acting, including BET’s The New Edition Story, earlier this year. Can we expect any other TV projects from you soon?
Tank: Yeah! We’re working on them. We’re working on some acting stuff, been doing a bunch of auditions, which is super cool. I love auditions; it’s really fun. We’ve been looking at some opportunities that have come up at a few meetings. With this acting thing, I’m new at it. I’m new to the opportunities. People are just now discovering me. I’m at a point where I’m kind of still surprising myself with a lot of the things that are happening. So, I’m waiting to see how a lot of things develop, but we’re, also, creating our own opportunities. We’re writing our own scripts, looking to shoot our own content, as well. You’ll see us on the TV screen or the movie screen, one or the other, but it’ll be soon!
Parlé Mag: Awesome! We can’t wait for that. Moving forward, the SAVAGE tour just began. What are you looking forward to, this time around?
Tank: What I’m most looking forward to is seeing the new acts in these cities perform. Acts all over the country, the cities that we’re going to. That opportunity to be on that SAVAGE stage and show what they’re made of. Giving back in that way, that’s the most important part of this tour. I’m going to be there. People think, “Oh, the artist get there an hour before they perform or two hours late.” No, when those artists get on stage and open, I’ll be there! I’ll be there to see and say, ‘Oh, okay, I hear you! What’s good? You need to work on your footwork.’ Know what I’m saying? I’ll be there to see these young artists do their thing, man. I encourage them to get on stage and kill it. I can’t wait to see it.
Parlé Mag: Any plans to take the tour internationally?
Tank: Yes! We have the first leg of the tour, right now, and then we have a second leg, which will cover, probably, the rest of the US. The third leg will be overseas. SAVAGE is on the move, baby!
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