“Right now in my career, whoever supports me, supports my music, needs to know that I am a black queer woman and that I am very proud of that. It’s a part of who I am and i’m not going to change.” –Tangina Stone
D – I’ve read in other interviews how open you were about identification and flexibility concerning your art and your influences.
T – Yeah and it’s so true. I never want to say, ‘I’m an R&B artist’ or a ‘pop’ artist. I’m definitely not a pop artist. I never want to say that I’m a specific genre, because that could confine me. I make music that I love. Period. There is no genre for me, there are too many concepts for me to appreciate just one.
D – Though I’m sure you wouldn’t turn down a Grammy for R&B, yeah?
T – (Laughing) No! I definitely wouldn’t! And that’s sort of what I mean, I know there are certainly those elements, certain depths of that in my songs.
D – Let’s talk about roots. Why music? Why that medium? What was the hope that made you pursue it?
T – I’ve always sang, and I started writing my own songs around kindergarten. My paternal grandfather was a musician and he was super into Motown. My mother was really young when she had me at 17, had me grow up watching Lauryn Hill, but her parents listened to Stevie Nicks, Journey, and The Eagles.
At a certain point I realized I wouldn’t be happy doing anything for the rest of my life but music. Music is not just my calling as something that I enjoy. I think people sometimes get their passions and their gifts mixed up. I feel like for me my music is my passion and my gift. I want to change the world, and use music as my platform. It’s what I’m supposed to do, and how I can get others to as well.
D – So you have an interest in philanthropy and community building. Talk to me.
T – Water is something I’ve always been drawn to, I’m happy in places where I’m near a body of water. With the Dakota Access Pipeline, I want to go places to bring clean drinking water to everybody in the world. That’s one of the things that I want to do with money I make from my music; figuring out ways to get involved with different initiatives, or create my own. A lot of celebrities “raise money,” and I just want to give it. If I got it I’ll just give it to people in need.
D – Changing the topic real quick. I know you’re out and open about it. Guess what? Me too!
T – Awesome. Ey!
D – ::Squad::
T – Family!
D – Do you think it is important for fans, family, for record labels reps to know? Do you think it helps to be out and proud?
T – I used to take a different stance, and it has changed drastically over the last couple of years. I wanted people to focus on my music before anything else, but now that I’m out, I’ll always be out. I’m not going back in the closet for anybody, and I honestly believe I don’t have the right to have that kind of neutrality. I don’t have the right to do that anymore, not with the current political climate.
I remember having that conversation a lot with my friends about the rapper Young M. A, because when she blew up we were happy there was a visible black, queer woman in hip hop. It started to sting a little because she’s been called out for her misogyny. It’s hurtful to hear another black, queer woman, who I wanted truly to win, to speak about women in ways men already do.
D – Speaking of identity labels, you say you don’t want to be put into a genre, and you can float freely between them. How do then feel about people saying “she’s a black, gay musician” versus an “R&B musician” as a label?
T – I am a black, gay musician. Those labels I’ll take. …Right now in my career, whoever supports me, supports my music, needs to know that I am a black queer woman and that I am very proud of that. It’s a part of who I am and I’m not going to change.
My mom is a very woke white woman. (Laughs) When people would ask her if she felt bad if her daughter identified as a black woman and her being white as my mother, she’d say “No, that’s her choice, and she can call herself that. Those are her experiences.” And you know, I wasn’t raised the way a white child would be raised, I was raised with a Southern black family. That’s where my values come from.
D – Per politics, I saw on Facebook you posted a photo with your fiancée, model Emani Johnston, with the caption, “Donald Trump may be a homophobe, but love wins and I just released a new record written about the love of my life. Please go listen.” So…how about this election?
T – It’s insane. For me as a black queer woman, I’ve got a lot to lose under a Donald Trump presidency. I have family that voted for him and I try to go back and forth with them until I can’t because it’s never been the job of the oppressed to teach the oppressor. They say you should always meet people where they are, but I don’t want to anymore. I think if anyone has any interest in being an ally come meet me where I am. At this point we shouldn’t have to do more work than we already are.”
D – I want to talk about New York. In other interviews you stated that New York was the destination you wanted to go to. How does the culture of the city that never sleeps affect you, your music, your art, your identity?
T – New York has put me through some of the most terrible things I’ve ever gone through in life. I went through hell and back living here. I came when I was 18 and moved here alone. I was by myself, I didn’t have any financial support, and I didn’t know a single person in the city, but it worked for me. Now, at least, I’m heading in the direction that I want to with my life and my career, but it’s affected me tremendously.
To some degree I feel like I’m in a bubble in New York. Every month you’re at risk of being homeless. You never know what you’ll have. You never know how you’ll get by. In another sense though it’s a liberal city. Being out in the open and being able to hold my partner’s hand here is like a privilege in some ways because when I go to Ohio, it’s a different situation. I feel privileged because as a black queer woman, I get up with people that are like me, but down south, in some city, there’s a black, queer person that has no one to stand or cry with them right now.
D – Are there any favorite venues that you think really support the artist and the indie music scene?
T – My favorite venue that I’ve ever performed at is Joe’s Pub. My favorite place to be that supports artists is C’mon Everybody. They gave my first real residency and it opened the door to other gigs. There’s a lot of amazing venues in New York as well like Baby’s All Right, Knitting Factory, and I’m playing this weekend at National Sawdust.
D – Real quick what are the top three songs you’re listening to right now?
T – “F.U.B.U.” by Solange, “Barbell” by Hodgy, and my favorite, “Dreams” by Fleetwood Mac.
D – How about your top three artist right now?
T – I’ll say Solange, and there’s a new artist that I like a lot, her name is Rayana Jay. She has a really dope record out right now called Sorry About Last Night. I’m also listening to Nao.
D – And three things you’re stoked about in your fridge?
T – (Pulls away from phone asking her fiancée) What am I stoked about in the fridge babe? Pomegranates, seltzer water, and alcoholic eggnog! With bourbon in it.
D –Nice! What do you think was the scariest thing you’ve done in pursuit of a music career thus far?
T – I’ve done a lot of scary shit! The scariest thing I’ve done is quit my job. I had a really good 9-to-5 during college right before I graduated, a gig in a hotel and I was making really great fucking money, and I quit that job because it didn’t give me the flexibility I needed to actually pursue my career. I cashed out all my vacation time and money that I hadn’t used and lived off of it for the next few months. At 21, I risked my stability, risked being homeless, being able to pay bills to pursue my music career.
D – So what’s next?
T – My new album coming out soon! It’s going to be a late February release date and I’m putting every ounce of energy into that exact thing. I’m working with some really great artists, I won’t drop any names right now, but I put them on my list of influences and inspirations!
D – Tell us just one.
T – (Laughs) Hmm just one? Ok, I’m working with Nelly Furtado on stuff, she’s helping me out with a song on my album and I’m super excited about it! I’m putting everything behind this album.