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Interview: Tangina Stone

College is her side gig.

Tangina Stone

To be direct with you, I’ve interviewed and talked to many artists in my life —business and otherwise— and I can boldly state that new artist Tangina Stone is true to her Swahili namesake: A gift. When the 23-year-old Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter isn’t working on new material or enjoying life, she’s surely inspiring new listeners to love and be loved. She’s from a small town in Ohio called Canton and moved to The Big Apple when she was 18. Tangina recalls having dreams of moving to New York City below. She’s such an open book so early in her career, and I find it admirable. In our conversation, you’ll learn more about personal relationships, her musical inspirations, family life and more.

“Moving to New York was quite the experience,” Tangina recalls. “I didn’t know anybody. I didn’t know one person in this whole place. First it was really, really scary and intimidating but then, I always planned on coming here since I was a little girl, I always said that I would go to New York. You know how when you’re high school or middle school, you’re a preteen and you tell your mom that you’re going to run away? Well, that was mine. I always said ‘New York, New York, and I never even visited the place. I always knew that I was supposed to be here, even as a kid. I started that really young. and everyone’s like ‘New York? You’re not going to no New York. But I did. I said I would so I made that promise to myself and I got here. So when I first got here, it was scary because I felt like —you know everyone is afraid of that when you come from a small town— and it’s like, I’m going to fall on my face eventually. It’s only a matter of time, and I did. I did a few times but the thing is like, you can always get back up. That’s where ‘The Fall’, the title of my EP comes from.

On the EP

The Fall came from me falling on my face literally and going through all kinds of bs and then, falling so deeply in love. I was in a bad relationship. I didn’t know how to get out, and then afterwards, I got back up and I fell in love again but with someone that was worth me falling in love with. Then, it’s my favourite season because all of these things happened to happen in the Fall. I was lost a lot. It was really hard to understand who I was. My whole life I was an overachieving badass. That’s how one of my teachers described me in high school. That’s exactly what I was. I had awesome grades. I was homecoming queen. Everything predictive in high school. All of the good stuff but then, secretly, I was into parties. I was drinking a little younger than everybody else was. I was just very smart and concealed as well. Secretly, I was bad and I was rowdy but on the other hand, no one else ever saw that. I always saved face. When I came here, I stopped receiving all of the pressure that I was originally from my family to be good. So when I moved here, it was different. I could be bad and it didn’t matter because my family wasn’t here to tell me not to do anything that I was doing. So I could just wild out and do all that I wanted to. So that was part of me figuring out who I was. It was not having anyone to praise me for good things, ‘Oh Tangina, that was a good speech you gave today in class.’ No one could praise me and no one could judge me either. So it was just weird having no one else but myself to do all of those things so it was just interesting. I was really, really lost and depressed but then I started to figure things out about myself that I never knew. Like, little things like spicy food. I didn’t know that I loved those things. Little things like that that I’ve experienced in New York. I figured out all of my weaknesses and all of my strengths. I figured out that I’m the type of person that I could be irresponsible financially. I started hiding things from myself, and then with was music as well. I figured out that I was never able to write a good love song. I was always in a depressed state for one reason or another. If I was going to write a song, it was going to be a sad song. I always wrote sad ones. Stuff that had nothing to do with my life actually. , and then I just started to realize that my music is a derivative of my emotions. It comes from whatever I’m feeling at the time. then, I started writing songs in the voices of other people. I had to stop doing that and getting out of that habit.”

tangina-stone-the-fall-ep-release-artwork

On her name

“When my mom had me, it was just she and I. She’s a single mom. She was very young and she named me Tangina because it means ‘a gift’. It’s personal ownership so it’s not just like ‘a gift’ to the world but she took it as her own gift because it was literally just she and I. That’s my name.”

On “Reasons”

I wrote “Reasons” because I never wrote a good, happy love song. So, I said OK this time I have to do it, and if I’m going to do it, I can’t do it half-ass. I have to do it all the way and make it mushy-gushy. Like I’m rolling in a field of flowers and I have to do it. That’s where it came from.

On “Cops”

Originally, it was a sad song. I’m like you know what, this person does not deserve to make me this sad so I’m going to make it a funny song. I’m going to make it a joke. I’m going to laugh at it.

On how long she’s been making music

‘I’ve been making music for a really, really long time. I actually got my nickname ‘Binabell’ when I was a kid. When I was about three years old because I started playing at that age, and I used to have my own little rendition of Christmas songs and I’d sing ‘Jingle Bells’ but instead I said ‘Binabells’ so that’s why I was named that. I was nicknamed ‘Binabell’ like B-I-N-A. So yeah, I’ve been singing forever. I started recording when I was probably about 12 or 13 in some random person’s made studio at their house, a few blocks away from one of my good friend’s houses. I started recording there. I got more and more experience there, and things started to get better.

On where she’s from

“I’m from Canton, Ohio. That’s my hometown. That’s where I grew up. I was born in Cleveland but I was raised in Canton, Ohio. Canton is a small town —relatively small— probably about 170,000 people live there. So, it’s small in comparison to New York but it’s very unique. Canton is like where football was invented, like where the [Pro] Football Hall of Fame is. So like every year, when all the football players get inducted, they come into our town and stuff. So growing up it was a good place but it’s just now… I mean, it’s in headlines all the time because it’s a dangerous place to live now. Canton, Ohio is like the number two most dangerous small city to live in, in the whole U.S. So it’s a tough place. You know, it’s really interesting to see it just change. You know, when I was a kid, it was safe and, comfortable and nice. As I got older and entered high school, you know, gang violence got crazier. You know, drugs and all kinds of crazy stuff because everyone lost their jobs. You had a lot of steel factories and they were all closed so people weren’t able to make money anymore and started doing it the illegal way.

Sounds like Detroit or Flint

“It sounds like Detroit… Oh, it’s definitely a Detroit situation. Definitely, and that’s the thing a lot of people from Detroit moved over to Ohio. To like Cleveland and to Canton, hoping for things it get better. Same thing happened where we were as well. You know, Detroit were automobile companies. All of our major cities were steel companies, which are there no more. It’s always something crazy there, the things that are happening. Just like last week, two kids I grew up with were killed because they tried to rob a gas station. They tried to rob an old man that’s been working at this gas station for a while. They tried to rob him and he shot back, and they passed away. It’s just crazy stuff like that happening all the time. It’s out of control.

Sorry about that. My condolences.

Thank you.

Tangina Stone

On moving to New York, new love, and recent success

“The first time, whatever that was, it was not healthy,” Tangina speaks of a past relationship. “I think I fell in love with the lifestyle that we were living. We were having fun. I was 18. I had my own apartment. I don’t know why someone let me sign a lease at 18, but they did. I had no cosigner, a job that barely paid. I don’t know but they let me do it. You know, I could party all the time. I was having fun but then, it turned into a really bad situation and the second time, it was in New York and everything just felt right. You know, how someone makes you feel healthy physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually, and that’s what it was for me. She helped me to understand me more by her observations. It helped me. It was healthy. I definitely moved to New York for it [music]. I told my family I was going to college, which I mean, I am in college but music is number one. I couldn’t just pack up and leave and they’re like, ‘Well, what are you going to do?’ I mean, but it really took a long time to get those things in order, the right way. When I first moved here, college did have to be number one for awhile. I had no connections. I didn’t know anybody. It was partying first, then college. It was like, ‘Why not? I’m 19 and I’m in New York. I have to drink underage, you know?’ Just things like that, and now finally… I go to The New School (Eugene Lang and The New School for Jazz as well) and so I love being there and I feel inspired and I’m talking about things that I want to talk about. So it’s all great and beautiful. It’s really interesting. It’s finally that way.

it’s all great and beautiful. It’s really interesting. It’s finally that way.

It takes time.

Yeah, it does and I mean, you think always that you when you do these big moves and make these big moves in your life that you’re just going there and show up think they’re going to go exactly the way you want. In retrospect, I look back and I think: At 18, I wouldn’t have been ready for what’s coming. I wouldn’t have been.

Right. What is your biggest fear, as far as music goes and your personal life? At this point, what is your biggest fear?

My fear is that my music won’t reach someone because they prejudge it. They have a preconceived notion about me and my personal life and that prevents them from listening to the music. You asked me earlier in the conversation, ‘How did it make me feel last night?’ Well, what’s really beautiful about the whole thing is my music is not Hip-Hop at all, and it’s still on Love & Hip-Hop.”

“It’s about Love,” I added and we laughed.

“Yeah exactly. It’s more love, and so what’s interesting is that I’ve been able to witness my music —It’s been something that people who like all styles, all genres have listened to. All the indie artists can ask for is for people to give their music a chance because some people don’t get those chances in life, and that’s all that I ask for. If people don’t like it, I understand it. I don’t like all music so it’s OK but I’ll at least give the music a chance. My biggest fear is that people won’t because they look at my personal life, and me personally and they don’t think that I’m not in line with what they believe and their morals and because of that, they just write me off. That’s what so beautiful about what happened last night is that I felt people from all walks of life, who love all different types of music and some who are watching Love & Hip-Hop for the drama and for the Hip-Hop, and then they said they found my music and reached out to me. That’s just beautiful. I have a couple of people I call my older brothers and sisters who are like mentors to me, and they’re all Gospel singers. Gospel artists, 100%. They support my project and they all shared it, and I was just like: That’s a beautiful thing.

Wow.

Because it’s not everyday that you see hardcore Gospel artists sharing —I’m an open lesbian— I’m open about it, so it’s not like you’d expect to see that very often. They’re sharing my love songs about my partner.

Right.

So, it’s the same fear. It’ll probably always be the same fear but there’s hope behind it at least. I just hope people give it a chance.


Stay tuned for more Tangina Stone via her Facebook and Twitter, and see her live if you can. Most importantly, indie artists can only make it to the next phase of their careers if you support them. Visit Tangina’s iTunes page to order her debut EP, The Fall. She’ll love you for it. *Download “Suntan” Remix for free via MTV.


GrungeCake

Written by Richardine Bartee

Her unprejudiced love for people, the arts, and business have taken her this far. Join Richardine on her journey as she writes history into existence, one article at a time. Richardine is a member of the Recording Academy/GRAMMYs, and a GRAMMY U Mentor. She is part of the Complex Day Ones, an exclusive community to help make the Complex experiences even better.