The tea is that TeaMarrr is about to take over. The first artist signed to Issa Rae’s label talks EXCLUSIVELY with us about that ‘beautiful’ partnership, her new song, ‘Kinda Love,’ and why nothing she does is ever ‘willy nilly.’
No matter what the hour reads, it’s teatime, because TeaMarrr has arrived. Emerging in 2016 and breaking through the next year with her powerful track, “One Job,” TeaMarrr has won the hearts and minds of millions of fans – including Issa Rae. The Insecure creator and star picked TeaMarrr to be the first artist signed to Raedio, Issa’s joint music venture with Atlantic Records. They commemorate the partnership, TeaMarrr poured a warm cup of audio delight for all her fans by dropping her new song, “Kinda Love,” on Oct. 18. The track, which has already been christened TeaMarrr’s “arrival,” is a dreamy blend of TeaMarrr’s modern edge with nineties-style throwback production.
The song, as TeaMarrr said during her EXCLUSIVE interview with HollywoodLife, is about finding a “less toxic love, just wanting that. Usually, girls and guys are obsessed with that, “Oh, I can’t sleep, babe. Or I miss you. I can’t eat without you. I can’t breathe without you” [type of love.] And like this song is anti that, very much so anti that. And the video is like, ‘You know what? F*ck it. I want to make that [kind of love.]”
“It’s definitely a love song,” TeaMarrr tells HollywoodLife. “It calls for a lover, but it’s like, ‘I don’t want that kind of love. I want this kind of love.’ And the video plays on that a lot. I think it’s cool because we’re objectifying men the way they do us women, and it’s going to be hilarious. There’s a comedic take to all of it, and I’m excited to share that with everybody.”
The video for “Kinda Love,” directed by child, builds on TeaMarrr’s visual aesthetic, a compositional voice established in her videos for “The One” and “One Job.” Much like those videos, “Nice Job” incorporates raw, honest emotion and weaves in a fantastical element. Be it a touch of magical realism, or a dash of science fiction, there’s something very cinematic to TeaMarrr’s videos, which makes sense. “I wanted to be an actress, an actor, before I began my music career,” says TeaMarrr. “That was my way to kind of do acting and then get into music. But it came the other way. And I’m deeply grateful for it because it’s like one of my favorite actors is starting my music label. So now I’m going to be able to sing and act. It’s unreal.”
“I was doing video editing — not film per se, but I was editing. I wanted to be a YouTuber so bad,” says TeaMarrr. “Every time I got my heart broken, instead of writing a song, I would talk about it for months to my camera like, ‘This n—- did this.’ And I would sing songs that were related to it. I would just cut and paste them in. It would take seven months to edit all my pain and humor and everything. I definitely was like, ‘I want to be a personality. I want to be a YouTuber.’ And I did like a little role in this movie called I Miss You. It’s super cheap, and it’s raw, super raw.”
“But that’s when I was like, ‘Oh, I could be doing this. I could be in the entertainment field for sure.’ But I was just in the right place at the right time with the right people. And they were like ‘sing something.’ And I did. And then they were like, “Yo. We got to go in the studio now,’” says TeaMarrr. Her friends’ instance eventually led her to record her 2017 ep, Thanks for the Chapstick (her debut album is set for 2020 and its title remains a secret.) “It’s #TTTW. I don’t want to say the name yet, but it’s the hashtag,” she says.
When the album drops, TeaMarrr will likely tour, but she will also consider connecting with her fans in more unconventional ways. One proposed method is to recreate the Sip & Paint, as seen in the “One Job” video. “I’m always trying to do something that’s never been done. And, if it’s been done, I want to do it differently. But I also think that if it’s been done, if I do it, it’s still never been done. Everybody can be a singer, but not everyone’s going to sing like Beyonce. You know what I mean? So it’s like you can do it, but I want to stand out. So, I definitely want to do a sip and paint with like select fans.”
“SoundCloud was telling me that they see my top listeners,” she says, “and pull from them, be like, ‘Hey. T’s doing a private thing here, come to this office and dah dah dah.’ That would be a cool way of doing a sip and paint with all these crazy ideas. My manager and I go nuts with ideas. So, I’m excited to see what that would look like because I really want to either show them the choreo to the dance and have them actually paint something. Or, just kind of have an actual sip and paint with wine, and just vibe out.”
Whatever she does, it will be 100% authentic. Though young in her music career, TeaMarrr knows she wants — and doesn’t want — to represent herself. “I think I’ve always been a little like ‘hands-on’ and a little like control. Like, ‘Oh my God, no, no, no. That’s not how it goes.’ Because I have an aesthetic down to like what my hair means. Like the gray means wisdom. And if you see more gray, I’m a lot wiser this time. If you see less gray, it’s like I’m a little timid, I’m feeling more youthful and dumb or free. Or whatever that is. The black means more wild. Everything’s with purpose, everything has intention. It’s not just willy-nilly. And when it is willy-nilly, I make sense of it. Like my pop sound, they wanted me to remove that.”
“So every time it came on, I was like, ‘Pop.’ And then, in my mind, that’s how I always just knew it like that. They cleaned up and mix and mastered the record, and they took that out. And I was like, ‘Where’d the pop go?’ And they’re like, ‘Oh, I thought that was just a mistake.’ And I was like, ‘No, no, no, no, no, no, no. It was, but I f*ck with it. It’s fire.’ They’re like, ‘Tea, it doesn’t make or break the song.’ I was like, “Watch, though. Watch. I’m going to put it on the net.'”
“[They] were like, ‘Honestly, the only way it’s going to work is if you put it on everything.” And I was like, “There you go. There you go.” So, it’s like people challenge me, and then I make it a thing. I learned myself through the challenges that are thrown at me. ‘Maybe I do like this. Maybe I don’t.’ But it took a while. Like I think high school me was like, ‘Who am I?’ For sure. College me was like, ‘I think I get it.’ And then post-college is like, ‘I am that n—-, I am that b*tch. I am mastering my masculine and feminine side. And I want to run it. Like I really want to run this sh*t.”
The partnership with Issa and Raedio will allow her to “run this sh*t,” as TeaMarrr puts it. “For sure,” she tells HollywoodLife. “I think I see myself a lot in Issa’s art. And I think it’s cool that she sees a lot of her visuals and stuff in my art. So it’s a very dope collaboration because they get me in the way they’re trying… It’s a new thing. So it’s still like, ‘What do we do here? Will we do that?’ “
“It definitely feels equal on my part because I state my vision and they’re trimming around what they can keep, and what they can’t with what I put out on what I say I want, with what I say I don’t like. So I appreciate that patience with me. I appreciate them like taking the time to just, “Okay. Well okay…We’re not used to this, but okay.” But for the most part, I definitely think it’s going to be a wonderful partnership.”
“Kinda Love” is out now. This interview has been edited for clarity.