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Tinashe feels “calm”: “I want people to get to know me better over this next era. I want it to feel very real, very raw.” The triple-threat has just unleashed ‘Talk to Me Nice’, a “swaggy” R&B track with electronic influences that calls for a lover to “prove themselves” and “come up to your level”. It’s set to be included on her new project BB/ANG3L, which marks her first full-length collection since her widely-acclaimed fifth album 333. After over a decade in the industry, Tinashe tells GAY TIMES that this new era is “one of the first times in my career where I have that peace, like the universe is gonna play out the way it should”. 

As well as new music, Tinashe has continued to use her platform to spread awareness of LGBTQ+ causes. Alongside stars such as Taye Diggs and Rafael De La Fuente, the singer has partnered with ViiV Healthcare for the second instalment of ‘Me in You, You in Me’, a campaign aiming to normalise open and honest conversations about HIV within Black and Brown communities, “two communities that are underrepresented in terms of communication around HIV and HIV prevention”. 

Here, we chat with Tinashe about the trailblazing campaign, the importance of allyship and the “experimental” direction of her new music. 

Tinashe, before we chat about the new music, let’s discuss your incredible new campaign ‘Me in You, You in Me’. Why was it important for you to be involved?

During Pride Month, I thought it would be really smart and positive for me to be involved in something that could help spread awareness about HIV and sexual health. It also started during Women’s Month, so it was rolling in between Women’s Month and Pride Month, which are two communities that are underrepresented in terms of communication around HIV and HIV prevention. So, I thought that it would be really positive to become a part of it. And so far, it’s been a really great experience.

The campaign focuses on marginalised communities that are disproportionately affected by HIV, such as Black and Brown people and trans people. What have you learned about the stigmas that are most prevalent in those communities?

I was always aware of the stigmas, but not necessarily aware of the statistics. They’re extremely shocking, like one in two, one in four. That was jarring and really upsetting to hear. The stigma is probably what leads to these numbers being so high, because people aren’t having conversations about it. They aren’t talking about it, getting tested, or working towards prevention the way that they should. The biggest thing that I’ve learned is that there’s a chain reaction to stigmatisation and not being able to discuss these things. And people know that you can live with it now, so potentially aren’t taking it as seriously. They’re also assuming that it’s a thing of the past or that it doesn’t affect them in their particular community, and that’s just not true. It’s important to continue to be aware and to learn these statistics.

A lot of cis-het people still think that HIV has no impact on their lives, so how important are campaigns such as this that raise awareness of how HIV affects everyone?

It’s important to spread this message further into separate little niches of communities. Black women are another group of people that are statistically the highest raising population of contracting HIV right now. We also have to be very mindful and aware to have these discussions, to get rid of the stigma so people can actually go in and get tested.

Additionally, how crucial is it for LGBTQ+ people to see allies like Taye Diggs in HIV/AIDS campaigns?

Allyship is extremely important, because it does affirm that we are supposed, and allowed, to care about people outside of our immediate communities. Being a human with empathy is being somebody who should want to care about issues not necessarily affecting them directly. It’s great to be able to support those communities and to have allyship. Taye Diggs being a part of that was really cool. It’s very important. Hopefully, we see more.

Music time! You just released ‘Talk to Me Nice’, your first solo single since 333. Please talk to me about this banger

It’s a song that represents when you’re feeling sceptical about your dealings with somebody, and you just want them to prove themselves because you’re feeling like you are the shit and you deserve somebody who’s gonna come up to your level. So, talk to me nice! It’s a swaggy way to be like, ‘What you ‘bout to do? What you ‘bout to say?’ This song is a really great way to start the new era because it has a lot of different components that I love. It’s got a vibey energy to it, but at the same time the beat itself is very electronic and has this really cool sample. It sounds kind of experimental. It’s like my old music, but it feels like it’s moving into the future. So, I love that it feels both old and new in that sense.

Besides the sound, what can we expect from this new era?

I’m trying to just showcase that, as usual, I’m evolving as both an individual and an artist. I’m beginning this new era exploring persona, and which persona I’m stepping into for this particular era. I have so many different sides to my personality and my artistry that sometimes it’s easy for me to be like, ‘Oh, I can do all the things.’ So, how do I make it very clear that this is a brand new chapter? I’ve changed my hair colour, I’m going in with a different styling approach, a different overall vibe. It’s much softer, it’s much more stripped back. We’re getting rid of some of the production value, getting to the core and the essence. I want people to get to know me better over this next era. I want it to feel very real, very raw. Exploring my identity and how that is perceived by others and how it is presented as myself. Yeah, that’s about it.

It’s been over 10 years since you debuted in the music industry. How do you feel right now as an artist?

I feel very at peace, very calm. It’s one of the first times in my career where I have that peace. Like, the universe is gonna play out the way that it should. I don’t have to force anything, I don’t have to over explain myself or my art. I’ve worked really hard to prove myself in this industry. I don’t really feel that pressure anymore, I feel very at ease and it just feels really nice.

‘Talk to Me Nice’ is out now. Watch the music video here or below.