Photo credit: @alonz0
First Look Friday: TiaCorine Is An Anime Trap Princess
For our latest First Look Friday, we spoke with TiaCorine on joining the ranks of other talented North Carolina rappers, working with rapper Latto, and much more.
From the moment you watch the “FreakyT” music video, it’s evident that TiaCorine exudes star power. “Look at me where she wanna be, call me Freaky T / Off the leash I feel like a dog, I get hella flee,” she raps confidently on the viral track, the camera fixated on her as she shines just as bright as the Kirby chain that flashes across her neck. She’s dynamic and magnetic — characteristics that make for a promising rapper. But according to the Winston-Salem, North Carolina rapper, she’s always been this way.
“I think I [have] always had star power. A lot of people have always gravitated toward me,” she said over a Zoom call with Okayplayer.
Music has always been a part of TiaCorine's life, beginning with her childhood in North Carolina. In previous interviews, she has credited her family with nurturing her creativity, introducing her to iconic artists and groups like Aaliyah, Michael Jackson, A Tribe Called Quest, Ginuwine, and Biggie. Although she first showed an interest in singing — she sang in first talent show in third grade — rapping ultimately became her musical calling, taking it so seriously during her time at Winston-Salem State University that even her peers were impressed. She even competed to open for Dom Kennedy while attending college. But it’d be the second song she ever wrote that gave Tia her first taste of internet fame — 2018’s “Lotto.” Born out of the experimental, off-the-cuff sessions she participated in with some of her fellow music-making friends, “Lotto” went viral and showcased what Tia was truly capable of as an artist, the track showcasing her fun personality, incredibly aggressive lyrics, and catchy cadences that have carried on in her subsequent releases.
Tia’s career continued to progress. She signed a record deal with South Coast Music Group’s Arnold Taylor in 2019 off the strength of her breakout song, making her labelmates with Toosii and DaBaby. With South Coast's backing, Tia released her debut EP, 34Corine, in 2020. Paying homage to her hometown of Winston-Salem (which is often referred to as "Tre Fo"), the EP was well-received for its innovative sound and thoughtful lyrics. She then followed it up with a deluxe version that included the notable, Kenny Beats-produced "Luigi," as well as several other new songs. Since then, she’s garnered a loyal fan base and performed at notable music festivals like Coachella and Rolling Loud. She also opened for Key Glock’s 2023 nationwide tour, too.
Photo credit: @alonz0
What has made Tia’s rise possible is her distinct sound. Identifying it as “anime trap,” the artist has separated herself from her contemporaries through her animated and bubbly delivery, as well as her colorful and playful aesthetic, whether that be rocking a diamond Kirby chain in her “FreakyT” music video or having a Kingdom Hearts-inspired album cover for her debut project, I Can’t Wait.
Released last year, I Can’t Wait showcased a diverse range of sounds: upbeat pop, mellow trap, and even alternative punk. But it was “FreakyT” that stood out most. Over a whimsical trap beat produced by Honorable C.N.O.T.E., Tia charmed fans with a Memphis-inspired cadence on the viral hit, sounding like two different people as she went back and forth between deep and high-pitch deliveries on the track’s verses and choruses, respectively.
When asked about her wide range of flows, Tia explained that she doesn't plan anything out ahead of time, instead opting for a more improvisational approach to making music.
"I just wake up and sometimes I feel like doing this today or doing that,” she said. “It's never really planned. I never really know what I'm gonna do until I get in the studio.”
It’s a method that’s working. Whether melodic and sweet, or braggadocious and raunchy, it’s Tia’s music that keeps her connected to her fans. She has a way of articulating her emotions in an honest manner while saying things people can relate to, resulting in her joining the ranks of other talented North Carolina rappers of the past and present.
“A lot of people are intrigued at the fact that a lot of my stuff is kind of dirty and raunchy,” she said. “But it’s the way I say it. It makes you feel good.”
For May's First Look Friday, we caught up with the eccentric rapper while on tour supporting Key Glock, and spoke with her about life on tour, her collaboration with fellow female rapper Latto, celebrity co-signs, joining the lineage of other rappers from North Carolina, and more.
Photo credit: @alonz0
Okayplayer: In less than five words how would you describe your life the past four years?
TiaCorine: Pretty amazing!
Do you pay close attention to curated lists or how fans perceive you?
I definitely see the playlists and the recognition, but it doesn't hit me as hard as some people might think. When people bring it to my attention I’m more like, “That’s cool.” My main focus is on social media, making sure I have music and content, and talking to my supporters as much as I can.
Because social media, specifically TikTok, has helped propel you into the limelight, do you feel pressure when using TikTok or Instagram?
I think at first I did, and then it kind of went away when I actually began using TikTok because I liked it. Then, I figured out what was best for me as far as the content that I wanted to post. Eventually, I kind of understood what it was for. Once I got that and learned how to make videos, I actually really enjoyed it.
When my album dropped, I did get a text at first like, “Yeah, you got to get on TikTok at least with one of your songs because we are pushing it, and TikTok is a great place to do it.” I randomly chose “Freaky T.” I don't even remember why, but I’m glad that day I did it.
What are the current goals you want to achieve?
I want to make sure I get a song with Tyler, the Creator. Working with him and Pharell is my top priority. Landing an acting role in a movie or a thriller, even if it's small, is [also] a goal. And then, getting a song placed on a soundtrack this year, whether it's a show or a movie. I also like doing voice overs.
Now that your career has taken off, have you had a moment to stop and celebrate the success that you have achieved?
I definitely congratulate myself. I do small little things like going out to dinner with friends or buying something nice. I have a lot more work to do. I'm not as close to where I want to be.
How did the Latto feature for the “FreakyT Remix” come about?
I saw her at a Spotify party in Los Angeles during Grammys weekend. So, we took pictures and we were just talking. She congratulated me on my success and told me don't let people tell me that they don't know who I am. She said, “Your name is bubbling out here.” She shared that she fucked with “FreakyT” and it went from there.
What has been your favorite moment of the tour so far?
I mean, really just performing. Being on tour with Key Glock is great. Everybody on his team is really nice and supportive. They wear the merch and are there when I’m performing. The majority of people are here to see Glock. It’s not my tour, but when I get introduced his fans scream crazy and are able to recite most, if not all, of the lyrics to “FreakyT.” [I’m] always coming on stage to high energy — just hearing people's screams is my favorite thing.
Afterward, the fans are waiting at the merch booth. So, I’m taking pictures with people and signing shirts, titties, and posters. Just listening to people express their love for my music and me is a great moment, too.
Your career has only gotten bigger. Has it been harder to navigate success, fame, and motherhood?
I was already doing a lot when I had her. I was balancing going to school, working full-time, and making music. I was doing a lot. I didn't really notice at the time, but I think I had already prepared myself for the future.
Photo credit: @alonz0
North Carolina typically gets overlooked when there are discussions about hip-hop. Are you aware that you are a part of its lineage? You will now be in conversations when people mention J. Cole, Rapsody, Little Brother, and Petey Pablo.
Of course. That's why I always say it a lot. My presence has had a positive impact on the people that live in Winston. They come up to me and they're like, “You know, you inspire me to keep going and that I could actually make it out of Winston. I don't have to move anywhere.”
Remaining in Winston-Salem was a big thing for me to prove to people that just because you're from a place [no one has heard of], doesn’t mean you won’t make it or be somebody. It's important for me to continuously shout Winston out. They’ve supported me in a major way. You gotta give the love back when it's given.
Kyesha Jennings is the content director for the North Carolina Arts Council where, as a part of the marketing and communications team, she curates, produces, and develops content. An award-winning hip-hop scholar, Kyesha is a fifth-year Ph.D. candidate, where her research primarily focuses on Black women writers, hip-hop feminism, and popular culture. Her writing has been published in both academic and non-academic outlets such as LifeHacker, HotNewHipHop, Vulture, Indy Week, Grammy.com, and Scalawag Magazine.
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