Tinashe vented her frustrations over the way the music industry categorizes artists in an interview with Rolling Stone. The 27-year-old singer expressed her desire to see genres completely removed from the conversation, blaming them for racially segregating music.
“I’m going to go as far as to say we need to abolish genres in general,” she declared. “I think that the way that many of them came to be and have continued to progress is very much so based on race and the segregation of music based on race.”
She continued, “By putting artists either in an urban category or an R&B category or rap category, a Hip Hop — these really general umbrellas that we use to define different genres — it creates a huge sense of isolation for the creative when they’re trying to experiment, especially for creatives that don’t necessarily feel like they fall into one of the genres, which was my experience.”
Tinashe said being labeled as an R&B singer affected her career, limiting her from opportunities on pop radio. She specifically cited picturing herself as an artist who could be played on the pop-centric Z100, which is billed as New York’s No. 1 hit station.
“When I first came on the scene, I felt a real aversion to being labeled as like a new R&B girl,” she explained. “Not because I didn’t love R&B, but because I could see, especially within my own label, how different the team operated that was marketing [and] pushing the urban department at the company, and how it was not the same department that was pushing the pop acts.”
She elaborated, “Those were the stages I wanted. That was the radio station I wanted. I always saw myself as like a Z100 artist. I always thought that my material and my music and my art fit into that category already.”
Organizations such as The Recording Academy have gotten rid of the “urban” category for the Grammy Awards after famously being called out by Tyler, The Creator. But Tinashe was skeptical about the impact of these types of rebrandings.
“I think changing the name from, like, urban contemporary to R&B or whatever is just like a new title for the same issue,” she opined. “It doesn’t get rid of the problem of categorizing people and putting them into places where there’s just less promotion, less mainstream fucking respect. It’s deep.”
She concluded, “Across the board, it’s not just from the labels, it’s also the radio stations. What they choose to put [out], people who book live performances, award shows. Those things all play a huge part in what makes artists really mainstream and successful, and to not have the same amount of exposure and support in those areas is really detrimental.”
Tinashe’s latest album, 2019’s Songs For You, is listed in the R&B/Soul category on Apple Music. The streaming service’s writeup for the LP calls her an R&B-pop eclecticist though and notes the project revolves around a “traversing genre.”
Stream Tinashe’s Song For You below.