R&B superstar Tinashe has already accomplished a ton in her two-plus decades in the music industry. From as far back as 2007 as a member of the all-girl group The Stunners to her debut solo mixtape In Case We Die through to releasing her latest studio album, 333, the 28-year-old performer has no plans to stop anytime soon.
We had the opportunity to speak about her new partnership with Reese’s Puffs, getting women on the business side of the music industry, her upcoming work to teach kids music, and more.
In fact, Tinashe demoed the RP-PRO synthesizer yesterday in her own streaming class called “Taught by Tinashe.” The RP-PRO is a beefed-up Reese’s Puffs cereal box whose back looks very similar to your classic Akai MPC Music Workstation. With buttons shaped like chocolate puffs and peanut butter cups, the RP-PRO totally follows through with the theme down to the nutritional facts, which say the box carries 808 calories.
There also is the scaled-down RP-FX, which is a Reese’s Puffs cereal box that allows you to arrange puffs on the back and use the RP-FX AR App to make your own music. There are three boxes available: Creamy Lead Synth, Chocolatey Bass Synth, and Crunchy Drum Machine. To “sweeten” the deal, each box comes with four unique sound packs, and all three boxes can be used together to really add some kick to breakfast.
Learn more about Tinashe, how she hopes to motivate children when it comes to making music, and which songs on 333 received the Reese’s Puffs treatment. (Note: Our interview took place a few days prior to her class.)
CASSIUS: What are some of the changes you’ve seen in your twenty years, for better or worse, in the music industry?
Tinashe: So I put out my first [solo] project in 2012, and I think that the game has changed in two ways completely since then.
One, just sonically: the sonic landscape is entirely different, the content, the sound of the music itself, how people go about releasing those projects. It used to be a much more album-driven space because people were still buying physical copies of the albums back then as compared to now.
So I think that also touches on the other way that it’s changed a lot, which is in the business space. And the biggest reason why that changed, obviously, is because people are streaming [content]. And seeing that come into the game and how that’s really affected everything has been crazy.
It’s really interesting to me because I think I got involved in the music industry right at the precipice of when they were going to go through a big change. Going from having physical albums, like a lot of people that were working at the record label when I worked there were from that album era, where people were selling millions of hard copies of albums.
The music industry was actually making millions and millions of dollars through physical sales of projects, so artists were creating their art with a lot more of that in mind, whether that be how many initial sales they were going to get or how many whole bodies of work we can sell. So I think the mentality was different.
Whereas now, with streaming, it’s changed how record labels view artists, who they sign, etc. They’re taking a lot more into consideration, like social media and much more of these things, because it’s much more of an instant gratification era that we’re in now. It’s more like if you have a hot song, then they can sign you, they can market it, they can put it out, and people consume [the] music quickly. And then they’re over it. And then you have to drop the next content. It’s the law of large numbers.
There’s a lot more people in the game, a lot less longevity, a lot less album focus, so things have changed… I can probably go on all day about the way things have changed!
…the first thing that I’m really trying to do is to walk away with providing some inspiration for these kids.
CASSIUS: Now, I know you have a partnership with Reese’s. For the readers, and for my own knowledge as well, how’d that deal come to be?
Tinashe: As somebody who got into the game and into music doing a lot of stuff myself, I was very DIY at the beginning of my career – which is another way the music industry has changed! I came up in a very “blog” era, where people were able to just release music that they created in their house. Whether it was on Soundcloud or HotNewHipHop, DatPiff, people just shared music and downloaded it. And it was kind of this straight-to-the-fan, straight-to-consumer thing that was happening. It was a really special time, I think.
So for me, I always felt like that was a big part of how I was creating my best work. I was not overthinking the creative process; I was just making stuff based on my gut instinct and doing it all based on what I wanted to hear, what I liked, and doing it all in my parents’ room at home. I taught myself how to produce and create via YouTube by watching tutorials and just being hands-on.
And so, when this collaboration came about with Reese’s Puffs, it was perfect because it was all about having that DIY energy. It is, for me, I think really cool that people are able to create music literally on the back of a Reese’s Puffs box. And so it’s accessible to everyone, you don’t have to have all this technology, you don’t have to have a computer. All you need is the app and the $3.99 cereal box and to be able to basically take the puffs, place them on the back of the box, and create your beat that way.
And so you scan it with the app, and it plays back the song that you made. And I was just really kind of blown away by that whole concept because I think, especially, I imagined if I were a kid and I was not able to access the kind of technology that I was able to when I got older, this would be a really great way for me to just make music at home.
I’m especially all about encouraging young women to get into the music production side because they are so few and far between.
CASSIUS: I’m glad you mentioned that because that’s always been a big part of your platform in terms of getting women on that side of the business. And with this, you’re literally introducing music to the kids at the breakfast table.
Tinashe: Exactly, exactly. And I think that’s awesome because it’s something that I think a lot of people are inspired to do but, maybe, [they] don’t even know how to take those first steps. And maybe it’s overwhelming for someone to look at a music program, like Logic or Pro Tools or Abelton, and take that… like, “Okay, I guess I’ll watch a YouTube tutorial and try to wrap my mind around this.” Like, that can be definitely intimidating for some people. But this is something that anyone can do, and it’s not too hard for anyone to kind of wrap their mind around.
I think that’s a great introduction to production because, maybe just by doing this with a cereal box, it’ll inspire you to take that step further get even more serious about making music and making beats.
CASSIUS: So you know I have to ask, then: how many of the beats on your new album, 333, did you make with the box? That’s a must ask!
Tinashe: (laughs) Well, not on this project! I made a lot of the songs before this collaboration came about but maybe on the next one!
CASSIUS: Now, as part of this collabo, you’re also working with Save the Music Foundation, and I know that’s also part of how you’re putting music in front of kids in the classroom – and you’re actually going to be teaching a class, “Taught by Tinashe.” Pretty interesting! Without spilling the beans too much, and I’m sure that the kids are going to get their syllabus on Day 1, what kinds of concepts should the students look for you to cover when they take the class?
Tinashe: I mean, the first thing that I’m really trying to do is to walk away with providing some inspiration for these kids. Because I think that that is something I can talk about firsthand. For the most part, it’s just the fact that I was kind of able to do this “on my own” to really take that initiative to make my own music, my own art. And hopefully, I can inspire other people who maybe have that dream to, as well, take that initiative and figure it out with their own art.
But then also, on a really literal level, I’m going to be using the RP-PRO, which is where Reese’s basically created an MPC for me that looks like a Reese’s Puffs box – which is really cute! So I’m able to actually do the production on that: make drum sounds, make synth sounds, and just experiment with playing with the sonics and hopefully teach kids how to jam!
CASSIUS: And so I just want to ask, then, what’s in store for the rest of the year? Going forward, what should we look to from Tinashe?
Tinashe: Well, I think, where I’m at in my career and in my era of life right now, it’s just following my inspiration and trying to really stick with what makes me happy and what feels fulfilling. And so I’m just going to follow that, so in terms of the long term, it’ll be really interesting to kind of see where that takes me, in following that instinct, that joy and inspiration.
But in terms of what’s going to happen next, next, next? I’m planning on going on the road this year. I’m in rehearsals today, tomorrow, the rest of the week, and we’re finally going to be able to perform some of this new music for my fans.
So hopefully everyone can come out, you know, be safe but hopefully come to the show because it’s going to be really, really amazing to see that energy again and have people in the room and see my fans and share that new art with them, like, actually in the same space.
I’m excited to go on tour, so get your tickets if you can, and come through – it’s gonna be fun!
(Note: Our interview took place a few days prior to her Taught by Tinashe class.)