Born in London, raised in America, and part of a family that has music at its core, Taliwhoah is the next hot girl on our radar to blow. Nothing short of a musical talent, Tali is a highly skilled entertainer who has had music as part of her life since she could remember – her mother and father were both well known reggae artists and her aunt and godmother both performed with R&B sensations Boney M. Her sound is a mixture of smooth R&B and warm soul that leaves you feeling good and empowered. Breaking through on to the scene at the age of 18, Tali has since been signed to ROSTRUM records, collaborated with the likes of Arin Ray and London based producer Girl Unit, as well as having two EP’s under her belt. Her latest release Solar is an ode to growth, power, and self-awareness as well as having the courage to live your best truth – she iconically came out as bisexual on the EP’s debut single ‘Love Cycle’. I had the pleasure of chatting to Tali about what it means to reclaim your power as a woman, using music as therapy and getting real about what makes you happy.
How has growing up in a predominantly Caribbean musical family, influenced your sound and tastes?
Well, it was very influential because I come from such a strong cultural background. My mum is African and my dad is Caribbean, and those are two very strong backgrounds in terms of the food you eat, the music you listen to, the old wives tales that you’re told. So I definitely think that navigating through my ambitions, I did so with a sense of poise and, I guess, with high regard for my culture– because I always knew where I was from, so I’ve always had a headstrong mindset to where I wanted to go. My family was always super encouraging of what I did, despite coming from some strong first generational traditions themselves. So yeah, it was crazy, to say the least, but it was definitely critical in my upbringing and where I’m at now.
Would you say living in the states has helped you in terms of your creativity and music?
Going to LA was really liberating for me, I was really young – like 17 at the time. LA gave me the confidence that I needed to be like ‘I can actually do this.’ It’s the land of dreams over there and you got people chasing the same dream as you. You’ve got to realize that if you are in a certain space that means, to some degree, you are equal to the people that you are around, the only thing that separates you and them is the work that they’ve put in.
Going to LA and learning how to hustle really helped me with my career. I don’t shy away from hard work. In order to live in LA, you have to work at least four jobs *laughs*, if you’re not already where you want to be. Your fingers have to be in all the pies, you have to have all your wits, and you can’t just be out there floating aimlessly, because it will show. I love LA for that reason, but I also hate LA for that reason. It’s such a pretentious place, at least the industry side of it. It’s a beautiful place otherwise, like the communities. I love being in places like Inglewood and Venice and Compton, but you can’t escape the Beverly Hills side of it or the Calabasas side of it, and that’s a beautiful struggle and also a beautiful balance of pick your path… pick your poison.
What was the breakthrough moment that made you realize music was what you wanted to do?
I was in the last quarter of my degree program at a fashion school and in such a stable position in my life in LA. I was in school, I had my own apartment, I was making money, and I just had all these materialistic things. And I was like, “but I’m not happy”, and deep down inside, I felt like I wasn’t serving a purpose. I had been writing music and I used my friends and the connections I made in music to get myself out of homelessness. That’s when I really decided, if you can still obtain all these things and not be happy then really, life must be about doing what makes you happy.
Mhm. I guess everyone wants to create the perfect idea of ‘when you have this, you’ve made it, you need to be content with that’, but in reality, that’s not how it works out. You can have everything you’ve ever imagined, but if it’s not that one thing that to the core makes you happy, none of it is worth it and it doesn’t matter.
Exactly. When I first got into the studio, I was only there because my friend was like “you can sleep in my studio, I will even let you stay here for free if you just help me with writing, because I know you can write.” At this point, I never really heard my voice on a track, and I didn’t really care to either. But the feeling that I felt after hearing a song that I wrote from feelings that I felt– I was like “this is therapy.” As long as I can do this, whether I’m broke, whether I can go out and buy a bunch of things, there will still be a sense of fulfillment that will always come. That’s when I realized I needed to make my life revolve around [music] somehow, some way.
Your most recent release was your EP Solar, I personally love it, ‘Juice’ is my favorite track. What did you want your audience to feel when they listened to that piece of work?
Solar, for me, was like– I want people to hear my growth, but also want them to hear my truth. I wanted to focus on storytelling and I really wanted to give people an insight into some of my experiences without feeling too exposed. A lot of the songs that I write about are from direct experiences and I wanted that to be relatable to people. I wanted people to hear the music and be like “bro, I knew that’s what I was feeling when I went through that, I just didn’t know how to say it.” Do you get what I mean?
Yes, like articulating yourself in a way so that people understand.
Exactly and another reason why I say music is therapy is because writing about my experiences forced me to analyze what I was going through and feeling. Songs like ‘Juice’, where I’m talking about what could’ve been a one night stand gone wrong. I take back the liberation, my body is my own, I can have sex with whoever I want to have sex with, and my choices are my own choices. Women are not allowed to look at sex like that because it’s this thing that we give to somebody– that someone takes from us– but no, it’s a choice. I made that choice and I’m cool with my choice, and if I choose to go back to you, then that’s on me…but at least you know, I got the juice now *chuckles*.
Your coming out in ‘Love Cycle’ was extremely powerful. How much of ‘Love Cycle’ is based on your personal experience, is it all of it?
Yeah, I was dating a girl and I wasn’t out at the time. I was still in high school and I had just broken up with my first boyfriend. She was already out comfortably with her family. She used to bring me around, show me off to her family, and her family loved me. But whenever she would come to my house, I was like ‘oh this is my friend, she’s just staying the night’ or ‘I’m just going to the cinema with my friend’ and it would literally be a date. I could see how much it was hurting her and I just wanted to show there are two sides to that story. A lot of people watch ‘Love Cycle’ and they’re like ‘Tali’s girlfriend needs to be more understanding’ but I’m like well what about her… she stands firm in what she believes in and she deserves a partner who does the same regardless of how hard it might be. It was really about a struggle within the community that I wanted to touch on because I experienced it from both angles.
I feel like your visuals provide a really beautiful depiction of black love, even though sometimes there are struggles. Do you think that black love is celebrated enough in music/society/culture?
From my surroundings, my experiences, and what I choose to watch– I think that we are at an exceptional time for representation of black love. However, I feel like popular culture pushes forward marketable images, and for that reason, we may not tend to see as frequently this representation. The reason why I put it like that is because I think if we, as people who want to see more of this, shift our focus and actually push these representations, then we can change the goal post for what is ‘marketable’.
There are so many African and Caribbean artists right now who are literally only casting black people in their visuals. There are Arab and Northern African musicians and communities who are doing the same for their own. We need to shift our focus a bit and that’s one thing I’m hoping to do with whatever success I’m blessed with. Yeah, we have gatekeepers, but we are the consumers. If we choose not to consume certain things anymore, they’re going to be forced to go where we’re going.
How important is it for Black Pride to be recognized as well as the creation of safe spaces for black queer people? Is enough being done and do we need more Allies?
We definitely need more Allies. I think that the community has done an exceptional job staying heard, staying visible, staying strong, and staying vocal, despite every backlash– but enough isn’t being done. Sometimes we think that a success for one cause, means that another cause that is close in proximity, is going to be party to the same success and that’s not true; once we deal with the discrimination that happens toward the LGBTQ+ community, then we have to talk about the sub-issues that are going on within the community.
For instance, we have so many people that are transgender being killed in other parts of the world and we’re only now being exposed to it because of the fact that LGBTQ+ matters are now being spoken about more heavily. It doesn’t mean that because now people are speaking about it, that the work has been done– no, this is only the first step. We are coming for an equal seat at the table and that’s why we need Allies. We need other people who are already at these tables to express the importance of representation and inclusion because if they don’t, we don’t get a seat.
What are your plans for the rest of the year?
There’s going to be a lot of collabs and a lot of new music. My album is 99% done. And I say 99% because that 1% is probably going to be me trying to add more tracks or add more features or something that I think will make it perfect. I’m really excited! I’m getting ready for the next stages of my career. Like I said, I haven’t had management, so I’ve just been exercising some options and getting ready to shoot some more visuals. I’ve taken a bit of a backseat with performing, so I don’t have any performances to date, but definitely lots of music and content coming from me in the next couple of weeks honestly!
Watch Taliwhoah’s latest hit single, ‘Love Cycle’.