Image TierraWhackVEVO via YouTube
by Rachelle Saint-Preaux
There is an overall air of dissatisfaction regarding the “new school” of music, especially and most evidently in hip-hop and rap. You don’t have to look far to find someone complaining about the seemingly countless “Lil”s that are popping up: Lil Xan, Lil Pump, Lil Patek, etc., or other new rappers who seem to be mumbling rather than stringing actual words together over bass-thumping beats. There’s been a call for the return of lyricism, or at least intelligible bars. In this world, an artist like Tierra Whack is a tall glass of water in Manhattan in July. The epitome of the creative millennial, Tierra is refreshing and wildly innovative. Her album, “Whack World”, released on May 30, 2018, is 15 songs long and exactly 15 minutes long — because that’s how much studio time she had. Admittedly, if I was faced with the prospect of only having a quarter of an hour to create art that I was happy with, I’d go back to the drawing board. Save more money, scrap some of the songs, I don’t know. But where I would’ve spun on my heel and walked away, Whack confidently stepped forward; and now, with her follower counts, word of mouth buzz, and popularity skyrocketing, it’s clear that she made the right decision.
Whack’s Instagram page has a meme as her profile picture. She carries a wallet that reads in big, white print: “sh-t tons of money” and her captions are usually along the lines of “I didn’t have any panties on.” These posts embody the type of personality that shines through in Whack’s music. An eclectic goof with top-of-the-line self-presentation, Whack knows who she is and is fearlessly, loudly, and unapologetically, herself. All of the ways in which she chooses to express and describe simple stills of her life on Instagram culminate in a much bigger picture with her 15:47 long visual album for “Whack World”: an inventive video wonderland of her entire project, in song order. Every video’s setting and/or props directly correlate with each song, resulting in a truly original and colorful masterpiece, if I may be so bold. She is the closest thing to Missy Elliott that we’ve seen in a long time, with Missy herself saying on Twitter that she was more than proud to be an influence of hers as well as follow her on social media.
Whack has a thing for props, especially. In an Instagram video posted on July 8th of her rapping over Mr. Cheeks’ iconic “Lights, Camera, Action!” instrumental, Whack grabs a nearby fork to help us envision her stabbing her enemies, makes a square with her hands when she raps her punchline for quadrilaterals, and passes a bowl in front of the camera to symbolize her accepting tokens from the impending record deal offers. The Whack World visual was no different. Props and costumes complemented each minute-long song’s lyrics, and, save for a few other actors popping up in scenes, they served as her entire supporting cast. The opening video is a unique and honestly brilliant portrayal of the first song, “Black Nails”. Whack begins with a slow zoom into a pink-and-white decorated nail salon, where she sits in front of a nail technician, presumably getting a manicure. At first, the viewer would think it’s her face that the camera is moving towards, but it’s actually the top of her hoodie, painted as a face, complete with gold hoop earrings, blue eye makeup, pink lip gloss, and a nose ring.
Whack’s genius truly comes to light as soon as she utters the first line of the song. “Readin’ my open mail” – the camera focuses on her thumbnail, which has been masterfully painted to look like an envelope. “This ship here won’t sail” – a ship is perched on top of her index finger, and she runs it behind her other hand, to signify a boat in water. “Best believe I’m gon’ sell” – her middle fingernail has been painted green with dollar signs. “If I just be myself” – she tugs on the hood with the painted face, to show just how she’s going to go about being herself and still make money that way. This goes on for the duration of “Black Nails”; “keep sh-t to myself” shows us the emoji for feces painted onto her other thumb, and we even get nail designs of rice, kale, and a holy grail. Now, imagine this level of creativity, novelty, and imagination, for fifteen minutes, and you’ve successfully envisaged “Whack World.”
To put Tierra Whack into perspective, there have been criticisms of Kanye West and his G.O.O.D. Music record label, regarding its past few album releases. Comments about the music sounding “rushed” or “unfinished”, or, in Teyana Taylor’s case, albums actually being unfinished, have been swirling since the release of “ye” on June 1st, 2018. A camp like G.O.O.D. Music, with artists like Big Sean, Pusha T, Kid Cudi, and Kanye West himself, has the money for all the studio time they need, which is why fans expect more than for albums to sound like they were completed during a bumpy car ride. This brings me to Whack, who, with 15 minutes to get an entire career started, produced one of the most distinctive, unique, and exceptional projects of the year – complete with a music video for each song. To me, without taking anything away from music stalwarts like G.O.O.D. Music and other major artists/labels, Whack is proof of why young, black entrepreneurs and creatives either rule the pop culture industry or belong in it. Whack produced top quality with the bare minimum, surviving off of pure talent and a couple hundred bucks. I think we all should be prepared for when Ms. Whack starts booking studio sessions that are hours long.