TiKA is a multi-disciplinary artist if there ever was one, pivoting from medium to medium in her career. A musician by trade, the singer-songwriter is also a film composer for television and films, which she describes as the day job that pays the bills. Getting her start as a promoter and taking the Canadian music scene by storm, TiKA is doing everything in her power to represent for black women all around the world—proving over and over again that you don’t have to be boxed into any one thing.
TiKa adds, “I act on the side. I do a little teaching on the side and some mentorship. I model, I’m a plus-size model. I do a plethora of different things, which most black women have to do, we have to be able to pivot. I don’t really think I’m that different from anyone else, but it’s cool. It’s dope to be able to do that kind of work.”
For her first release with renowned Canadian label Next Door Records, the powerhouse vocalist kicked off her debut campaign by releasing gorgeous visuals done by NASKADEMI for first singles, “Sideways” & “Soothing Love,” hailing from the forthcoming album titled Anywhere But Here which releases February 26. In addition, fans just got a taste of her recent cover of Prince’s “I Would Die 4 U” on the project. As a model, she’s got the innate bragging rights of being the only person who has been featured in Canada’s Sephora Diversity campaign twice.
Flaunt caught up with TiKA via FaceTime, who was in high spirits exuding nothing but good energy. Read below as we discuss her upbringing in Toronto, biggest influences, her Prince cover, spirituality, opening for the greats, what to expect from her forthcoming album, Sephora campaigns, her arm tattoo, and more!
What was the household like growing up in Toronto?
My household was very different because I straddled two different houses. My mom lived in an area of Toronto called Rexdale, so I was raised in the hood. When I turned 14, my mom, who’s a single mother, I had to help her with my two brothers. It got to the point where my grades were suffering from having to help so much. My grandparents took me into their home, they lived in a suburb called Oakville. I had a Fresh Prince of Bel-Air situation where I went from the hood into living in a big house in the suburbs. Subsequently after my grandparents died, I ended up moving out on my own. It was weird to bounce around from a very poor life into more of a middle class life, but it gave me perspective on seeing both sides of the coin. I find that I’m able to identify with all people, I’m not really classist.
Biggest influences coming up?
I used to listen to a lot of different music. I was really influenced by Meshell Ndegeocello, who’s another amazing composer. She does the composition work for Queen Sugar on OWN. She’s an incredible mucsican and a bass player, a black queer woman as well. I was super inspired by her and Janet Jackson. I love Janet Jackson!
I just watched Poetic Justice last night!
Did you?! Beautiful, it’s so amazing. Such a multifaceted, creative woman: actress, singer, dancer. It’s not too often you come across someone with such a soft, textured voice that’s able to do it all. Quadruple threat, I love Janet. Unconventional artists too: I loved Anita Baker growing up, huge fan. Lalah Hathaway, huge fan of her work. Even more recently, I’m super inspired right now by Jazmine Sullivan and her career. She’s really doing it. She’s so legendary already and killing the game. I really was inspired by any black girls that were different, or super unique and usually unpolished. I love that edgy side of things. When you’re more rigid or rough around the edges, that’s important. Differences are what make us a society.
At what point did you realize you could do music for a living?
Around 21 is when I actually realized I could make a living doing this. It was only because I had learned from some other musician friends about how to capitalize on sync placements and getting your music in film. When I got into that world, I realized it was viable to make music in the music industry. Up until that point, my mom and my family had an immigrant mentality: go get a job as a nurse, a doctor, or a lawyer. They always go for what they hear from their cousins that say “yeah, this is the one that makes the most amount of money,” but they don’t really know know. I’m really grateful I sought information and knowledge for myself.
TiKA means joy in the place of sorrow. Have you always had this positive contagious energy?
I think so, I’ve always been like this. There was a time where I definitely went through a bit of depression, so offside from my light. One of my good friends Caleb always says “you can’t know who you are without seeing who you’re not first.” That stays with me because it’s so true. I always knew I had a light, but I didn’t really know how much I was meant to have a light until I knew darkness. For sure I don’t want to be here, this is not where I want to be.
You recently released “I Would Die 4 U”, what do you like about Prince?
Favorite artist of all time. Multi instrumentalist, was at the helm of owning all of his masters. Really really taught artists about the music industry and how shiesty it can be. Was his own individual person and never played by any rules that were dictated to him. He always did his own thing by his own rules. Why can’t he? He’s Prince. His musicality, the amount of records he’s come out with. The amount of music he’s come out with that resonates with folks, he really is one of the most progressive artists of all time.
Even him in terms of how he showed up. His one album Camille, he delved into dressing up like a woman presenting as a female presenting individual. The whole album being sung from the perspective of a woman, Prince was one of the most progressive artists we had then. If he was still alive now, he’d be soaring. “I Would Die 4 U” was my favorite record by him coming out, the first song I heard from him when I was 14. People don’t know he was writing from the perspective of Jesus Christ. He got it, to be an artist that’s somehow able to convert your audience to being Christ believers and still making a #1 Pop hit is brilliant. He’s brilliant.
How was it shooting the visual?
It was so fun. I love NASKADEMI, he’s my director and cinematographer here in Montreal. It was an amazing experience working with him as per usual. This video out of all the videos we worked with, everything that day went wrong. Everything, but somehow ended up going right. You know how things end up like that? We had 2 smoke machines, they broke on set. I don’t know why or how. I was supposed to be turning around on this turntable that’s spinning me around, but I was too heavy for it. It was spinning like a broken turntable, all rickety. So hilarious, wow this is a hot ass mess. When it came out, I’m like “oh my god, this is fire!” [laughs]
Talk about your faith in God and your spirituality.
I have a very progressive spirituality. I believe in God for sure. I’m not hyper-religious. I was raised as a Pentecostal Christian which I felt was too strict for my politics, especially with me being queer and me being super open-minded. I delved into other practices like Buddhism. It’s important to have a foundation or a foundational belief, but we shouldn’t be ignorant to close ourselves off from other teachers because you can learn something from everybody. The importance of duality stems from being in the hood, then seeing that other side of the middle class. Duality and perspective allows you to see things from different sides, not coming off as judgmental which that’s what Christ-like is. It’s being accepting of all people, races, creeds, colors, whatever. It’s understanding that differences are not here to divide us, but rather to create more relatability. Relationships are about relating, let me get to know you.
What do you do for self-care?
I really like simple things. I’m not difficult to please in any capacity. Hot baths with epsom salt and my rose petals, I love little things like that. Turning on chakra meditation music and laying down with my cat on my belly. Hear him purring and petting the cat is top, peak, adulting self care-for me. I really enjoy massages and reiki healing is really really great. I love tarot.
What are your tarot card predictions?
I’m a stubborn Scorpio, so I tend to learn lessons hard, it takes me a while to get the lesson. Scorpios are a fixed sign so once we see something a certain way, it’s hard for us to shake it and learn new information or change once we’ve learned new information. My predictions are very light and very sun-filled, positive!
How important is Black Lives Matter to you?
Extremely, it’s why I live. It’s why I survive, why I breathe. It’s so important. If it didn’t matter, I wouldn’t matter. It’s hyper important for me because eventually I want children one day and I want them to know the value of their lives. To understand that everything that has been set up in terms of systemically to tear them down is not the truth and that they have value outside of the systems of oppression. Organizations like Black Lives Matter are hyper important for people to know that they have value plus plus tax, on top of what they’ve been shown or told or how they’ve been treated.
Best memories from opening for artists like John Legend and Nao?
Nao loved my “I Would Die 4 U.” When I performed, I came backstage and she said “oh my God,I love your Prince cover!” Wow, what a fucking moment! John Legend was such an experience for me, being able to meet all his fans and have them hear my sound. I’m still floored at having those opportunities.
What do you miss about the stage?
Everything! It connected me with the people. The rush of being able to perform something and hearing someone’s reaction. Performing on stage is the equivalent of being able to touch God’s hand. You’re almost there, you’re about to. It’s a heightened orgasm, it’s so intense. It’s like a rollercoaster: you’re almost, you’re almost, you’re almost. It’s so nice.
3 things you need in the studio?
Tea for sure, Throat Coat is my favorite tea. A heater, get rid of those surround heaters and get me the little portable thing I can put right in front of my feet, I love that. I love to be hot, get me a heater. I hate writing on my phone. I write everything down, I’m so old school so pen and pad.
Talk about the Sephora campaigns you’ve participated in.
Great, fantastic opportunity. Still wrapping my head around it, it changed everything for me. I wasn’t accustomed to modeling before, but I do understand that I have a specific look. It’s so interesting because in high school, I was always bullied and made fun of. It’s such an interesting transition to go from the ugly duckling to the swan, but it’s so inspiring. I’ve never seen a fat black woman on a campaign like that before. It was really important for other chubby black girls to feel validated, to know it’s possible for them to see that. And why not?
What can we expect from your forthcoming debut, Anywhere But Here?
Futuristic nostalgia, timeless classics. We built it intentionally that way. I want you to be able to listen to it now or 99 years from now and it still resonates. 80’s thematic pop for sure. Power ballads for sure, a lot of really great sonic sounds. I want this to be a moment in time for folks. I want to feel like this was a magical moment in time where I remember I had my first kiss, or I had my first experience with somebody. We made love on this day or we held hands on this day. I want it to be the soundtrack to that moment. I really want to be responsible for people’s babies.
What does your tattoo on your arm say?
It says “the universe bears no ill to me, I bear no ill to it.” Maybe it’s a good statement for what’s going on right now. The chaos outside is only happening outside, it’s not happening inside.