Photo courtesy of Tink.

Photo courtesy of Tink.

Tink, an 18-year-old rapper-singer from the suburbs of Chicago, has spent the months since she graduated from high school last spring making a name for herself. Her songs blend smooth R&B and hard beats with her phenomenal flow, so it’s no surprise she’s being pegged as the Next Big Thing.

We’re excited to share a couple tracks from her new mixtape, Winter’s Diary 2, which dropped today:

Earlier this week, I talked to Tink about rapping in the cafeteria, making music with her dad, and why all girls deserve to be treated like somebody.

BRITTANY SPANOS: Like you, I grew up in Chicago’s south suburbs. What was that like for you?

TINK: I was always around music. Honestly, that’s probably what kept me sane. I didn’t have to go through too much of the violence in the streets and whatnot, but that was only because I was focused on and thinking about music. I’ve been singing since I was at least five. My father is a music producer and sound engineer, so I was always around music. I was blessed to have a really nice childhood.

What kind of music did you listen to?

Growing up, I listened to ’90s girl groups like SWV and TLC. Musically, I was also influenced a lot by my dad. He would play old records from the ’80s and ’90s, so I was listening to that.

What was music’s place in your life in high school? Were you already pursuing it as a career?

That’s when I started rapping. Freshman year, I was listening to Nicki Minaj and Lil Wayne every day. We’d meet in the lunchrooms to rap, so I had a little spotlight. It was cool, because the kids at school liked it for the most part. It was fun!

What else were you into?

I used to be in a dance group. I like to dance. In a few videos I do a couple moves—but not too many.

When did you get involved in Chicago’s hip-hop scene?

After my “Fingers Up” video came out [last year], that’s when [the scene] started coming for me and checking me out. I love doing shows with other Chicago rappers. It’s always good to come together.

Who are some of the Chicago rappers you want to work with?

Me and Katie Got Bandz hope to do some work together this year. We haven’t really talked too much about it, but it’s in the air. Everybody is kind of waiting on that.

What about people outside Chicago? Do you have any dream collaborators?

Man, I’m dying for a collab with Meek Mill, for the rapping. People try to compare me to him, but Meek’s flow is crazy to me. And I love Drake. As far as the singing goes, I just want to get a song in with Drake and make everybody cry.

How has your family responded to the attention you’ve been getting for your music?

I think my family understands what’s going on, but they don’t really know how big it is just yet. But they’re supportive! Like I said, my family is really into music. My dad is actually my sound engineer. He records most of my music, so he’s right there for every step.

What’s working with your dad like?

When I was first got into music, it was because of him, so he understood when I started writing mature songs when I was like 10, 11, 12. When he hears me sing about certain things, it’s not awkward, because I’ve been doing it for so long. He knows it’s art.

Could you explain the background of “Hit My Line” and “Fly Away”?

“Fly Away” is actually the intro piece to Winter’s Diary 2. It sounds like I’m kind of talking to God, but when I wrote it, I was thinking about my fans. I trust my fans not to judge me for what I’m going to say on the tape. That was my intention when I wrote that song: I want to fly away with you all, and I want you to come with me on this journey. “Hit My Line” is one of my favorites. I think I had actually written the song before I got the beat, and once I heard that, it was just so smooth.

Treat Me Like Somebody,” another song from the mixtape, is heartbreaking yet empowering. What was your inspiration for that track?

I wrote that song toward the end of last summer. I’ll be honest with you: I was going through a breakup. I was telling my guy at the time, “Not to be cocky or anything, but I just wish you would treat me like I am somebody! Just treat me like the person I am.” I wrote a song about it the next day. I want young girls to really have that in their heads—that they need to be treated like somebody. Like, honestly, we’re queens, so why wouldn’t we want to be treated like that?

What would you be doing if you weren’t making music?

I would actually…still be in school. I would probably be studying either fashion or broadcast journalism. I like to talk.

Do you have any advice for other young artists pursuing music?

My advice is to stand out. Today, people want to sound like somebody else. That’s the trend, that’s the fad. But really, no one wants to hear the same artist twice. Just be different! ♦