Words by Amir Shaw
Images by Dewayne Rogers for Steed Media Service
Since the late ‘90s, Tank has left an indelible mark on the music industry. The R&B crooner who started his career as a backup singer for the late, great Aaliyah, released his masterful debut, Force of Nature, in 2001 and soon became one of the most sought after songwriters in the industry.
Chris Brown, R. Kelly, Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Hudson, Keyshia Cole and Keri Hilson have all called on Tank to pen hits for them. He also served as a contributor to the Oscar-nominated film Dreamgirls.
But while Tank garnered respect with credible hit makers and music industry executives, he struggled to recapture the breakout success experienced with the hit single, “Maybe I Deserve.”
During the mid 2000s, urban radio was flooded with R&B artists who catered to hard-core hip-hop and overtly sexual content.
However, Tank proved that he could offer an alternative to the oversexed themes that became prevalent. He remained true to himself and true to the essence of R&B by crafting heartfelt love songs.
His cover of Bonnie Raitt’s “I Can’t Make You Love Me” introduced him to a new audience and paved the way for his new release, This Is How I Feel.
Tank’s fifth solo album topped the R&B charts and debuted in the top 10 on the 200 Billboard charts.
The album proves, once again, that Tank stands apart from his contemporaries with his ability to capture the joys and tribulations of relationships in his music. He fully understands what it means to seek, capture and lose love.
Like a learned professor, Tank provides a curriculum on love and relationships. Take notes, class is in session.
You have played a major role in music for more than a decade. However, it seems as if you are being reintroduced to a new audience. What is different about releasing an album this time around?
I think that people are just now starting to understand who I am and what I really do. It’’s been a slow build, but I’ll take that to be around for 12 to 15 years. My first album dropped in 2001. And to still be discovered and rediscovered is a blessing. I just did a brand-new deal with Atlantic Records for new albums and a new publishing deal with Warner. I am kind of being introduced and reintroduced to people in a different way. So I’ll take that.
A lot of artists who came out with you in 2001 are no longer relevant. How important is it for artists to handle business and not depend solely on a major label to keep the buzz going?
I really didn’t do a lot of things on my own that I do now. The label has their responsibilities of what they’re supposed to do and the management [has] things they are supposed to do. But a lot of these things that have to happen have to come from within yourself too. You’ve got to have the mind-set to get out here in the streets and go above and beyond and make extra things happen for yourself, so that it enhances everything that the label is doing. Just because you get the deal doesn’t mean your work with the job is over. It’s very important that you stay at the forefront of keeping yourself up and keeping your brand out there.
How do you approach writing songs for others?
I think writing for other people is more about understanding where they are and where they have been musically. You have to really understand the mind-set and the energy of that person so that you know what they’re able to deliver and what they’re not. You have to build on that. It’s kind of a science to me. I just don’t make records and shop them around to people and see who really likes the record. That’s not really how you build a record for an individual. You tailor a record just like you do a suit.
You have worked a lot with artists such as Chris Brown, Jaime Foxx and R. Kelly. What’s the process of writing songs for those artists?
We’re all like family — Chris Brown, Jamie Foxx and R. Kelly. We all kind of have that mutual respect for each other. So it’s easy for us to get in there and put egos aside and just make good music. “You know your line was great, I’ll come up with the next one.” It’s more about getting the best record that you can possibly get while working together. For the most part, everybody that I’ve worked with, the energy has always been good. So I guess I’m blessed in that aspect.
You have a great sense of what works and what doesn’t work in relationships. What advice can you provide to the fellas about how to have a great first date?
When you’re entertaining a woman for the first time, the most important part about that time is that you’re paying attention to her. It’s all about her. Where she’s been, where she is in life, where she’d like to go and if she needs any help with getting there. Talk about her educational process, what is what like for her growing up, siblings and her worst fear. All of these things will get a woman to feel comfortable with expressing herself. If a woman feels like she can express herself and talk to a man, she lets her guard down and she becomes more comfortable, and that’s when you can have a real interaction. At that point, you’re no longer talking to the representative, but you’re actually talking to the heart, soul and mind of that individual. Make love to her mind first and then we can get to the other places.
What are five things that make every woman sexy?
Confidence: It’s going to be in your walk, in your posture, how you hold out your hand to introduce yourself, how you hold your head high like a queen.
Take care of yourself: Having your feet and hands all nice and done up — and your hair. I don’t care if it’s your hair, I don’t care if it’s the horse’s hair, but as long as the hair is done and it’s taken care of, that’s sexy.
Your outfit: If your outfit is going to fit, let it fit. Show them what you got. And if it’s not going to fit, then let it flow and let it vibe.
Have some goals: Have some ambitions. Don’t let being pretty be your be-all [and] end-all. Actually, have some type of education or idea of what you want to accomplish.
Have a love for kids: I love a woman that loves kids. That’s sexy to me. I love a woman that’s nurturing, that’s ready to take care of and comfort [a child].
What do you want your legacy to be?
I want to be remembered as a hardworking black man. I don’t believe in handouts. I’m going to work for mine. When I look at myself in the mirror, I want to feel good about the man that I am and the work that I put in.