Tink Blows Up as Chicago Rap Goes Nuclear

She may be 19, but look who she’s got in her corner.

For seven years, Jay-Z didn’t rap on a track with a single lady not named Beyonce. Now, he’s finishing a curvy upstart's sentences. Along with Rick Ross, Hova has entered the orbit of Tink, a lyrically sophisticated and soulful 19-year-old whose four mixtapes are considered instant classics in Chicago, where she’s at the core of a raucous scene. Timbaland produced her first album, which is a damn good sign that she (and probably the headliners courting her) is on the right track.

“When I met Tim, it was like a reunion, like I had known him all my life,” says Tink. “Once we start dropping singles you’re going to understand. It’s hard to be mad at real music.”

The meeting took place in a studio in L.A. in April and was apparently as big a deal to the seasoned producer as it was to his new teenage collaborator. Since working with Tink, Timbaland has spent a lot of time comparing her to legends like Lauryn Hill and made grand statements, claiming, for instance, that he would bet his entire checking account on her. He hasn’t done that, but he’s done the next best thing, signing her to his label.

Growing up in Calumet City, a south suburb of Chicago, and attending middle and high school in downtown Chicago, Tink, born Trinity Home, had one foot in the suburbs and one foot in “ChIraq,” where the murder rate was spiraling out of control. “My parents sheltered me, which is a great thing and I’m grateful for it,” she says, “but I definitely had my hand in the violence in Chicago, losing friends at a young age.” And this duality is apparent in her music. She goes from R&B vulnerable to hip-hop hard in a single beat.

She also makes Chicago music, which means that she experiments – for instance, working with the pop duo Sleigh Bells -  and goes her own way. She doesn’t trend chase because Chicago doesn’t produce trends. Chicago manufactures individualists.

“I always knew Drill music was going to have to evolve,” she says, referring to the beat-drive, hyper-violent rap that put the South Side on the map. “I know what I’m doing and what I’m doing, it’s real.” She’s got the confidence of someone who has met her heroes and stayed in touch with her peers. She makes it clear that, even if she’s spending some of her time hanging with music royalty, she’s still a Chicago girl. She aspires to big things, but the biggest thing is having the respect of the artists she watched and emulated on her way up.

“The cool thing about these artists is when you hear them, you’re probably like ‘What? You’re from Chicago?’” she says. “Trust me, they’re dope as fuck.”

Tink’s favorite Second City Acts:

Vic Mensa

BJ the Chicago Kid

toni romiti

Lili K


You can see Tink performing with A$AP Mob to conclude Red Bull Sound Select Presents: 30 Days in LA on November 30.

Photos by Drew Reynolds / Red Bull Content Pool