April R&B/Hip-Hop Rookie of the Month – Billboard
Written by GRB on 24/04/2023
It’s a travel day for TiaCorine, who is riding on a tour bus from Salt Lake City to Seattle for her next stop as a supporting act on Key Glock’s Glockoma Tour when she talks to Billboard over Zoom. She turns her camera to show that the bus is going through the mountains — making for an occasionally choppy conversation, but demonstrating the kind of new terrain that Tia’s promising career is now regularly visiting.
Hailing from Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Tia (born Tia Shultz) takes pride in her hometown and still lives there with her seven-year-old daughter. But the rising rapper has been out and about a lot more recently — for tour of course, but thanks to her growing popularity she’s also found herself at New York Fashion Week, in Los Angeles for Grammy events and most recently, performing alongside Latto at Coachella.
TiaCorine has been a product of virality ever since her 2018 song “Lotto” found its way to TikTok in 2020. Fittingly, she sounds like an anime character rapping on the song, as her love for the animation style heavily informs her vibrant wardrobe and visuals. Last fall, she released her third project I Can’t Wait, on which she weaves totether hip-hop, rage rap and alternative rock. Tia took inspiration from The Wizard of Oz, Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts for the album’s artwork (video games are another big influence) and earned another viral moment via standout track “FreakyT.”
Produced by Honorable C.N.O.T.E., the song sees Tia rhyming over a beat that reminded her of Memphis rap staples Project Pat and Three 6 Mafia, whom she’s a big fan of. (“Look at me, where she wanna be, call me Freaky T/ Off the leash, I feel like a dog, I get hella flee,” she opens in a staccato flow.) “FreakyT” has been used in over 23,000 TikTok videos, and reached a No. 22 high on Billboard’s Rap Airplay chart. She even released an official sped-up version as well as the first remix of the song featuring Latto last Friday (April 21).
“It got a little doubt from the beginning, but I knew it was a good song,” she says. “I knew people would like it, but I didn’t know it was going to go this far.”
TiaCorine is just getting started. Billboard spoke with April’s R&B/Hip-Hop Rookie of the Month about balancing motherhood and newfound fame, her dream collab and the freakiest thing she’s ever said.
It’s good to be talking again since we met a few months ago in the office. How’ve you been since then?
Good! Just on tour. Working, working!
What’s been the most lit city so far?
I think it was Kansas City, [Missouri]. Kansas City was real, real lit.
How do you balance motherhood with your newfound stardom and touring?
Being on tour, [my daughter and I] have certain times that we FaceTime throughout the day – we play Roblox together, we talk, we text. She just calls me whenever she feels like talking. Sometimes it makes her sad the more that she talks to me, because she doesn’t really understand the time — like, April 28th [the last day of tour], she doesn’t know how long [from now] that is. She doesn’t understand how long I’m gonna be gone. But it’s been good, though. My mom’s staying at my house so [my daughter’s] at home.
Do you find it hard to say “no” to opportunities?
No. I usually just say “no” when I don’t want to do something, because at the end of the day, I’m the boss and it’s all about me. This is my face, my brand — so if I don’t wanna do something, I just say “no.” I could care less how you feel. I say “no” all the time.
Tell me about your childhood and your beginnings in music.
I’m from Winston-Salem, North Carolina and my parents just really love music. My mom played music all the time. I just naturally liked music, I guess. And then I picked up my first instrument in sixth grade, which was the flute, and I fell in love with the sounds — reading a body of music and the behind-the-scenes of music. I started hearing things in songs that I normally didn’t hear at first. My mom would take me to symphonies and orchestras, because if you were a part of the band, you would get tickets to go there if you wanted to after school.
I started talent shows in third grade where I started off singing. [As I got older], it kinda morphed into rapping, because I used to hang out with guys and they would be rapping. I just tried it one day, and the first time I did it, I was like “Oh s–t. D–n, I sound pretty good.” I had fun doing it and I just kept practicing and “Lotto” was the second song I made and it went viral.
Do you write your raps or freestyle?
It’s a mixture of both. I don’t have a certain way that I do it — every time I record it’s kinda different. I might get on the mic and find a tune, or I might have something to start me off in my phone because I have little bars that I write throughout the day. It’s kinda [like] how I dress, I just do it depending on how I’m feeling that day.
Who is someone that you really want to work with?
I really wanna work with Tyler, the Creator, I look up to him a lot. I think he’s a genius. I love a lot of the things that he does, and I kinda see myself being like him.
Did you expect “FreakyT” to take off the way it did? I saw Rick Owens used it in a TikTok.
Yeah, that was crazy! My brother sent me that TikTok and I was like, “What the f–k, it’s Rick Owens! He needs to send me some Rick’s.” [Laughs.] But nah, I didn’t — because I definitely was told that it wasn’t one of my best songs and they weren’t trying to put it on the project, so I had to fight to get that on and keep it on there.
I know you have a few remixes of the song coming out.
I have a boy version and a girl version, and we are dropping one soon.
What’s the freakiest thing you’ve ever done or said?
It had to be something I said on Twitter. I don’t know if it’s the freakiest, but I posted a photo of Lois Griffin. She was in the bed with big muscles and I was like, “This is me when I make myself [nut].” And everybody was like, “What the f–k.” [Laughs.] I didn’t think it was that freaky at the time, but I guess so — everybody said I was out of pocket.
I saw in another interview you said when you make it big you want to move to Japan. Why is that?
I just think Japan is so cool-looking. It’s so futuristic and I love cherry blossom trees. The scenery out there is so crazy and magical. When people send me pictures, I just see myself being there.
What anime shows do you recommend for people who want to get into it?
I’ll always recommend Hunter x Hunter, I just like the way that it started off. Anybody that’s never watched anime or doesn’t like it, when I put them on to that, they’re like “D–n, this is actually really good.” Parasyte is good, even Death Note is really good to start off with. Or you can start off with something smaller like Inuyasha, but that’s more of a romantic type [and] it’s kind of funny.
It seems like your bubbly personality is reflected in your style and videos. How do you maintain such bright energy?
Because I love it. I’m really passionate about [making music] and having fun. Like, if I’m not having fun, then what am I doing this for? It’s a mixture of naturally having the love to do it and I talk to my supporters a lot online, and they always give me good words of advice and say really encouraging things. That just makes me more excited and inspires me to make more music.
And just having people around me — like Kyra, she does my hair, but that’s a childhood friend of mine. So a lot of people that I keep around me are actual, real true friends that were here from the beginning. I think having that natural, raw energy around [me] keeps me grounded. Also, I still live in North Carolina where everything started for me. [That’s] what keeps me going and aligns me.