I had the chance to interview TT the Artist, a legend in the making in the Baltimore Club scene. As her name might suggest, she is an artist in just about every sense of the word. She makes music, she paints, she produces most of her visuals, and she’s an aspiring filmmaker. Balancing all of these art forms seems just about impossible, but she’s pulling it off and pulling it off well. Read below as I chat with TT the Artist about the state of music in Baltimore, where she’s been, and where she’s going.
I know that you’re originally from Florida, and have also spent a little time in New York. What is it about Baltimore that caused you to stick around?
I actually moved to New York after I graduated college. I spent 2 years living in New York doing what most aspiring artists fresh out of art school do: I was hustling. Workin’ three 9 to 5s and working as a freelance artist on the side. My life had got to a point where I felt like I never had time to nurture my own creative ideas because I was too busy trying to pay my expensive rent in my Brooklyn apartment. So, I decided to go back to Baltimore and reconnect with a good friend of mine and start an art business. At that time in Baltimore there was no real art scene. I took the New York hustle and state of mind and applied that to everything I was doing in Baltimore. I started doing live painting in night clubs, art exhibits and high profile events. My return to Baltimore also enabled me to focus on building my music and sound as performer. Baltimore is a great city for artists to nurture their craft. The city is affordable to live and small enough to connect with a lot of people who can help you with your career.
What drew you into Baltimore club music?
It was a natural transition for me. When I started taking music seriously, my sound was more urban and straight hip hop. I was performing at the spots where you really had to earn your respect like 5 Seasons and Eden’s Lounge Organic Soul Tuesdays open mic…both of these spots no longer exist but they where both places where you could build a local following. It wasn’t until 2009, when I met B-more club producer Mighty Mark formerly known as Murder Mark through pioneer club producer Samir who at the time was working on a B-more club album with Aaron Lacrate. Mark was a part of a production team called the Yo Boys and they were making some fresh B-more club tracks. They needed a female vocal for a track called “Let Me Show ’em.” I did my verse in one take and the rest was history. I’m from Florida and I grew up on Miami Bass music so I could hear the similarities in B-more club music which made it easy to adapt to the sound.
So what’s in the pipeline for you in 2016?
2016, I will be bringing nothing but greatness. I kicked of the year with several collaborations and features on projects with Sinden, Herve, DJ Shiftee, AC Slater, and Baauer. I recently had the opportunity to perform at SXSW and Coachella which was epic. I dropped a remix EP called “Art Royalty Abstract” through Space Is the Place records and I am preparing for the release of my debut album “Queen of the Beat.” I will be touring this spring and summer to promote the album. This year is all about making moves. I plan to be everywhere I can be and to meet and connect as many dots as possible. I would like to bring the club culture to the major stages and platforms. Baltimore has a lot of talent and I think it’s time for the world to put the spotlight on the city.
What can you tell us about the new album?
With my debut album, it was important to shed a few layers on who I am, my struggle, my journey and also work with other local artists and producers who I feel share some the same experiences that I do. This album is a mix of genres and influenced by the break beats of Miami Bass, Baltimore Club and hip hop mixed with a touch of EDM. I also co-produced 2 songs on the project. There were things I needed to say on this album to address what many artists go through so the project has something for everyone. I wanted to keep a sound that many of my listeners are familiar with but I also wanted to tap into other areas of interests musically. I noticed you’ve been featured on some UK stuff lately, such as “Dance To My Beat” with Hervé and “To the Ground” with Sinden. How did you end up linking up with those guys?
A friend of mine connected me with Hervé via email and from there we began to talk collaboration. Sinden has known about me for a while now and it was all about good timing. I am always collaborating. I think it’s important to learn to work with producers from different parts of the world. My sound has become more diverse through these collaborations.
Any plans to perform in the UK? Or anywhere overseas for that matter?
Last year, I had the opportunity to perform in Berlin, Canada and Portugal. I definitely feel like I have to go overseas with my sound. People in other countries have such a big respect for hip hop. I have a few opportunities brewing as far as performances overseas. Ultimately, I would love to do a 4-5 city tour this year… Booking agents holla at ya girl!
I noticed a lot of artists lately end up moving to LA at some point. Is that going to be you? Or are you sticking around here for awhile?
I think every artists journey is different depending on what your goals are. I have my mind set on making music that will travel across the world so I have to move in general. I have to connect with major music hub cities. Baltimore has a music scene but there is no music industry in the city. I hope that wherever my journey leads me that I can bring the industry to Baltimore one day. There is so much talent in Baltimore, but people are not tapping into their full potential due to the lack of resources. In other cities you have public dance and recording studio spaces that are accessible to artists. With all the new developments to the Baltimore landscape, I wonder why the city is not investing in more spaces where artists can create. Artists are forced to go to other cities because we are thirsty and locally they are not giving us enough water. Plants need water to grow or they eventually wither away… That’s how I see it. Also, many of the local venues and party promoters don’t pay the local talent what they deserve. Instead, we take a back seat to outside acts who are paid top dollar, when it’s the local talent that will most likely get more people through the door. I do feel that once you reach a certain level of experience in your career you should respected on the same level. I move around because in order to sustain myself I have to go other cities to get decent pay.
Generic question, I know, but what really sparked your interest in becoming a musical artist?
I started writing rhymes in high school. My home girl Kamesha used to rap and freestyle during lunch and after school. She would battle all the boys and win [laughs]. She was respected for her voice and that’s when I knew I wanted to rap.
Did you ever see yourself getting to this point in your musical career?
Honestly, I am not sure what point I am at… Is it the point where my foot is in the door? Or is it the point where I am getting older and just one of a million acts all seeking the same goal? I have been doing music professionally for about 7-8 years now, but I have been performing since I was 18. The game is so different now with the use of the internet. I started doing music at a time where you had to have a mixtape, a single and hit the clubs to try to get your song played. These days, everybody can decide to do music and carve out their own lane. It’s a lot more content out there, but it’s not all good content. I have always envisioned myself being in a place where my music would be heard on a larger platform… It was just a matter of people catching up with me and taking time to listen to my music and appreciate the creativity. I would love to get in a place where I have a real budget for my ideas. A lot of people don’t know that I self-direct and produce the majority of my visuals and content. I am very involved in every aspect of my career. I have also made strides to educate myself on music business because I think it’s important to know how your music is distributed and how you get paid as an artist. Music is one element to TT The Artist, and I also plan to start exhibiting my art as well as produce films very soon. I am enjoying the ride and grateful for all the opportunities that come my way.
One more common question: Who are some of your influences and who/what inspired you? Whether it’s musical influences, friends/family that helped you along the way, life events, etc.
Musically, I listen to everything. My Spotify playlist consist of 90’s dance music and RnB, EDM, hip hop, and meditation soundtrack music. I grew up in a very religious household so I had to sneak and listen to secular music. For many of my club records, my approach is more aggressive and in your face, that comes from my Southern roots and influence of Miami Bass acts like Uncle Luke, 2 Live Crew, 69 Boys, etc. I use to be a dancer so I loved records that had heavy bass and were percussive. I like to create music about life experiences, what’s going on in the world and pop culture. Lately, I have been tapping more into melody with my music. I grew up on 90s RnB and dance music so I would say I look to the 90’s for inspiration when I am singing. My friends and family are very supportive and give me their honest feedback on my music which is great for me when I am developing new ideas. As far as rap I’m into Drake, Kanye and Yo Gotti presently, and I support all female rappers. There are so many dope female artists out there in different lanes I would just like to see the industry support female artists more.
Finally, where can we see you this summer? Got any gigs lined up?
I am presently on tour promoting my album set to release online in May, but you can get a physical copy of the album at any of my shows before it hits online. You can check out my website www.tttheartist.com for all the show listings.