Release Date: January 10, 2014
Tink is an 18-year-old Chicagoan equally skilled at brash, speedy-spitting rap and deeply felt, real-talk-entrenched R&B. Her raps have received most of the praise, though, especially after last year’s Nicki Minaj-meets-Future mixtape Boss Up and “Wanna Party,” a buzzy collaboration with weirdo club-music supergroup Future Brown. But Winter’s Diary 2: Forever Yours, her latest and best release so far, mostly focuses on her R&B side, which itself has many sides to it: twirling-the-telephone-cord loneliness, punching-a-wall fuck-you frustration, totally-in-love-with-that-boy joy, and wisegirl pragmatism when it comes to determining what’s actually important between two people. Tink is as likely to knock a dude over with her candor as she is to step back and take the “L” in a romantic battle, if it means winning the war for self-respect and emotional honesty.
And so, Winter’s Diary 2 places listeners in an alternate universe where hard-edged hip-hop occasionally plays nice with smooth, vulnerable R&B, rather than the other way around. Let’s start with the rappity “Talkin’ About,” a coed back-and-forth that for once doesn’t accept a sentiment like “my boo’s a dick, but that’s cool” as the final word. Rapper Lil Herb, out of town and fucking around, provides a laundry list of things he buys for Tink (“All the Gucci, the Prada, Chanel, Dolce Gabbana, riding around in foreign cars, Benihanas”), and she responds with a cogent, passionate articulation of what she actually needs from him:
Man, fuck that Gucci, just look how you do me
You think that designer make up for this shit?
I buy my own Prada, man, that’s not the problem
The problem is you too caught up with that bitch
I need you to come home and give me that D
I need you to not leave the crib when I’m sleeping
I need you to act like a man and stay true to the plan
Her bedroom talk is quietly revolutionary, too: On “Freak Like Me,” Chicago R&B-er TKO Nikko asks, “Tink, you ready?” and gets this in reply: “What you mean… I should be asking you, like, are you ready?” Ultimately, Nikko concedes that he’s a “freak,” too, and offers to go down on her — not exactly freaky, no, but it is considerate.
Throughout, we’re treated to a ’90s baby talking matters of the heart over ’90s grown-folks R&B, boasting a maturity laced with the intensity of a teenager. “Time” houses a declarative, cathartic, Mary J.-caliber hook that conjures up images of Tink sometime in the future, pounding an arena stage wrestling-referee-style, screaming out, “I’m not asking for much / I just want your time, time, time, time, time.” Meanwhile, Alicia Keys’ “Diary” gets chipmunked on “Your Secrets,” revealing both a source of inspiration and a well of ambition: Such lush R&B is something to aspire to, sure, but Keys has never made anything this raw.
Much of the praise for Beyoncé focused on one of the album’s most heartening themes: You can be happily married and not be mad boring, or bored. Well, here’s Tink making an argument that youthful love and lust — pervasive in pop, though almost always superficially explored — should be taken as seriously: “He just wanted one thing and I just wanted something / To smile at and live for and hug on,” she states matter-of-factly in her singular honeyed mumble on “Treat Me Like Somebody.” At 18, Tink already has dudes figured out, but that hasn’t made her cynical about the possibility of love and romance, whether she’s hooking up or just hanging out. Are you ready?