The 30-year-old singer discussed her 2019 decision to leave RCA during the Tuesday, September 12, episode of the Zach Sang Show. After several years of working independently, Tinashe signed with Nice Life Recording Company in July.
“It felt like a perfect meeting of people who really understand and respect my artistry,” she said of moving to Nice Life, which is also home to Lizzo. “I didn’t feel like I was pressured to mold, change, make any of those things that felt label-y.”
When asked whether the duets with Brown, 34, and Kelly, 56, felt like one of those “label-y” things, Tinashe said they did.
“You think I wanted to [do those songs]?” she asked host Zach Sang. “I literally block out that R. Kelly song from my mind. I forget that that even exists. That is so embarrassing. That is so unreal that I even have a song with R. Kelly. That’s so embarrassing! Yes, that was label-y.”
Her duet with Kelly, “Let’s Be Real Now,” appeared on his 2015 album, The Buffet. “I was so young too,” Tinashe added. “I feel like I did that song when I just signed to that label. I was probably 20. That was crazy.”
When Sang, 30, said it sounded like “you lack a lot of control in that situation,” Tinashe agreed. “A thousand percent. Especially when it comes to singles,” she said before recalling “Player,” her 2015 collaboration with Brown. “We all wanted it to be this big moment, this big single, so I feel like in their mind, they were like, ‘You need this support,’ and he was their biggest artist that they had on rhythmic radio at the time. To me, I was like, ‘Well, this is a pop song, so I really don’t feel like we should put Chris on it.’ That doesn’t compute to me, but I don’t know. Hindsight is 20/20.”
She went on to say that she felt as though she could only “push back” against her label “so many times” before they would stop promoting her music. “There’s only so much that you can be like, ‘No, I’m not gonna do this because you want to be successful as well,’” Tinashe said. “You want to put your music out. If this is the way that I’m gonna be able to get my art out or my single out, then I’m just gonna have to commit to this. I’m just gonna have to convince myself that this is the right thing to do.”
After releasing her debut studio album, Aquarius, in 2014, Tinashe was outspoken about delays she faced while working on 2016’s Nightride and 2018’s Joyride. Meanwhile, she faced criticism from observers wondering why she chose to collaborate with Brown and Kelly, both of whom have been accused of violent crimes against women.
Kelly is currently serving 30 years in prison after he was found guilty on nine counts in New York. The 2021 conviction includes three counts of transportation across state lines for illegal sexual activity, four counts coercion and enticement and one count of transportation of a minor.
Last year, a Chicago jury found him guilty of three charges of child pornography and three counts of enticing a child in a separate case. He was sentenced to 19 years in prison to be served concurrently with his New York term plus an additional consecutive year, bringing his total sentence to 31 years.
Brown, for his part, pleaded guilty to one count of felony assault after beating former girlfriend Rihanna before the 2009 Grammys. He was sentenced to five years of probation as well as community service and domestic violence counseling.
If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673). If you or someone you know are experiencing domestic violence, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 for confidential support.