Kyle Ellison has never made fun of Clayton Kershaw’s Amish beard

Tink is impressive on so many levels that it can be distracting. The 19-year old rapper / singer has a rare natural range, equally capable of finding those hidden melodies which elevate an R&B lullaby or the burst of aggression that pushes a drill beat over the edge. Her singing voice isn’t simply decorative – it never stops working, yo-yoing confidently up and down the register and breaking only when it needs to sound vulnerable. She can tell stories too – both sombre confessionals for lonely nights and sex positive bedroom jams as relatable as they are incisive. The problem, though, is how do you write songs which combine all of these assets?

Up until this point Tink has attempted to juggle two different styles – feeding the streets with one hand while the other flexes for pop stardom. The two excellent Winter’s Diary tapes lean heavy on early 00s R&B, while the likes of Alter Ego and last September’s Boss Up are all gun fingers and gnashing teeth. This model should be familiar to anyone with a bookmark for Livemixtapes, but it’s likely to confuse the record-buying public.

Having recently linked with Timbaland to work on new material, Tink is about to get serious – she’s even moving from Chicago to Atlanta this summer to be free of distractions. Her latest song, ‘Used 2 Know’ airs out unspoken tension with old friends. “Should have called more, should of made time…but you know the phone works two ways,” she raps apologetically, but without regret. This isn’t quite Tink’s stylistic sweet spot, but she’s getting closer to it – the verses are rapped, but drift in and out of song as effortlessly as Bone Thugs or Kevin Gates.

Another recent cut, the DJ Dahi-produced ‘Men’, is more straightforward R&B but its beat is a perfect fit. Those hidden melodies are there again – the kind only learned through absorbing yourself in music from an early age, obsessing over TLC harmonies. This type of singing was all over January’s Winter’s Diary 2 but here it sounds updated, free from the soppy acoustic backdrops of ‘Treat Me Like Somebody’ and ‘2 and 2’ – great songs dated by their aesthetic. Dahi’s beat hardly screams for attention, but its kicks and clicks and a rumble of bass are all Tink needs to impress. More than that, though, it’s a song on which she finally sounds at home.

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