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Yung Baby Tate Is Georgia’s Rainbow

By Bianca Gracie on

What’s up next in culture is #UpNow on Audiomack. Our emerging artist program is dedicated to spotlighting and promoting the next generation of global music superstars. Read more about our selection of Yung Baby Tate for #UpNow and listen to our official #UpNow playlist featuring Yung Baby Tate.

More Black women are taking control of their music careers, from intricately curating their outfits to calling the shots on the sets of music videos. Yung Baby Tate, an artist who straddles the generational line between Millennials and Gen Z, is helping to lead the charge.

Don’t dare just take her at face value. The 24-year-old is a quadruple-threat: she raps, sings, produces, and dances all while uplifting Black women to own their agency through her lyrics. There’s a reason why her ubiquitous “I Am” single featuring Flo Milli went viral in 2020. In a year that was outlined with gender inequity and racial injustices, Tate’s simple choral affirmation (“I am healthy, I am wealthy, I am rich, I am that bitch”) became a catchy mantra that took over social media feeds.

Tate’s ear for melodies was already in her DNA. Her mother Dionne Farris is a soul singer and her father David Ryan Harris is a musician who’s tapped in various genres from rock to pop. Growing up in Decatur, Georgia with her mother, classic R&B artists like Al Green, Gladys Knight, Anita Baker, Aretha Franklin, and Marvin Gaye soundtracked the household.

“Me and my mom actually used to make little jingles up all the time, whenever we were just at home,” Tate says with a laugh. “They would be about anything, whatever we were eating that night or if we were at the grocery store. So we’ve always been a very singing ass family.”

Tate attended a performing arts school during elementary, middle, and high school, where she composed songs on the piano and learned the guitar. By age 13, she started recording herself on GarageBand. “This particular summer, I just didn't have anything to do. I wasn’t going to any camp, no Vacation Bible School,” Tate says. “So I went on my mom’s computer, opened up GarageBand and I just started messing around with stuff. That’s where my journey of creating my own music and producing for myself started.”

In 2015, Tate released her debut project, ROYGBIV, and continued sharing music until 2019’s debut GIRLS album. The following year, she twice appeared on HBO’s Insecure soundtrack and secured a partnership deal with Issa Rae’s Raedio label. Tate punctuated the successful year with last December’s After the Rain EP. It’s an amalgamation of Tate’s nostalgic sound, with sprinklings of Aaliyah, Britney Spears, Nicki Minaj, Pussycat Dolls, and Samantha Mumba that signify her musical journey.

After the Rain, along with the rest of Tate’s discography, breaks the stereotypical mold of what a Black female artist should sound like. Whether it’s referencing pop cultural moments like “Damn Daniel!” and Mean Girls, or affirming Black women, Tate makes it clear the only way she’ll do this is her way.

Your mom Dionne Farris was a soul singer. Music was just always in your blood.

Definitely. I grew up with my mom kind of putting me through the ropes of what she did. I’ll go to shows with her, rehearsals, and the studio sometimes. Just being in awe of my mom and her talent, but definitely, soul music has been a part of my life for my whole life. I would go up to New Jersey with my grandma and my aunt and that’s the type of music they would play. I’m one of those people where I would be young knowing these really old songs. You know how people will be like, “Girl, what know you about this?” But I would really be about it.

Earlier you mentioned classic soul performers, but were there any other artists that may have inspired you?

Especially by the time I got to 13 I was really inspired by Gwen Stefani, Nicki Minaj, TLC. But I also loved house music, like CeCe Peniston. There were so many different varieties of music. I loved Missy Elliott and a lot of ‘90s R&B like SWV too.

Gwen Stefani is an innovator and TLC is all about girl power. So I do see some parallels with your own music.

I think I’ve always just found peace in strong women and powerful messages from women. I was in love with Gwen Stefani’s whole image and super bubble pop [music]. I love TLC’s image as well. It’s so quirky and cool and crazy, but also sexy.

I was always drawn to women I think weren’t like the status quo ‘cause I saw that in my mom. She wasn’t a regular soul singer. She didn’t have a head wrap on or a big afro, but she still had so much soul. She also did rock and things that people wouldn’t expect.

Do you remember the first album you got where you thought, “Whoa, this is a game-changer”? For me personally, TLC’s FanMail changed the way I thought about music.

My top four from when I was younger, was Gwen Stefani’s Love. Angel. Music. Baby., TLC’s Ooooooohhh… On the TLC Tip, Monie Love’s In a Word or 2, and CeCe Peniston’s Finally. I had this Hello Kitty boombox and all of those CDs had scratches all over them because I wore them out. But they were my jams and also the first I felt like I could call mine ‘cause my mom had such an extensive CD collection. A lot of times she’d be like, “Don’t touch my CDs!” But those four, she just let me have them because I loved them so much.

Those are awesome choices. So I’m going to fast forward a little bit. Last year you partnered with Issa Rae’s Raedio label. It’s more of a partnership rather than the traditional record deal we’re used to seeing. How would you distinguish the two?

So my partnership basically ensures that I continue to maintain ownership of my music and my masters. Raedio is a partner that is helping me and kind of by my side, instead of being a hierarchy right above me and telling me what to do and dictating what moves will and won’t be made. They just want to be a part of my journey and I’m grateful we were able to come to this conclusion and work together in such a creative way. I’m technically still independent and I don’t have the major-label budget, the major-label marketing, and radio types of things. But I do have a solid partner that will help me while still being independent so I can do the things I feel are necessary for my career.

I love that you partnered with Issa because she stands for Black women owning their independence and agency. You don’t see that often, especially in the music industry. Are there any lessons or advice that she’s given throughout this time?

I think Issa just enjoys me as I am and just wants to help. So not necessarily any advice, but just her being proud of the things we’ve done already, as far as music or an audition I may have done. That to me is really encouraging, way more than advice.

The way you’re marketing yourself and the music videos you create takes me back to the late ‘90s and early ‘00s when music videos were so popping.

My visual component, whether that be the way I dress or how I perform on stage, has always been extremely important to me and has gone hand-in-hand with my music. So when it comes to shooting music videos, it has to have that same importance.

I think women in general, we just see beauty in a different way than men do. So for us, making music videos is kind of the most exciting part of music at this point. Because you get to create a world and explore it and invite people into it. The world is kind of your own throne when it comes to making music videos. So I just like to represent myself the proper way in every way, whether that’s making sure I put choreography or a skit into my videos. [I want to] show all of my talents and show the world who I am.

What was so fun for me is I first found out about you on Twitter and while going through more of your discography, I was like, “Wait, she sings as well. This is a surprise!”

It’s important for me as a person that went to performing arts elementary, middle, and high school to use all of the talents I was trained in. I’m sure my teachers would be very mad if I didn’t.

I really enjoyed your cover of Aaliyah’s “I Care 4 U” during your Rolling Loud performance. She’s one of my favorite artists of all time and I’m sure she’s an inspiration of yours.

I love Aaliyah. When I was a teenager, I would be around new friends, and I would tell them, “Hey, I sing.” They’d be like, “No you don’t. Let me hear you then.” I would always sing “I Care 4 U.” When I first started putting music out, I actually would get a lot of comparisons to Aaliyah. I was very singing-heavy [in the beginning] and I did a switch and started rapping more, but I am getting back into singing more, which is why I wanted to do a cover at Rolling Loud just to get people familiar with that side of me again.

But Aaliyah is a huge influence for me. A lot of times I don’t necessarily try. It’s not like, “Oh, I want to sound or do this like Aaliyah.” It’s just something that’s naturally similar to me. I feel like when Aaliyah passed, her spirit continues to live on through a lot of different artists. So the comparisons early on in my career, a lot of people don’t like to be compared to different artists, but that one was always one I welcomed.

I know a lot of people are wanting you to drop a full R&B album. You woke people up when you did that cover.

After The Rain was actually an R&B EP. There were some raps still sprinkled in there, but for this next album I’m working on, it’s definitely R&B-heavy. I always like to do everything my own way, but people can expect way more singing and R&B from me.

Let’s talk about After The Rain. I noticed you have some rainbow symbolism. There’s ROYGBIV in 2015, this EP’s title, the song “Rainbow Cadillac,” a lot of your hairstyles have different colors in it. I’m just assuming rainbows hold a special significance.

When I first came out with ROYGBIV, I used to call myself a musical rainbow which is basically [saying] you can never expect just one color from me. If you look at the sky and see a rainbow, it’s not just red, it’s not just orange. It’s all of the colors.

I do so much genre-wise. I don’t like to be placed into a box of what I can do. I like to express myself, so I’m going to be giving you everything. Then also, rainbow for me, it’s just kind of like a representation of humanity and who we are and we all fit into this beautiful, colorful life.

That time period after the rain usually involves a grieving process or going through something that may have been rough. I’m curious to know where the title stems from.

So I was actually going through a breakup. A lot of these songs on After The Rain are about that breakup, our relationship, me finding myself again, and returning to my rainbow.

Not only that, but the pandemic in 2020 was super crazy. So much stuff happened and I think a lot of us just felt like the rain would never stop. So After The Rain for me is symbolic. It’s a message that the rain is going to stop eventually. And once it does, we’ll come back out and you can see that beautiful rainbow.

I want to discuss “Rainbow Cadillac” because I adore Danity Kane. I loved that you interpolated “Showstopper” in that song.

I had already written the verses to the song and we were in the studio with [co-producer] Wallis Lane creating the beat for it. I was just kind of rapping out loud what I wanted the tempo to sound like. As I came into the studio, I’m writing the pre-hooks: “Big ol’ facts, no crunch, no cap.” Then when it comes to the end where I’m like, “Where are we at?” I just randomly started singing: “We in the car, we drive slow!” I was joking but my co-writer Chrystel [Bagrou] was like, “No, that’s really hard! You should say that.” That’s where it came from. It wasn’t like, “Oh I really want to shout out Danity Kane.” I just randomly started singing “Showstopper” because it’s one of my favorite songs by them.

Of course, I have to bring up “I Am” with Flo Milli. Sometimes women empowerment could be performative, but you can tell there’s genuine support between you two.

For me, it just started as personal empowerment. I didn’t necessarily think, “I want this to be a female empowerment song.” It was just a song I wanted to affirm myself through. I was listening to a lot of different affirmation songs and [they] just felt so boring and monotone. I wanted to create my own set of affirmations I felt described me and were things I would really say. Then putting Flo Milli on it, I thought she could really slide on this beat.

Along with music, your funny personality is another thing that people also gravitate toward. Like that “We did it Joe!” meme was spot on.

Thank you. I don’t like to toot my own horn, but I really do think I’m hilarious. Social media is allowing people to show their personalities. But I think prior to that, it’s like if you’re an artist, you have to be serious. But I’ve always just been like, “I’m going to be myself at the end of the day.” I’m silly, goofy, always cracking jokes and making people laugh. So, I’m going to continue to do that.

When people think of Yung Baby Tate, what is that person you want them to envision?

I want them to think of a boundless, limitless entertainer. Talented. A person that has a great personality and is as good on the inside as they are on the outside. And that bitch!

Photography by Scrill Davis for Audiomack. Interview by Bianca Gracie.

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