Tianna Esperanza may be an artist on the rise, but she’s held on to one of her most powerful songs for nearly a decade.
In high school, a history teacher suggested she see Black Power Mixtape. The documentary, which examines the history of the Black Power movement from 1967 to 1975, includes footage of the late civil rights activist and owner of the African National Memorial Bookstore , Lewis H.Michaux, whose bookshop focused on Black literature and became a gathering ground for activists of the time.
Michaux’s words resonated greatly with Esperanza, and prompted her to consider her relationship to her mixed heritage, as a woman of two races.
“I thought I was just looking for something that included my Black history as well as my white history. I come from European immigrants, so they are white. But it’s not quite the ‘white’ I think people think in that sense; English is not their native language,” Esperanza told SPIN by phone. “With all those views, I really yearn for some Negro mentorship and influence. And when Lewis appeared on screen, I felt like his words were all about me. ”
The impact of Michaux’s words led to her writing “Lewis”, which became her debut single under the BMG label.
In that song, Esperanza, which has a hip-hop vibe, begins the song verbally over a soft beat, showcasing Michaux’s compelling legacy. With a simple instrumentation, the focus is on her lyrics.
Much of Esperanza’s music is tied to her self-discovery of identity. One of the direct recognitions of her lineage is “Princess Slit and Prince of Raincoats.” While “Lewis” showcases her love of hip-hop, “Princess Slit and the Raincoat Prince” pays homage to her grandmother, Paloma McLardy, who performed as Palmolive, the member of legendary punk bands The Slits and The Raincoats. It’s a better song by Esperanza than the other singles, with her vocals transitioning from a soft crackle to a growl on strong percussion.
While Esperanza’s sound is very different from that of her grandmother, she notes that McLardy has strongly shaped the way she navigates the music industry. “There are many timeless truths about being a woman in the industry. Unfortunately, a lot of things haven’t changed since sixty years ago [when McLardy was making music] about what your obstacles are. So she really helped me find a vision for my career,” said Esperanza.
But Esperanza’s most impressive track released to date is its title track, “Terror”. It showcases the depth of Esperanza’s talent as both a writer and a singer, starting the song with the awe-inspiring sound of “Renaissance,” when her words stand in stark contrast to her soft tone. her advice: “Sometimes when I’m walking and a man looks at me, I think of all the ways I can make him bleed. “She couldn’t help herself with the macabre details: digging her key into his eyes; cracked teeth, liver and spleen. Her voice then takes on a soulful tune, reminiscent of Amy Winehouse’s, as she sings about the horrors she’s been through, including her brother’s death and going through childhood rape.
Giving out such personal work may seem outrageous for Esperanza, who says: “I feel like telling a story like ‘The Terror’ to someone so different from me than singing it. in front of thousands of people, if that makes any sense. I just think there’s something about art in that way that feels alone and special to me even as I’m sharing it with thousands of people.”
Esperanza doesn’t stick to a single sound throughout her music; instead, she intends to experiment with combining her disparate influences to create who she is as both an artist and a young woman raised with such an eclectic background.
“This [album] is a good introduction to some [musical] style that I love and that I am influenced by. The last song [on the album] like an African influence,” she said. It’s a bit like – in my mind, it’s a bit more American punk, ‘Princess Slit and the Raincoat Prince’, but just highlights all these different influences and introduces people to where I am will come. This is really building the foundation for what comes next in my career. ”
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