Review: Tinashe, Nightride

Putting her sound on cruise control, Tinashe’s second mixtape is a relaxed, perfect listen both in bed and in the backseat, especially when shared with someone.
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The journey up to Tinashe’s sophomore album, Joyride, has been anything but. Though announced in 2015, it continues to remain as elusive as the identity of Becky With the Good Hair. Regardless of Tinashe’s stream of steady and impressive singles over the year, it seems the forces behind her debut are (unfortunately) holding out for a Top 40 connection a la “2 On”.

I say unfortunate because Tinashe has demonstrated a superb aptitude for today’s market of trap-y, ambient hip-hop, which doesn’t always translate to a major hit. Luckily for us, Tinashe understands her capabilities, and puts them on display in early holiday season gift, Nightride. Airing-out her flairs on a nocturnal excursion, Tinashe flexes using that mixtape sound which brought her fame as both an artist and producer, presenting a young woman unabashedly confident in her sound and sexuality from verse #1: “I still care about being loyal and I always paid a price/I won't let them take advantage ‘cause I'm way too fucking nice”.

"It's a little convoluted, but I guess I was just attempting to please everyone," Tinashe told Rolling Stone. This time, she gets to please herself, all while flaunting that aggressively intimate voice that begs you to underestimate her.

Much of Nightride, especially the first half, plays at the same tempo and utilizes the same effects, i.e. hi-hats and syncopated back-beats. This stylistic homogeny is simultaneously positive and negative, good in the sense that Nightride is meant be an easy, steady jaunt, bad in the sense the tracks much of their individuality.

It’s when Nightride decides to shift gears in the latter half that the outing gets really exhilarating. As if she’s gotten through the darkest parts of her journey, Tinashe decides to enjoy the rest of it, with promises of good sex and good vibes. “We driving fast in the slow lane,” off of the auto-laden “Ride Of Your Life”, exemplifies this ease of transition, with Tinashe’s lyrics fluctuating from angst to ardor while still maintaining a calm coolness. And if you absolutely need that “2 On” feeling, you’ll find some of it on the Wolf Cousin-produced “Touch Pass”, a percussion-driven yet vocally-subdued club track perfect for Tinashe’s deftly cool composure.

Knowing that she holds a black-belt and having personally witnessed her blistering dance moves, Tinashe’s offer of protection to the subject of “Ghetto Boy” is far from an empty promise: “Nobody’s gonna hurt you/Nobody’s gonna do this for you”. She knows better than anyone what she is capable of, but she also understands as a petite, alt-R&B darling, she still needs to go an extra mile to prove her power. While The Weeknd would threaten one with psychological torture or FKA Twigs would swallow you whole, Tinashe will simply kick your ass and go about her business.

"I've always had an underdog mentality, and I've always felt like I have something to prove," she further explained to Rolling Stone. "Deeper than that, I'm trying to balance being able to release the type of content that's fulfilling to me as an artist [while] trying to navigate a changing music industry."

But anyone with the collected poise of Tinashe has no trouble making her place known in the world of music. “Don’t act like you don’t know me,” she playfully chides on the dreamy “Spacetime”, assured that her material and her disposition puts her in a place amongst the cosmos that is completely her own. She’s not the next Beyoncé, she’s not the next Janet. She’s the Tinashe, and she knows that’s enough. B