Tank credits Ginuwine and Aaliyah for “showing him the ropes”
Tank, the self-proclaimed “King of R&B,” has one mission: to proudly represent the genre.
Recently, the Milkwaukee, Wis. native said so on social media, reminding his followers that “R&B isn’t dead because I’m alive!”
For 22 years, Tank has maintained his status as a highly respected singer in the genre, with five Grammy nominations and multiple albums topping Billboard’s R&B/Hip-Hop album charts. Notable hits include 2001’s “Maybe I Deserve,” 2007’s “Please Don’t Go,” 2017’s “When We,” and most recently “I Deserve,” which reached No. 1 on the Adult R&B Airplay chart. .
Last week, Tank marked the release of his tenth studio album, “R&B Money,” at the Grammy Museum in downtown Los Angeles, where he spoke on “The Drop” conversation series. Held at the Clive Davis Theater and hosted by Billboard’s R&B/Hip-Hop Executive Director Gail Mitchell, the veteran entertainer shared stories of one-ear deafness and opinions, like why major labels don’t spend so much in R&B like they do in rap music.
Tank, who debuted in 1996 singing background vocals for Ginuwine and, shortly after, Aaliyah – “Do you know how powerful those two laminates are on your chest?” he marveled – credits both for showing her the way. “Not just telling me things, but showing me things,” he stressed.
For example: “Aaliyah had a very elaborate show,” Tank said. “She had magic tricks, she appeared out of nowhere. She had a chair that went up. Some nights some of these things would break down and not work. She was supposed to get out of the chair, some nights she had to get out of the box. She would be sad and hurt afterwards, but during the show, you wouldn’t know it. She would go straight to the point, the show must go on.
Fast forward to 2020, Tank detailed the time he lost his hearing to tinnitus, and ultimately sensorineural hearing loss. Medications and treatments, Tank said, wore him down. “For the first time, I wasn’t myself,” he recalls. “I was depressed mentally, physically and spiritually. … Medicines are a very big part of it. You can’t find your way out of the fog; you can’t find your clearing. I went to the doctor, I was supposed to get an eighth or ninth shot in my eardrum. He said ‘Listen man, I think we’re gonna stop because this isn’t working. Before your body gets worse, let’s get out of it. Let’s see what is happening.'”
Tank attempted a return to the studio. “I started recording with my one ear,” he said. “At first it started off weird, then it started to sound good. In your aim, your spirit is really high. I started to feel good about my aim again – I’m doing what I’m supposed to.
The resulting album, “R&B Money” boasts notable appearances from Chris Brown, Rotimi and Alex Isley, among others. He described the 17-track collection as “one non-stop sex tape”. His intention: to create a body of work that brings back the “expensive part of R&B that’s missing, the emotional and spiritual connection.”
Tank explained, “We have to get back to the expensive part of our music. The invaluable, which we like to call R&B money. That’s where the money is. Money is a byproduct of helping people create those experiences and wanting to keep having them. They will join if it feels good, if it connects.
As the Q&A opened to the public, one attendee asked about Diddy’s recent call to action, enlisting Tank on his Instagram Live and discussing the following topic: Is R&B dead? The conversation then shifted to the fact that major labels don’t spend as much on R&B records as they do on rap records. Tank’s whole mission is to help songwriters, producers and artists, teaching them the business side of the music industry, while preserving the depth of content.
“Record companies are in it to make money,” Tank replied. “Radio conglomerates are there to make money. Places are there to make money. A rap record that was made for $2,500 in someone’s basement sold a million copies. An R&B record made in the biggest studio in the world, had already spent $1.2 million, sold the same million records. … “As rap takes over, all of a sudden melodic rap creeps in. Now people would rather hear rappers sing bad than singers sing good.”
Next for Tank: comedy, stand-up and podcast, “R&B Money,” alongside co-host J. Valentine, the former artist who now manages it and helps run his record label.