Tinashe 'Screamed' When Christina Aguilera Made a Video Using Her Viral Hit 'Nasty': 'Pretty Epic' (Exclusive)

Tinashe opens up to PEOPLE about returning to mainstream commercial success with "Nasty" and why she doesn't consider herself an underdog

<p>Callum Walker</p> Tinashe

Callum Walker


Nature is healing: Tinashe’s back on the Billboard Hot 100.

A decade after hitting the scene with her 2014 debut hit “2 On” featuring ScHoolboy Q, the 31-year-old triple threat has returned to mainstream commercial success with “Nasty,” an ultra-catchy hip-hop bop that listeners can’t get out of their heads — or social media feeds.

The song arrived in April to an initial wave of buzz due to its catchy lyrics (“Is somebody gonna match my freak?” and “I’ve been a nasty girl,” specifically) before blowing up on TikTok, thanks in part to a video from British dancer Nates.Vibe that sparked a trend both fans and celebrities have participated in.

“Nasty” has since soundtracked over 2.7 million videos on the social media platform and steadily climbed the Hot 100 singles chart, currently sitting at No. 62, marking Tinashe’s first overall entry since 2016’s “Slumber Party” with Britney Spears and first as a lead artist since “2 On.”

Related: Tinashe Says She Kept Her New Album 'BB/ANG3L' Short with Only 7 Songs to 'Cut the Fat' (Exclusive)

It’s an especially triumphant win for Tinashe, who’s spoken openly about feeling creatively stifled during her time signed to Sony’s RCA Records from 2012 to 2019. She then chose to continue as an independent artist with complete control, aware that she was also likely giving up the mainstream recognition a major record company can help artists receive.

Going independent, however, hasn’t stopped Tinashe in the slightest. She’s released three critically acclaimed albums — 2019’s Songs for You, 2021’s 333 and 2023’s BB/Ang3l — and consistently toured the globe, steadily growing her audience along the way.

Tinashe recently sat down with PEOPLE to discuss the success of “Nasty,” why she doesn’t think of herself as an underdog, who she may feature on a remix and what fans can expect from her upcoming album, Quantum Baby, out Aug. 16.

<p>Callum Walker</p> Tinashe

Callum Walker


You have a growing hit on the Billboard Hot 100 right now with “Nasty.” How does it feel to be Tinashe at the moment?

I mean, it's pretty f—ing fun. It's exciting. I never expected that this record would just pop off like this, so that's very much fun. I'm having a great summer so far, to say the least.

“Nasty” came out in April as your first new single after BB/Ang3l dropped in late 2023. How did the song come together?

I was going to the studio — a typical day, nothing super special — in my car, driving [with] my laptop camera set up to record on Photo Booth. I like to record my initial instincts on the beat. I was listening to a rough draft version of the beat — pretty much was just the bass line and a couple drums. I don't know. It's one of those instinctual things that just came to me in that moment. It just felt right with the beat.

Ricky [Reed] produced it. We had an initial session where we'd decided to do this minor chord section, and then flip into this major chord section, and we just had a super rough version of it that I took home. I was like, “Let me sleep on it, think about it and come back with an idea.”

Did you think you had something special in that moment?

Definitely not. I don't really put any type of expectations on any song that I write. I'm really more focused on just making something that is hot to me, or something that I want to hear, and just hoping for the best. Because I think setting myself up with those kinds of expectations is not the best way to be at your creative best.

Related: Tinashe Says She Didn't Want to Release 'Embarrassing' Collaborations with R. Kelly and Chris Brown

Your last Hot 100 entry was “Slumber Party” with Britney Spears in 2016. After leaving RCA Records in 2019 and going independent, was there a time where you really wanted that mainstream success to continue? How did you deal with that?

Yeah,  there was a decision I made going independent where I knew I wasn't necessarily going to be competing in the same spaces as easily. The barrier for entry without a label is nearly impossible. But I think what, to me, felt like I was losing by staying signed to that machine was my sense of self, my confidence and my personal opinions when it came to my art. Maybe in my mind, I was like, ‘OK, maybe this field will be something that I can try to re-navigate my way into in the future,’ but it wasn't something I was clinging onto.

I found a lot of peace in knowing I can make great art, still tour and play amazing shows, and I have fans that love me. At the end of the day, I have a really great career, so as much as everyone wants these moments, I don't think I needed this moment, if that makes sense. I think a lot of times, we get lost in the sauce of trying to chase charts and accolades, and all of these things at the end of the day are very fleeting. Creating something that you're proud of, longevity and a legacy, is far more important.

Did you feel buzz immediately upon releasing “Nasty,” or more so when Nates.Vibe created the viral TikTok dance?

That was maybe three weeks after it came out, but I started noticing a difference immediately with the song. First, I noticed feedback from my peers, different people just DMing me or commenting on the song really early on. I really wasn't getting that same kind of love necessarily for other releases. Immediately after I dropped it, I did Coachella for two weeks and then went to China. In China, it was really catching on. There were so many people doing the dance, and that was when the turning point initially started happening. I started seeing so many viral moments on Twitter, and then TikTok followed that.

A bunch of celebrities have made TikTok videos to the song. Have any left you especially starstruck?

Christina Aguilera, for sure. She was a hero of mine growing up. Her and Britney were absolute queens when I was younger. So I think just having that co-sign was pretty epic. I screamed.

What was your reaction when the song initially hit the Hot 100? 

It's just so exciting. I feel like every day, it gets better, and so I'm just trying to live in the moment because it's still going up. It's still peaking in streams. It's just climbing and climbing and climbing. At first, I was waiting for the other shoe to drop, but I've evolved past that, and now I'm just enjoying it, having so much fun and being so excited.

You released the Match My Freak EP of “Nasty” remixes, but you’ve also teased some potential ones with other artists. What can you share about those plans?

I want to show the song in different styles and different ways because I think it's speaking to people in a lot of different spaces and places. So interpolating the song in different ways that people can party to it, dance to it, chill this summer. When it comes to features and stuff, getting a couple different versions of it. Everyone on Twitter has been like, "Get the girls on it, get a girly pop," so I’m looking for that, seeing how that comes to be. But there's a lot of options, and there's a lot coming.

<p>Callum Walker</p> Tinashe

Callum Walker


I saw you were joking with fans online about getting a male artist on the track despite their requests for women.

Yeah, that was on Stationhead. I was trolling them because they were pissing me off. They were like, "If you get a man, we'll never listen to it." And then I was like, "Just for that, I'm going to get a man."

What if you got ScHoolboy Q for a “2 On” reunion?

I mean, that would be iconic though.

Since going independent, you’ve often been viewed as an underdog. What do you think about that label for yourself?

I think it comes from a nice place, so I've definitely embraced the fact that people say I'm underrated and all that, but I don't personally identify myself in that way. There's something that just feels unsettled about that. I have a lot of peace within how my journey's played out, so I try to just celebrate everything that I have done and not really embody the mentality of someone who's been done wrong or someone who's an underdog, even though that may be true. I appreciate where it comes from, for sure.

I don’t think anyone who attends a sold-out Tinashe concert and watches you on stage would walk out thinking you’re an underdog anymore. 

Thank you. I feel like I'm so satisfied in the fact that I still get to do things like that and have fans and put out amazing art. To me, at the end of the day, that's the s—. That's all you can hope for.

<p>Courtesy of Nice Life Recording Company</p> Tinashe 'Quantum Baby' Album Cover

Courtesy of Nice Life Recording Company

Tinashe 'Quantum Baby' Album Cover

“Nasty” is the first single from your next album, Quantum Baby, and you just released the second, “Getting No Sleep.” What can you share about the upcoming project and how it acts as a follow-up to BB/Ang3l?

Well, I've been working on most of these records, some of them since BB/Ang3l dropped, but most of them were worked on simultaneously, so they feel like they're all from the same universe, same world. Obviously, the intention with dropping this project in three parts was to give people the opportunity to really sink their teeth into each piece and really focus on each section. I'm excited to get into the next chunk. It's not super, super-duper different from the first chunk. It's kind of a continuation of the story.

From where you’re at right now, if you could talk to yourself back when “2 On” was really popping off, what would you say? 

I would say, “Focus on the big picture. Have so much fun and enjoy it, but don't get too caught up in the next moment and try to always beat some number on the chart or to hurry everything along. Patience and enjoying the ride — that's the whole point. So just chill, be patient and have fun.”

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