There's something particularly genuine about what Tangina Stone, a Canton, Ohio-born and Brooklyn-based singer creates on her debut full-length album, Elevate.
Stone is willing to be frank and introspective, as well as vulnerable and forthright, authentically navigating the complex and knotty areas in between. Aided by an arresting voice influenced by everyone from Stevie Nicks to Lauryn Hill, the alternative R&B singer’s themes and sounds comprise a strikingly idiosyncratic mélange on Elevate.
One of the people enamoured with Stone’s sound is Canadian singer Nelly Furtado, with whom Stone performed earlier this year at New York’s Pride event. After randomly meeting Furtado — one of Stone's favourite artists — on a night out with friends, the Toronto-based singer invited Stone to a New York studio session the next day and asked to hear her songs.
"I played the tracks for her and she liked 'Exposed' a lot," Stone told CBC Music in an interview. "She said, 'I've actually got an idea for this. Do you mind if I lay it down?' And of course I'm like, 'Hell yeah, lay it down.' And so she just got in the booth and laid down something real quick and the first thing that she laid down was absolutely perfect and we used it for the final project."
The smooth sheen of the Furtado-featuring “Exposed” belies the fact that the song is about a relationship that has run its course. Elsewhere, on "Anxious," Stone tackles the issues of mental health and anxiety — issues she’s dealt with her whole life. “Black Boy,” meanwhile, featuring acclaimed jazz saxophonist Kenneth Whalum, takes a pointed look at racism and incarceration of black men and is inspired by the experience of her father.
"I’ve been angry with him over the years. I’ve also discovered over the years that he has been discarded — thrown away, like many other black men in America," says Stone in a statement. "And I think about if I could go into a time machine, what I would tell him? What would I ask him?”
The plaintive “Matter” was written immediately after Stone returned from participating in the Women’s March in Washington, D.C., in January of this year, which has particular resonance coming from Stone, who openly identifies as a black, queer woman. "I know you hate me/ try to silence me with your violence/.... just give us back our breath/ we just want to live," Stone passionately sings, giving voice to both individual and collective concerns, as she does throughout the album.
With Elevate, Stone announces herself as an artist who makes timely, relevant and melodically compelling music that critiques our present — and powerfully articulates the path to a better future.