20 Questions With Tina (Hoodcelebrityy): Ascendant New York Artist Discusses Name Change, New Project & Growing Up in Jamaica 
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20 Questions With Tina (Hoodcelebrityy): Ascendant New York Artist Discusses Name Change, New Project & Growing Up in Jamaica 

A new era calls for a new name: Nearly ten years after she first hit the scene with the hypnotic “Wine Pon It,” Jamaican-born, Bronx-bred singer-rapper Tina has shed her Hoodcelebrityy moniker, opting to go by her given name instead. “Hoodcelebrityy” may have been demoted to a parenthetical – the SEO gods are always watching – but the persona that earned her her very first Billboard chart hit, 2017’s “Walking Trophy,” remains in full force throughout her fiery new project. 

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Released via KSR Group on May 17, Tina vs. Hoodcelebrityy – her second full-length project and first in seven years – diligently hones Tina’s unique mixture of reggae, rap, dancehall and R&B, resulting in a breezy 10-track set that explores her dual sonic profiles while offering a sultry prelude to Caribbean Heritage Month. Her softer, more melodic side shines on standout tracks such as “Roses” and “Dolly,” while her gruffer, New York drill-informed side reigns supreme on cuts like “Hype Me Up” and “Pressure.” Seven years after Trap vs. Reggae reached No. 9 on Top Reggae Albums, Tina takes the binary approach of that record and flips it into a lens through which she can honor the different parts of her cultural and sonic identity. 

“My biggest hope for this project is for people — not just my fans — to see the quality of my music and how versatile I am as an artist and to not ever put me in a box,” she muses. 

With a performance at Reggae Fest and a tour on the horizon, Tina is ready to reintroduce herself to the world with a collection of records that are sexy, fearless odes to the wonders of genre fusion. In a thoughtful conversation with Billboard, Tina details her new project, the evolution of New York’s sound, working with Shaggy, her name change, and what she still carries with her from growing up in Jamaica.

1. What’s been your favorite thing that’s happened to you this year outside of the new project? 

Just finding peace [and] really finding myself. I feel like [the COVID years taught] me a lot about myself. Stuff that I didn’t know. I really understand that you can have everything you want and still be depressed, lonely, etc. For me, it’s the simplest things that I find make me happy. 

2. You recently put out Tina vs. Hoodcelebrityy. Talk to me about the concept behind the project and how the whole thing came together. 

Tina: My fans dem know how versatile I am. I had this whole thing going on like, I want you to tell me which record y’all think is Tina and which record is Hoodcelebrityy. I feel like they kinda figuring that out as we speak. Tina vs. Hoodcelebrityy is just me against myself, always me trying to be better than who I used to be. 

We got Tina, where you get the melody, the soft records, and then we got Hoodcelebrityy, where you get the hardcore, reggae deejay part. I can embody both Hoodcelebrityy and Tina. It’s all about making my fans dem see two different sides. 

3. This is your first full-length project in about seven years. How do you think you’ve grown as a person and as an artist since Trap vs. Reggae? 

When I hear some of my records on Trap vs. Reggae, even though my fans still love those records, I can tell the growth. My voice, my pitch, the melodies, how I hold certain notes — it’s definitely a lot of growth. Before, I used to rush, especially when I first came out [with] “Walking Trophy.” I was rushing records like, I got to make another one like this. Now I’m just really taking time with the music and not being so hard on myself, because I feel like when you hurting yourself, you don’t really get the best work. Right now, I’m just having fun with the music. 

For my fans and people who didn’t know, I took a little break before because I had got [really] sick and I was going through a lot. Like I said, you could have all the money, everything you want, but if you don’t have peace, you don’t have that clarity or your health… you don’t have nothing. 

4. Getting to a point where you can take it easy on yourself has got to be difficult in this specific industry. Who did you open up to? How did you deal with those feelings going into this project? 

Big shoutout to my cousin Melissa, she’s my mentor. She’s a therapist. I opened up to her, and I feel like she keeps me grounded a lot. [She] helped me understand that at the end of the day, I’m not doing this for nobody else. I do this for myself, I do it for my family. If you pay attention to the industry and to what people got to say, then you’re done. Once they find another you or something close to you, they put you right on the shelf. Nobody cares about you no more. That’s really what keeps me grounded. I block all that out and I’m focused. 

5. You’re officially going by Tina now. Was there a particular moment that sparked that choice or did life just bring you there naturally? 

Behind Hoodcelebrityy, Tina was always the author. COVID put me to sit down and really wrestle with finding myself and wanting my legacy to go down with Tina. Hoodcelebrityy is always gonna be that little girl that came out of The Bronx, showing other people from the hood that you can make it out. But I see more than just Hoodcelebrityy. 

I see worldwide, I’ve been to Israel, [gone] back to Jamaica, the U.K., Toronto… I’ve been all over the world. I still have a lot more countries and places to go and I feel like when I get that Grammy, I want them to be like, And the Grammy goes to Tina!  

For me, it’s bigger. People say they don’t judge, but they do. I don’t want to give no human being on this Earth a chance to put me in a box. When they hear that name, people automatically think, Oh, she’s just she’s just a hood celebrity. That’s where it stops. No, I’m way bigger than just that. And they’ve done it to me a lot. 

6. Were you nervous or afraid to go through with that name change? 

At first, I was allowing other people to project their fear on me because that’s what people do when they’re scared of change. After I really got comfortable myself and [sat] down and prayed and put God first, because that’s what I do, I wasn’t afraid. I understand that a change is going to be rocky in the beginning because I have people that are like, You changed your name, how are people gonna find you now? How they gonna find you on Spotify? I sit down and I’ll be realistic to myself, that’s why I put [Hoodcelebrityy] in parentheses, so I’m always going to pop up.  

And my fans were with it. They tell me all the time that I’m bigger than just a hood celebrity, we’re so in sync and in the same headspace. People that really love you and care for you want to see you grow. Growth is always going to be scary, but you can’t stay in the same place. 

7. What song do you think best represents the Tina side of the project and why? 

“Roses” definitely was Tina. “Roses” is going to be a big record, because I’m really for women. I’m really for uplifting females and making them feel good about themselves. For women, there’s so much stuff out there that’s placed on us. It’s so much pressure that it got to be somebody to remind them that they’re beautiful and deserve their roses. Some people give you your flowers when you’re dead. Give women their flowers now!

I’m just that voice for a young girl or a grown woman — it don’t matter the age. I have a lot of people that I deal with that have no self-esteem. They don’t feel pretty and that’s because somebody made them feel that way. 

8. “Skin Out Di Red” still slaps. Talk to me about working with Shaggy on that one. 

Working with Shaggy was dope! This guy’s a machine, he don’t stop! I feel like I still have a lot more growing [to do], because I’m still a new, young artist. He’s a legend, and I learned so much from him. I was in Miami with him for four days and we recorded every single day. 

Even when my voice was going out, he was like, Alright, we gonna take a break. He had his chef make me tea to get my throat back together, gave me an hour break, and then we went right back at it. I’m like, I thought when I said my throat was hurting, he was gonna say let’s go home! [Laughs.] I’ve been preaching this for so long, but hearing a legend say it was better – consistency is key. Whatever Shaggy tells me, I’m going to listen because he’s very successful. And for people who don’t know, Shaggy is really fun, he’s not stuck up. I had a great time. It didn’t just feel like work. 

9. You also just put out “Been Pretty” and you were talking your s—t on there. 

With “Been Pretty,” I want people to know that when they hear my music, I’m really sitting down to write it. And I’m not saying I don’t get help with some of my music when I’m in the studio with my team, but “Been Pretty” was a record that I sat down and just wrote myself on some I’m in my bag, this is really how I feel today energy. 

10. One of my favorite things about the project is how intentional you were in terms of showcasing different parts of your identity. Being New Yorkers, that’s something that we really take pride in. How do you think being a New Yorker, being a Bronx girl specifically, has influenced your sound and your approach to music? 

The confidence. You can’t be from the Bronx and you don’t feel like you that girl. The way I talk too. I have the Jamaican patois in me — but then I can shut it off a little bit and go full New York like, You buggin right now! You can hear it in my music, it’s really organic and natural for me.  

I left Jamaica when I was 12, so growing up in the Bronx, then going Uptown, then to the White Plains to go visit my family, I get a mixture of both [cultures] and you can hear it in the music. It adds a bit of swag. It’s like cooking with a likkle black peppa and adobo, it just adds the seasoning and the swag to my music. 

11. What from Jamaica do you think still lives in you as a person and as an artist? 

Manners. Dignity. Self-love. It don’t matter how big I get in this industry, I got to have manners. That’s something that living in Jamaica for a whole 12 years [and] being raised by my great-grandmother taught me. You don’t say “good evening” when somebody come in or you don’t open the door if you’re ahead of somebody else, you’ll get your a– whooped. Being a celebrity or not, if I’m in front of you and we all going somewhere, I’m holding the door for everybody. I can’t stop, because it’s something that’s in me. And it’s not going nowhere because, as they say, train the tree when it’s young, so when they get old, they won’t depart from the training.  

12. Cash Cobain is also from The Bronx and he’s having a moment with his “sexy drill” sound right now. Could we get a collab between you two? 

Hell yeah! I think he’s dope. On my record, funnily enough, there’s a song [called “Funny Funny Funny”] that was inspired by that sexy drill sound. I would love to do a record with him. 

13. Who else from New York would you like to collaborate with in the future? 

I always say Drake. I know he’s not from here, but definitely Drake. Sheff G too, I think he’s dope. I think his music is fire. I’m more into talent, longevity, and things that make sense. I don’t like to do records with people because they’re popping. If I don’t feel the music, it’s not worth it. I went to school for music. I love music. I’m not doing this s—t for money or for attention, so I like to work with artists that I think are actually dope and have substance. 

15. You said you went to school for music. What are one or two lessons from those days that you still hold on to now? 

Just the passion, honestly. I went to high school for violin and dance, but I really went [in] thinking, I’m just going to be in there singing. I didn’t know I was going to be playing violin, it was something that I had to do, so I did it. Music school definitely taught me about passion, though. I have a passion for dancing too. I studied everything — I was doing hip-hop, ballet… that’s why I feel like I do all my dances on my tippy toes. 

16. What do you remember the sound of New York being when you were growing up? What do you think it is right now? 

For me, the sound of New York growing up was 50 Cent. [He’s] my favorite rapper. I feel like growing up, it was more hardcore hip-hop, especially in the beats. Now you get different varieties. We got the sexy drill, then we got the hip-hop, then you got a little bit of the R&B type of vibe. I feel like it’s different, but our young generation has their own sound.  

That’s really what we’re doing, even for dancehall music. A lot of people are like, Oh, but we want to hear the old-school stuff and it’s like — thank God for all the old-school artists, because they paved the way, but the younger generation is coming with a whole new sound. And when something is new, people get scared. They trash it. They talk s—t about it. Everything has to change. Even some of the OGs and the legends – big up to Shaggy – are embracing that new sound because you got to try different things.  

17. We had two big global clashes at the top of this year with Teejay vs. Valiant and Stefflon Don vs. Jada Kingdom. Which do you think produced better music? 

I think both was dope, but I’m a female. I’m all for the females. Women, when we’re on to something, we’re on to something. I feel like they both stood their ground, and it was fun. It didn’t get violent, thank God. I feel like the [Stefflon Don and Jada Kingdom] one was better, they had more people talking.  

I feel like the dudes were trying to play it chill. [Both ladies] did their thing and they both got a good fan base from it too. They was playing them on Hot 97 on [105.1 FM], I feel like that definitely did good for both their careers as well for people who didn’t know who Steff or Jada were. People like gossip, so it’s like, Oh, they beefing let’s see what’s going on

18. Which one of these songs are you most excited to bring to life on the Reggae Fest stage. 

I’m performing “Roses,” but one of my favorite records to bring on that stage is gonna be “Run Di Road.” It’s really that hardcore reggae. When that song come on, it’s like when you hear [sings Chaka Demus & Pliers’ “Murder She Wrote.”] No matter where you at, you feel like you in Jamaica. I feel like “Run Di Road” is definitely going to do that to that crowd. 

19. Did you make it out to the Labor Day parade last year? 

Of course! Last year was my first time going back in mad long. I thought it was a lot of people’s return to the parade life, that’s why I’m hyped for this year. What I love about Labor Day is that the energy never changed. Everybody wants to have fun. Nobody going there to fight, everybody’s going to have a good time. 

20. Are you going to make it out to Buju Banton’s Long Walk to Freedom concert next month? 

I don’t think I will be, but if I’m going to be in New York, I might. That’s definitely gonna be crazy. I’m biased when it comes to anything that’s connected to Jamaica because I know what we go through [there.] I know the struggle, I know the backend of it. Being that little girl from Jamaica and having a dream and coming to America to really bring that to life… I got to support anything that’s connected to that because I know what it feels like.  

Even if you don’t like me, even if I know that you don’t feel how I feel about you, I still have that in me — because that’s what keeps me going too. I came to America when I was 12, I didn’t have nothing. I couldn’t work any type of job that I wanted to. So making it out, I could just imagine someone that came from Jamaica two or three years ago and what life was like for them. So, anything surrounding that, I got to support it. 

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