Next up in the Yearbook series is 19-year-old Tamara Sarpong, a rising sophomore at Columbia University majoring in Economics and Political Science. If you haven’t heard Tamara’s singing yet, you’re definitely missing out. The soft, sultry tunes that ripple from the mouth of this beautiful singer are incomparable to any other artist and I was lucky not only to envelope myself in her sweet notes, but delve deeper into her journey as a budding artist. Read into our conversation to see how Tamara was able to blossom into the creator she is today.
Is there a name to your art, your creative outlet? What exactly is it?
There’s no name. It’s just music covers that I use to track my progress with my singing.
What inspired you to start covering other artists or what inspired you to start singing in general? Where did that spark come from?
Well I’ve been into singing since I was a kid. But up until this year, I’ve been extremely shy and very quiet. Like I hide behind the scenes, I don’t interact, and I don’t put myself in the spotlight. So this year, I promised myself that I would start doing things that scared me to overcome fear and also do things that I love. So my first cover was actually a very spontaneous one. I was just listening to Summer Walker and I was like “Oh, let me just record this song just to see how I sound on it,” and my roommate was in the room and she was like, “That sounds really good, post that to your Instagram!” So I did [post it] as my thing to do to overcome fear and then after that, I had friends and family come up to me and say, “You should do this more often. I really like your voice,” and “You seem really happy doing this and I want you to keep going.” So that’s where I started to make this actually become a thing.
Did you have any doubts or obstacles along the journey and how did you overcome them?
So with my voice, even though singing is one of my biggest passions, my voice is one of my biggest insecurities, or was one of my biggest insecurities. But to me singing is the main way that I want to express myself and hopefully, I will write my own music and produce my own music one day, but I also have social anxiety and I’m a perfectionist. Like I don’t like to put things out there that aren’t perfect to a T. For me I just had to accept that I am human, not everything is going to be perfect, and just because something isn’t perfect, doesn’t mean it’s not beautiful.
How important is it for you to have a team or someone supporting you? With Brazen, everything that we do is so team oriented. We’re always supporting each other, giving each other critiques, etc., so I wanted to see if that’s also reflective in our collaborators as well.
I’m using these covers as a way to track my improvement and progress as a singer so before I release covers, I definitely have someone who can be unbiased listen to them and give me the straight facts and constructive criticism on how I can improve, and I take that with me for that current cover and then my future covers. In addition to that, especially as black creators, there isn’t a whole lot of support for us out there when you’re different. Cause it seems like we all have this box, especially with singers and having to sound a certain way. Like if you don’t sound like Beyonce or Jhene Aiko or someone like that, it’s very hard for you to get out there. So just having people who accept you as you are, accept your talent as it is, hype you up, and give you all that support, literally is everything.
Do you know how far you plan on taking this? I know you mentioned you would start writing and producing, so what do you envision for the future with your music?
So hopefully I’m setting a goal for myself to release a single by the end of the year and then hopefully, I get to release an album one day. Honestly it doesn’t even matter if it gets big or if I’m popular at that point, but I just want to release it just for the sake of releasing it. And maybe, be able to even produce music videos and just make it full fledged, all out there, and actually create a creative project that I could completely call my own.
One thing that I did pick up on you saying which I found was really interesting is how for black creators, society just picks this one creator, and expects us all to be just like them. You mentioned, for example, like Beyonce, so how important is it to you to be different and to set a new standard as a black creator?
Well I feel I shouldn’t even become a new standard because everyone should be their own standard. I feel like especially in America, among the black community, and even among white America, we all have to fit a certain caricature or stereotype that is palatable to someone and you don’t have to be palatable to anyone but yourself. You don’t have to be likeable or appealing to anyone but yourself, so do what you want to do. You are allowed to have fun without having to be the most talented person out there, without having to be the most prepared person out there so just live your life and have fun as is. That’s what I’m trying to put out there and if I one day hopefully blow up, that’s the message I would want to continue to put out there.
What makes you, as a creator, Brazen?
I see myself as a brazen creator in the fact that I find pride in my own unique voice and sound. And for me this process is not just to get clout or become popular. It’s a process that is solely personal and just focused on self growth so this is all 100% me. Like from my song choices, to how I choose to sing them, and everything of that sort is 100% me. And I sing what I want to sing, how I want to sing it. I’m going by my own pace, I’m not rushing anything, I’m not following any rules or trends or plans, or even trying to mimic those very popular artists like Beyonce or Jhene Aiko, or even Billie Eilish, because her voice is a huge thing right now. I want my voice to stand out as different as it is and just go by my rules and not fit into a box- so that’s how I see myself as a brazen creator.
Interview written and conducted by Nicolette Auld-Griffith