| November 26 2019,

3:27 pm

In her debut television performance at the 2019 Soul Train Awards, breakout songstress TeaMarrr dazzled the stage with the charisma and swagger of a veteran artist as she performed her new single “Kinda Love.” However, the set was more memorable for TeaMarrr’s embrace of an object she carried with her throughout the whole night and included in her performance — a Black teacup. Upon first glance, sipping from a teacup during a performance might seem quite odd, but it makes perfect sense for TeaMarrr, who perceives her music as having the same healing energy as tea does.

YouTube | BetNetworks

“I think the healing just comes from a play on tea, and how tea can be very healing for you,” TeaMarrr told Blavity. “I actually do believe in sonic frequencies and healing. Before a show, I’ll go on YouTube, and find positive or confident meditation frequencies. I might not know exactly what frequencies I’m using, but I do know that it’s provoking and it’s healing, and people are letting me know that they feel something when they listen to my music. So I do feel like there’s some sort of medicinal approach to my art.”

TeaMarrr’s medicinal approach to music eventually reached the ears of actress and producer Issa Rae, who signed TeaMarrr as the first artist on her Raedio record label with Atlantic Records last month. Born Thamar Noel, TeaMarrr — which is an acronym for "totally enthused about making art really, really raw" — said she was inspired by the healing energy heard throughout music from artists like Jhené Aiko, Erykah Badu and Kehlani, and wanted to evoke that same rawness in her own sound.

“My [social media] handle is @imaliltcup, so I wanted everything to stay the way it was before music touched me, and I wanted to make sense of why I called myself ‘I’m a little teacup’ and to keep my name. I was always fascinated by teacups, and once I started making music, that started to become the tea,” TeaMarrr said. “It’s the actual substance of what’s inside of me, and the actual art I’m creating is the soul of the cup. So I morphed my real name and my social media name to create my artist name.”

However, pursuing music never seemed like a viable option for TeaMarrr, who wasn’t allowed to listen to secular music as a kid. Although, the Boston-bred singer loved music, she initially thought being a professional singer wouldn’t be meaningful for her.

“I don’t know if I was very entertaining as a kid, but I wrote poems and turned them into songs when I was seven and eight and nine,” TeaMarrr said. “I wrote stories and scripts. I was trying to be a comedian, so I was trying to be funny, but I always thought that becoming a singer was too much of a cliché, so I was too embarrassed to say that’s what I wanted. I would always say that I wanted to be a lawyer or a doctor just to sound more traditional.”

Although listening to secular music was banned in her household, that didn’t stop TeaMarrr from indulging in it. When her parents were away, TeaMarrr said she would sneak around and listen to the radio. She found the vulgarity of music from artists like Biggie, Ludacris and Tyler, the Creator impressive, and she hoped to make similar songs someday.

During a 2015 trip to Toronto with friends, TeaMarrr’s singing potential was fully realized. She arbitrarily freestyled to “Shook Ones Pt. II,” and with her friends’ encouragement, the seed for her to start taking music seriously was planted. Her debut single, “In My Mind,” was released the following year, and Thanks for the Chapstick, her first project, dropped in 2017.

The Haitian-American singer said her music has since become an outlet for her to explore Haitian culture in ways that she couldn’t during her upbringing.

“I feel like I’m shaping my musical identity with Haiti in mind because I was raised very religiously,” TeaMarrr said. “There’s the traditional Haitian and the very religious Haitian and they grow up a little differently. I was kind of locked out of the secular aspects of Haitian culture. If I listened to soca, then it had to be gospel soca, so I had to slowly learn all of the stuff I was missing out on. My parents didn’t want me to be musically rooted, even though I was. They were trying to hide this scary music industry from me, but it found me anyways.”

TeaMarrr’s alternative R&B sound is soothingly energetic but blunt at the same time. She’s not afraid to say what she’s thinking, which makes her music relatable for listeners. On the rhythmic “One Job” — the singer's most popular single, garnering 1.4 million streams on Spotify — TeaMarrr expresses the common frustration with men who don’t live up to women’s expectations. The video, which received over a million views on YouTube, stars Boomerang’s Lala Milan, Insecure’s Jean Elie and was directed by James Bland, creator of the Issa Rae Productions web series Giants.

YouTube | TeaMarrr

On the soulfully dreamy “In My Mind,” TeaMarrr addresses how she can often become obsessive in romantic relationships, which causes them to fail. The single is powerfully honest as it prompts listeners to question how they’ve exhibited similar behaviors in their own love life. Thus, it isn’t a surprise that “In My Mind” is the single that cemented TeaMarrr’s connection to Issa Rae.

“I guess it’s just consistency and having a lot of faith in my craft,” TeaMarrr said. “I put out the projects with hopes that the right people would be inspired," she said, crediting her strong work ethic for getting signed to a major label just nearly three years after becoming a full-time artist. "Kareem James, who was my friend before being my manager, liked the song “In My Mind” and he pitched it to James Bland who put it on his series Giants, which is a part of Issa Rae Productions. Also, my manager and her manager were friends, so those two connections are what made her reach out to me.”

The more upbeat track titled “Kinda Love,” TeaMarrr’s first single as a Raedio signee presents the artist's emotional rollercoaster of liking someone while also not wanting to neglect her standards.

YouTube | TeaMarrr

“I was really in a fun space of not craving anybody, not needing anybody — but kind of knowing what I liked,” TeaMarrr said. “My writing partner, Kareem — he was dating someone at the time, and that was the energy. I also had a boyfriend at the time, but I’m like crazy and possessive, so I messed that up. But I think the music drew from that.”

TeaMarrr is currently working on her aptly titled debut album #TTTW (Turning Tea to Wine), which is expected to be released next year. She said the project is more musical and much blunt than her previous releases.

“I’m really excited to release this project into the world,” TeaMarrr said. “It’s a really cool map of starting one way and turning the other when it comes to relationships. It feels like this great, wonderful cup of tea and all of a sudden it’s draining and feels like a bottle of wine, and I think I take listeners on that ride. I’m really giving you 100 percent of who I am when it comes to love and relationships.”