"I'm a loner. I can turn it on as Tierra Whack and be the people's person, but I only want attention when I want attention."
Time with Tierra Whack is tight. It’s not just that she’s in demand, though the Philly and Atlanta-raised rapper’s profile has steadily rocketed ever since the release of her audiovisual debut Whack World in May 2018. No, it’s because she’s set to follow Lizzo’s on the Lotus Stage in less than an hour, making our backstage encounter at Primavera Sound a brief but enjoyable blur, the sense of disorientation further exacerbated by the multiple vodka Red Bulls I’ve unwisely imbibed in the lead-up.
Still, if anyone knows how to make every second count it’s Whack. Rendering complex ideas with impressive economy, Whack World featured 15 tracks all clocking in at the one-minute mark, meaning that ideas were often terminated mid-flow to arresting affect. Offering a vivid joyride through the 22-year-old’s surreal universe, songs about self-care (‘Fruit Salad’) were given equal credence to odes to dead dogs (‘Pet Cemetery’), and her versatile vocals ranged from bars rapped at blistering speed (‘Bugs Life’) to sung verses impersonating Southern hicks (‘Fuck Off’). A year on, it remains a startling introduction to a singular talent.
That’s not to say Whack’s been idle in the interim, you understand. There’s been studio time with Flying Lotus, Meek Mill and Childish Gambino, plus a string of tour dates supporting Lauryn Hill and 6LACK, not to mention the five excellent new singles she unveiled at a rate of one a week from mid-February, under the banner of ‘Whack History Month’. It’s little surprise, then, that she can now count many of her musical heroes amongst her rapidly-expanding fanbase, including Erykah Badu, Solange, Vince Staples and Andre 3000.
Playing at the far end of the festival site to the two main stages, tonight Whack will draw a huge crowd as keen to sway to the woozy, organ-led croon of ‘Wasteland’ as they are to bounce to the elastic trap of ‘Clones’. But before all that, she gives over whatever pre-show prep time she might have had to promo, first delivering a comprehensive photo shoot in under three minutes, followed by her life story in less than 20.
Sat in her dressing room/portacabin, dressed like a cross between a Beano character and Dr Seuss’ Cat In The Hat, Whack makes for vivacious and quick-witted company, despite all the ensuing protestations of shyness. Words tumble out of her mouth at a dizzying rate as she rushes to recall her roots, or reflect on forthcoming projects, though her guard never drops for long enough to reveal anything specific about future material (“Are there any more collaborations? I can’t tell you! You just met me! It’s our first date!”). Happily, she proves a lot more forthcoming on a range of other subjects.