Tank really needs no introduction in the R&B world. In an impressive solo career that spans nearly two decades, the Grammy-nominated artist has everything an artist at his esteemed level could ask for: The longevity, the multi-platinum success, and the fan base. Still, there’s something missing: the respect, particularly as it relates to him as a triple threat in music.
“I don’t really promote myself as much as a singer, songwriter and producer, but I’m 100 percent it. It’s crazy that most people don’t know that,” Tank vents to Rated R&B. “I have over 200 songs that I either sang on, wrote on, or produced on, or either I did all three.”
Remember Omarion’s arousing single “O” and Marques Houston’s unclothed hit “Naked”? Tank does because he co-wrote both records. Keyshia Cole’s club jam “Thought You Should Know” from A Different Me? He helped produce it. Tyrese’s “Better to Know” lifted from his double-disc Alter Ego album? Tank manned the controls as co-producer during his association with The Underdogs.
A handful of the songs on LeToya’s Lady Love album (“Regret,” ”Over,” “Good to Me”) and Jamie Foxx’s Grammy-nominated album Unpredictable (“With You,” VIP”)? Tank is credited as a writer and producer on both records, too.
Before Tank the artist, there was Tank the creative genius behind our favorite R&B hits and deep cuts. He first gained traction for crafting songs on Dave Hollister’s certified-gold sophomore album Chicago ‘85…The Movie.
In between making a name for himself as a solo artist with his back-to-back albums during the 2000s, the piano man masterminded records for the likes of Charlie Wilson, Fantasia, Donell Jones and more.
In Rated R&B’s interview with Tank, he breaks down seven songs from his extensive resume and recalls his studio experience working with a variety of R&B artists.
On shifting Aaliyah’s artistic direction for “I Can Be” from the album Aaliyah (2001)
Aaliyah called me and said, “I need that edge, Tank. I’m a woman and people need to understand that. So, I want to shake em up a little bit with some of the things I say and kind of some of the things that I’m doing in my music.” I wrote from the perspective of people being surprised to hear that Aaliyah is the other woman. Like what? Aaliyah is supposed to be your main woman. Not only is she the other woman, but she’s saying, “It’s okay that I’m the other woman. I’m cool with that.” This is way before SZA talks about “The Weekend.” This is Aaliyah saying that “I can take care of whatever she isn’t taking care of.” When she called me and told me that she loved it, I was like, “Oh, shit. That’s dope.”
On working with Toni Braxton for hidden gem “Finally” from the album Libra (2005)
Now you’re getting disrespectful (laughs). I am mad at you. You know I forgot about this song? I can’t even think of the space I was even in at that moment. It was an Underdogs moment and Harvey [Mason Jr.] produced the vocals on it. For me, from an experience standpoint, hearing Toni Braxton’s classic Anita Baker/Toni Braxton mumble vibrato singing your words is crazy. It was iconic. Wow, thank you for reminding me about that. What a moment.
On collaborating with Kelly Rowland on “Ghetto” and “Show Me” from the album Ms. Kelly (2007)
Look at you. Look at Rated R&B. I see what’s going on here (laughs). Some of my favorite records that I’ve ever worked on were with Kelly [Rowland] because of the experience. I had been wanting to work with Kelly for so long, especially being a Destiny’s Child fan and just being a fan of her and people always attributing it all to Beyoncé. It was in those sessions that I discovered that Kelly is a problem. I realized that, “Oh my God. You’re amazing, too. Like super amazing. I can hear a lot of your vocal techniques and influence and background layering. Now it all makes sense to me.” I really just had fun watching [during those sessions] and being like, “You need to stop this. You need to stop this.” I was floored. I love those songs with her.
On making Jamie Foxx’s “Overdose” from the album Intuition (2008)
I think that Jamie has the same quality in his voice that I have where people just love to hear his voice. People always got it backwards, “Jamie is stealing from Tank or Tank is stealing from Jamie.” We actually do some of the same things organically. So [with“Overdose”], I really wanted to create an open enough track to where you could hear him vocally where you didn’t need no backgrounds, no nothing. Just his lead vocal carrying the whole song, which he can do in his sleep. When we were writing the record, he was like, “Tank, don’t you think we need some backgrounds?” I told him, “You don’t need backgrounds. You have the vocal to sell every ounce of meaning in this song. Your one lead vocal can do that — period.” Along with us laughing for 14 hours, we got that song done. It’s super powerful.
On collaborating on Pleasure P’s “Gotta Have You” and “Under” from the album The Introduction of Marcus Cooper (2009)
Pleasure P is like my little brother. So, he was like, “We need to lock in some time and get some joints done.” I’m like, “You ain’t’ said nothing but a word.” It always feels like that with me and him. Whenever he calls and needs anything, it is what it is. We just have natural chemistry in the studio. I understand him vocally in terms of whatever he’s trying to say. I get it. I can add to it. He knows himself and how to make changes or whatever is needed to tailor fit him. He’s been doing this since he’s been a kid, so have that understanding and we’re close and we’re friends. Us making [“Gotta Have You,” “Under”] was light work.
On fan-favorite “We Gon’ Fight” by Jennifer Hudson from the album Jennifer Hudson (2009)
I really wanted to capitalize off her spiritual vocal. When that woman sings right there, she gets into your spirit. When she says, “She’s going to fight for you,” that means you got a soldier on your side.” I told her, “I understand that everyone is going to give you the stuff for the charts and those cool R&B moments, but I want to give you a half-way spiritual moment to where when you perform this in concert, they’re going stand up and lift their hands up and say, “You better sing. You better tell him, girl.” I wanted that moment. She sang it the other night on her [Instagram] Live and it was effortless. It was disrespectful how effortless it was.
On writing K. Michelle’s “The Right One” from the deluxe edition of Rebellious Soul (2013)
Ah K, that’s my dog. That song came about by just me and her sitting there talking. We just got in there, got a couple of drinks and just sat there and talked. She was telling me about a situation, saying, “You think you’re going to get that shit off. You got the right one baby. I promise you got the right one.” I said, “That’s it. That is it. Turn the mic on (laughs).” I literally wrote K. Michelle. There is no Tank in that song. We had a conversation. I know K. I know her mannerisms. I know how she gets down, so I just painted a picture of K. Michelle — period. I didn’t need to add nothing. Plus, she kills [this song] in concert.
Stream our Board + Pen: Tank on Spotify and Apple Music, curated by Antwane, below.
(Please note: Some songs aren’t listed due to label issues and exclusive to physical albums)
Revisit part one of our conversation with Tank where he discussed his next studio album, his While You Wait EP, making happy music and much more.