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Friday, September 24, 2021

Rate and Review: Tia Corine ‘The Saga of 34corine’

The Winston-Salem rapper’s originality shines through on the deluxe release of her 2020 debut

On “The Saga of 34corine,” the deluxe release of her 2020 album “34corine,” TiaCorine expands upon this established style for a batch of seven new tracks, adding almost double the length to the original. (Courtesy to The Alligator)
On “The Saga of 34corine,” the deluxe release of her 2020 album “34corine,” TiaCorine expands upon this established style for a batch of seven new tracks, adding almost double the length to the original. (Courtesy to The Alligator)

Overwhelmingly pink decor covers a wall in hip-hop up-and-comer TiaCorine’s house.

An abundance of pink cartoon characters, such as Strawberry Shortcake, Hello Kitty and Princess Bubblegum, adorn it. They’re plastered on imitation brick wallpaper that, again, sports pink. It’s sectioned off in shades — fuchsia, rose, blush and others — but there’s no question as to the dominant color.

This vibrancy not only radiates from TiaCorine’s interior design choices but also her musical style. Energetic and eclectic, the artist blends R&B, trap, 2000s pop-punk and more to craft a sound that defies genres. On “The Saga of 34corine,” the deluxe release of her 2020 album “34corine,” TiaCorine expands upon this established style for a batch of seven new tracks, adding almost double the length to the original.

Deluxe albums are notoriously daunting, and at 15 tracks, “The Saga of 34corine” threatens to follow suit. But the album clocks a mere 37 minutes, and it glides effortlessly. 

Brief doesn’t mean boring, though. Each song is packed with a myriad of musical ideas, bursting at the seams with a blend of genre-crossing instrumentals, TiaCorine’s vocoder-tinged flows and samples pulled straight from pop culture. Standard trap instrumentation  — quick hi-hats, pounding 808s, bright synth accents and booming bass —  is accounted for, but there are notable additions. Clean guitars anchor tracks like “On P’s” and “Avril Lavigne,” and cool electric piano chords underscore the breakout hit “Lotto.”

Even more intriguing are the samples, inspired by TiaCorine’s wide range of tastes. Samuel L. Jackson’s legendary “Snakes On A Plane'' monologue serves as the segue between “You Knew” and “On P’s,” an anime voiceover introduces “34 Villain,” and other references are sprinkled throughout. What could be cut-and-dry trap is instantly elevated by these seemingly inconspicuous details. 

Garrett Williams, vice president of marketing and head of operations at South Coast Music Group, said these additions are what set TiaCorine apart from her contemporaries. Genre isn’t a trap for TiaCorine, it’s a toolbox without limitations.

“She takes all these different sounds and tries to create it into one sound, which is her sound,” Williams said.

Lyrically, TiaCorine is a loose cannon. Refreshingly unfiltered and armed with references, her pen game is playful and provocative, drawing from a traditional southern swagger and the lens of sexual empowerment. “Pancakes” in particular utilizes these influences well, riding the line between flirtatious teasing and ferocious tenacity. 

“You say it ain’t no beef, but all I smell is tacos,” she says in “Tacos,” a lighthearted wordplay with underlying bluntness. The take-no-prisoners attitude calls back to her upbringing in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, which she said inspired her work ethic and self-assuredness. In a scene where breakout stars are rarely seen, TiaCorine said she manifested her own success through sheer grit. Any incoming obstacles, she said, are unlikely to deter her from the path she’s set out for herself.

“You can be mad at me all you want, you can do what you want,” she said. “I’m still going to shine.”

“Underrated” is an exhausted term, but if a revival were ever appropriate, it’d be in the case of TiaCorine. That she’s flying under the radar is mind-boggling, especially with some of the guest spots on this record. DaBaby lends a verse on “Lotto – Part 2,” a remix of the album’s breakout hit “Lotto,” and Kenny Beats and Sonny Digital both have production credits. 

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For an artist on the rise, TiaCorine has recruited some impressive names, yet she holds her own among some of the industry’s most sought-after artists. The Kenny Beats instrumentals in “Luigi” compliment her clever lyricism and sly delivery, and “Lotto – Part 2” retains all the charm of the original amid DaBaby’s opening verse. 

Keeping up with these mega-stars is a formidable task, but TiaCorine takes it in stride , and the confidence with which she carries herself on these tracks is evidence of an exciting shift currently taking place in music.

Female rappers are slowly but surely seeping through the once-impermeable blockade of the industry’s strongmen. Women in rap were relegated to a red rover-style sacrifice of their best offering, where only the chosen one could maintain a chart presence with the titans — Lauryn Hill charging full speed with her monumental 1998 debut, Missy Elliot lowering her shoulders and slamming hard with a slew of hits in the early aughts, Nicki Minaj breaking through with one of the most prolific and consistent careers of any rapper ever — but a renaissance is on the horizon.

For perhaps the first time, we’re seeing female rappers dominate the airwaves en masse. Megan Thee Stallion, Doja Cat, Rico Nasty, Flo Milli and so many others are making noise, and the names paving the way represent a promising array of new talent. The landscape created the perfect storm for TiaCorine, a vibrant new voice with compositions just eccentric enough to be ear-catching but accessible enough to avoid alienation. The chips are falling in her favor, and with a solid supporting work to compliment a dynamic debut, TiaCorine is taking full advantage. 

Rate: 8/10

Contact Heather at hbushman@alligator.org. Follow her on Twitter @hgrizzl.

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