Tems Reflects On Her Career Moments And Journey: “It Keeps Me Anchored”

·6 min read

Nigerian singer Tems is at a high point in her career, and the best part is, that she’s only getting started. The 27-year-old musician has grown from regional recognition to global accolades in a moderate timespan, and the momentum is steadily rising.

Just this year, Tems nabbed her first BET Award, became the first Nigerian artist to debut at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart as a featured artist on Future’s “Wait For You” (also featuring Drake), and can be heard singing a cover of Bob Marley’s “Mama No Cry” in the stunning teaser for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.

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The rising star was also selected to participate in the expanding Coke Studio, Coca-Cola’s music platform originally launched in Pakistan in 2008. According to a press release, the global Coke Studio program is digital-first, always-on, and provides an opportunity for emerging talent to partner, create, and deliver moments of musical magic to new audiences.

Tems Singing
Tems Singing

“We set out to do something different with Coke Studio,” said Joshua Burke, head of global music & culture marketing, The Coca-Cola Company. “Coca-Cola has always had a strong connection with music, working with stand-out emerging talent in different communities in all corners of the world, as well as a strong heritage in connecting people across borders and cultures. Coke Studio brings these two things together in a way that’s powerful and future-facing, supporting the development of talent in the music industry, while also connecting new audiences to new music – and to each other.”

VIBE spoke with Tems about her involvement with Coke Studio, new music, and more. Read the conversation below.

This interview had been edited for length and clarity.

tems in light tan outfit gray
tems in light tan outfit gray

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VIBE: What was the deciding factor for you to be a part of this program with Coca-Cola?

Tems: I think the deciding factor was just that it was something I thought was uplifting and something that I could feel [and] relate to, which is about magic and bringing unity, bringing artists across the world for one purpose. Working with other artists was great. We really worked across online, so it’s nice to find new people as well. Just finding new artists that you never necessarily knew before. I think it just opens you up to a whole new network.

Whether it be something big or just something minor, what was your biggest takeaway from the Coke Studio program?

I think one thing I was able to take away was always going for challenges, and always being open to learning and just knowing more. I think it was a huge opportunity for me and everyone else to learn, really, about the music, about other artists, about the songs and turning them into something new.

Tems  Coca-Cola.
Tems Coca-Cola.

You recently shared photos of the places where you used to record and create, and now you’re on a new level in your career. Reflecting back on those moments, what have been some of the most impactful moments where you kind of sit back and have that “Wow” feeling? And what does that say to you about where you want to continue to go?

When I remember times when I couldn’t produce, when I remember times I made some of the songs that are out, I just felt more motivation, more drive to just keep on going. It just keeps me grounded. It keeps me anchored. I think remembering where you’re coming from helps you to just stay solid, really. Because it’s not easy for me to forget that time.

I think more importantly was the state of my life I was in at the time. I made two of those songs. Just remembering that time and remembering that you’re not in that place, just makes me feel like I want to continue working on myself. I want to continue working on my music. I want to continue working towards being better in general.

I noticed that you recently changed your profile pic on social media to a character from The Lion King after a fan pointed out a resemblance. How important is that for you as an artist to be able to see things like that and join in on the fun?

If I see something that is funny, I just feel like, “Oh, well, let’s see how it looks on my profile. If this is me, then I guess let’s see how it looks as a profile picture on this. Let’s experiment.” I think it’s important for anybody to relate with people in their own way. As an artist, I think the major thing that connects you with your fans or with people that support you is the music. It is what you’re really good at. Before I released my first song, before I was known or anything like that, I wasn’t on social media a lot. I wasn’t interested in seeing all of the people’s lives.

Only now am I understanding the need for social media. It’s a way for you to talk to people and communicate certain things online. So, I think it’s important to show people that you are alive and you are online sometimes. But I think most important is you continue to stay true to what you are really passionate about. Finding a balance between those two, I think, is the most important thing.

What can fans expect from new music and what can they look forward to?

Something different from what I’ve released so far. Something different. Not something that is not like not me, that is unrecognizable. I think most of my music is like, “Yeah, that’s me.” But it’s definitely different. There’s so much music that I have worked on, and I think I’m just really trying to evolve my production and how the music makes me feel. It’s a lot of fusion, I think I would say. The music. And I’m not really sure when the music is going to be out. But yeah, that’s all I can say.

What do you want listeners to take away or to feel when they’re listening to your music?

I want them to take away a sense of hope. I want them to take away confidence. I want them to be. It’s a sort of self-assurance that “I’m not alone. I am who I am, and I’m going to do this.” Just that feeling of “I can do it.” Whether you’re thinking of just that feeling of like, “I can do it.” That feeling of passion. Whatever I’m passionate about, just that igniting of whatever passion they have in them. Whether it’s a person, whether it’s a thing, a situation, or their career—just taking away the feeling of hope and self-assurance, and real drive.

Is there anything else you want to speak about or anything else you would like our readers to know? Any jokes you want to tell?

(Laughs) Not really. Jokes…I’m 5″9.

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