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There’s something about Tems that feels regal even through the phone. She seems like the sort of person that always inexplicably smells good — the kind that walks tall and gives the best advice, knowing exactly what you need to hear before you’re so sure yourself.

In the spaces between her 20 responses, she chooses her words carefully, taking the time to search for the most honest answers she can give instead of vocalizing the first thought to pop into her head. There’s a strength to her voice and a brightness to her energy that makes you feel safe, and when the conversation is up, you’ll find yourself clinging to her very last word.

Luckily, in case you can’t hop on a call with the breakout R&B singer yourself, Tems’ authentic nature seeps through the lines of her music; the end result both sincere and uplifting. Something you’d play when the weather is warm but the sky is getting dark. On your way home from the beach, watching the traffic lights fly past the open windows in a blur of neon.

Her new EP, ‘For Broken Ears,’ is all this and more — a tribute to finding your own voice, and making yourself heard. From confident grooves like “Ice T” to the smoky rhythms of “The Key,” each song feels laid back but still empowering, furthering the overarching themes of freedom and individuality that permeate Tems’s music. This is what fans have loved about her since her debut 2018 single “Rebel Man,” and if it wasn’t apparent enough from their support, Tems’s supporters have even named themselves the “Rebel Gang” in her honor.

While Tems is a newer voice on the scene, she’s not one you hear every day. In turbulent times, she is a moment of relief — the permission you’ve needed to slow yourself way (way) down. Read on to find out more about who Tems is, the song that makes her feel like she’s dreaming, and the moment her sister got pushed out of a plane in Vegas.

How do you stop caring about what other people think?

By finding out who you really are and knowing your worth.

What do you do when you’re not feeling creative?

I go to a peaceful place, such as a garden or the beach, and I just chill… I just chill.

What food could you eat every single day?

Woah! Hmm… oh man. Well, there’s nothing I can think of that I wouldn’t get tired of, but I would say jollof rice.

When you were younger, what did you want to be when you grew up?

When I was younger, I wanted to sing. I wanted to be a singer.

Which highlighter is your favorite for makeup?

Oh my goodness. Well, I haven’t found the perfect highlighter, but… there’s this Maybelline one that is really cool, and also there’s this Anastasia Beverly Hills one as well that is cool, I just can’t remember the name because I don’t have it currently.

What’s been the craziest moment of your career so far?

The craziest moment… woah. I think performing at a Wizkid concert. There were like thousands of people there… I’m sure there were like 10,000 people there. And when I was performing, they were all singing my song, and there were lights in the air, and Wizkid was like right there, you know? Everybody was singing to it, and in that moment I was like, ‘Is this me?!’ Like they’re singing my song. Like how do they know who I am? I mean… it was surreal, it was surreal.

How do you dance when there’s no one watching?

I dance like a crazy person, like I have a bug on my skin, like there’s a rat in my pants or something.

How do you find new music?

I get recommendations actually. I get recommendations from my friends, so if I’m deliberately looking for anything, I ask my close friends, “What are you listening to right now that is new?”

When do you feel the most beautiful?

I feel the most beautiful when I’m… oh man. When I’m at home. When I’m at home I feel the most beautiful.

How do you pray?

I live alone, so if I wasn’t living alone, I’d find a very quiet place, and I’d just feel my God. I always end up crying.

What songs make you feel like you’re dreaming?

There’s this song by Giveon, it’s called ‘Favorite Mistake.’ That song makes me feel like I’m dreaming.

If you could be a character in any movie, who would you be?

I’d be… oh what’s her name? I’d be T’Challa’s sister in Black Panther.

What’s the most adventurous thing you’ve ever done? 

I took a ride with someone I didn’t know, and I had a conversation with him for about two hours. I was actually in Houston, in Texas, so it was very risky, but I knew I was protected. He was actually my Uber driver. We had a conversation for like a long time, and it was nice to talk to someone that I didn’t know, that didn’t know me, that didn’t know anything about me, or me being anything.

Oh, actually! Actually, that’s not the most adventurous thing I’ve done, I just remembered. I jumped out of a plane in Vegas. Yeah, I went skydiving and I did that. Yep, yep, yep, yep. I remember it very clearly, I was scared to death, I couldn’t believe that I was literally falling out of the sky— I almost had a heart attack. That is definitely the most adventurous.

What’s the best way to deal with a breakup?

The best way to deal with a breakup is to block… not block, but clean out all the noise. The best way to deal with a breakup, I would say [is to] start learning about yourself, start studying yourself, focus on yourself. If it’s your career, if it’s your hobbies— start observing yourself and what you like, and put all your focus into yourself.

What’s something you did even though it scared you? I mean I feel like the skydiving…

“Oh yeah, the skydiving… no, that was the one thing that I mean, mm mm, I don’t think I can do that again. It was like [me and] my cousin, and on the way there, everybody was excited, and when we got on the plane, we were like, ‘Can we turn back?’ and the general was like, ‘No, you can’t, you have to jump off.’ Yeah, so it was really scary. My cousin was actually pushed out, because she was holding onto the door. Well, she was holding onto the door, and the [instructor] was with her, [and] he just pushed her hand off, and she just fell out of the plane. She was like ‘AHHHH!’”

What do you do when you’re feeling lonely?

I FaceTime my friends or my mom, and we just stay on the phone and do what we’re doing.

Do you believe in horoscopes?

I haven’t really researched, like gone into horoscopes. I only know basic knowledge, I don’t really know too much about it, but I’m not unopened to the idea or the philosophy or the theory, because I realized I met someone who had the same birthday as my mom, and I saw lots of similarities in them. And I was like “Hmm, OK, is this what they mean?”

Do you know your zodiac sign?

“Oh, I’m a Gemini!”

What personality trait do you admire the most in someone else?

Honesty, lack of ego or pride, and I would say an open mind.

When you get homesick, what do you miss the most?

When I get homesick, I miss the people, and I miss the food. There’s so much— right now it’s corn season, so there’s a lot of roasted corn. It’s like grilled corn-on-the-cob that you could find literally on the street anywhere, and there’s also this grilled yam that you could also get as well. And then there’s this thing where they… it’s like a plantain medley, with plantain and chicken and vegetables, but it’s in a traditional way that I love so much. And then there’s this… suya, it’s called suya, it’s like grilled meat, grilled beef rather, but there’s also grilled chicken, there’s also grilled other things, and I don’t eat too much beef right now, but those are the things I miss.

I also just miss the vibe, the people, you know? Just going out to the parties, well not the parties, just the gatherings, I would say. It’s always nice just with the people that you know— your family.



photos / Jerusa Nyakundi

story / Chandler Plante

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