Tiara Thomas Shows Off Her Versatility On ‘Sallie Mae’ EP

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Bursting onto the scene as a feature on Wale’s smash hit “Bad,” most do not know that Tiara Thomas actually wrote the track and passed it along to the MMG rapper. Now branching off in efforts to show off her unique sound, the singer/rapper has only tapped into her well of countless hits. Hailing from Indiana, the recent college grad is unleashing an unheard of direction, acquiring a voice for the young adults struggling upon entering their new phase of life.

Detailing a quite interesting story in her music, Tiara shows off her lyrical value in her EP Dear Sallie Mae, as well as her distinguished content. Linking with XXL , the singer gave insight into that history, telling of the past, present, and future. Also teasing that she will soon release a second EP, the singer says of her follow-up project, “I’m just gonna keep putting out music until my album. Until people get it.”—Miranda Johnson

XXL: Where does the title Sallie Mae come from? Is it in regards to you dealing with college loans?
Tiara Thomas: When I was in college, I took out my student loans with Salle Mae and I wanted to drop out of college my sophomore year, but I had already taken out I think like $30,000 or something close to that in student loans. So my mom was like, “Yeah, you’re gonna graduate.” [When I was] in college was when I really started getting into who I was as an artist and writing a bunch of different music. It was like sophomore year in college when I chose to name my EP that name. I just never changed it because it’s still relevant to people that are in college.

You’re really good at rapping too. When I went to Rico Love’s listening session and he played a track with you rapping on it, he was like, “People don’t know, but she’s a really dope rapper.” Did you first start out singing or rapping?
I first started off rapping. I remember I like sang in kids choir, but when I was in elementary school even preschool, I rapped that’s all I did. And then when I got to high school, I kind of really gravitated towards singing and I dropped rapping cause I was like, “I don’t want to rap cause girls don’t rap or whatever.” And then when I started feeling like I was getting good at guitar and singing, I was like, “Yo I’m gonna start rapping again.”

How did you connect with Wale?
I actually connected myself with Wale. I went on spring break with my friend my sophomore year of college and I was under 21 at the time and she had this fake I.D and we got in the club. We went to Atlanta, we got into the club and I guess Wale was hosting that night. All I knew was Wale had the song “Chillin’.” That’s all I knew. And so she was like “Yo, there’s Wale. Go take a picture with him.” And he was like, “So you were are you from?” I told him and he was like, “So what are you doing here?” and I said, “I’m networking.” And he was like, “Well, what do you do?” I said, “I sing, rap, and play guitar.” He was like, “Nah.” I was like, “Oh yeah I do.” And so he gave his business partner’s e-mail address and gave me his number and told me to sing on a voicemail. So, I did that and I was working with him for a little bit.

I heard “Bad” was actually your record.
“Bad” was one of those song’s that I wrote in college. You know Trillville, that “Some Cut” song? That was one of my favorite songs when I was younger and I wasn’t allowed to listen to that type of music. When I started playing guitar, I was like I’m going to do an acoustic cover of that song and make it sound pretty. I was in college and I was doing a cover of that song, an acoustic cover and then I was like I got to think of a catchy hook or something to put on this cover. And I just started freestyling the words to “Bad”. And I was like, “That’s dope, that’s catchy and that’s like some real shit.”

What’s the main message you’re trying to get across in the EP?
Well, part of the reason why I named my EP Dear Salle Mae cause I know a lot of my audience are college kids or around a college age. And I myself last year was just a college student. I graduated from college last year and this whole thing is a dream come true for me. And still sometimes I’m just like I can’t believe this happened. Just somebody from Indiana, just some girl from Indiana. I definitely wanted to be an inspiration for college kids or people who just don’t know what they want to do with their lives or they are scared to pursue their dreams or they think that they can’t be whatever they want to be. I definitely want to be an inspiration for those people.

The songs on the EP are just me being myself. Just me being free spoken and I had a lot of fun. Of course Dear Salle Mae is the first song on the EP and that’s one of my favorite songs cause I’m not talking about anything. I’m like dogging Sallie Mae and it’s funny. I really like “Tell Me Something” and it’s another song that came really easy for me. I just freestyled in the booth and just sang whatever came to heart. It’s really edgy.

It’s also interesting that you don’t have any features on the EP.
I featured myself because I don’t want people to get distracted. I don’t feel I need to have a bunch of people on my EP. I sing, I rap, I write my own music, and I play guitar. And it’s the first project that anyone’s ever heard from me and so a lot of people discovered me from Wale’s “Bad” and that was a feature. So I kind of just wanted to do my own thing for my first project. Just have myself on there so people could see what I was working with.

There’s just a whole dynamic that people don’t know about.
Yeah, they don’t know. So that’s the goal, to get people to know that’s its way bigger. It’s not just me sitting there playing a guitar. It’s like full-fledged, there’s pop songs on that EP. And I’m rapping on that EP, there’s R&B on that EP. And then we’re gonna release a part two, where that’s gonna have even more. I’m just gonna keep putting out music until my album, until people get it.