WINTER DIARIES | ACE TEE
Text by:Quartz Co.
In conversation with Elise Legault
Photo credit: Janick Zebrowski
Ace Tee is the German-Ghanaian artist whose smooth flow and eclectic aesthetic shook the internet back in 2017 when her single ‘Bist du down?’ accumulated millions of views on YouTube and sparked chatter across the globe. Praised for its TLC worthy flow and Missy Elliott inspired wardrobe, the single embodied, for many, the German renaissance of 90’s R&B. For Tarin Wilda however, twenty-three at the time, Ace Tee was a side project – one she developed while working to become a hair stylist, a trade she was learning from her mother. In the winter of 2017, that prospective changed – a career as a musician, like the ones she had grown up idolizing on MTV, no longer seemed so farfetched.
The song and its accompanying video, which she herself directed, are a reflection of the maverick artist that is Ace Tee – one who is ready to carve her own path. Following the success of her breakout single, Ace Tee opened for Future, release a lip gloss with Manhattan Cosmetics and even collaborated with H&M on a signature collection. Although she’s been off to a promising start, Ace Tee is the first to admit that making it big, and remaining on top, isn’t easy.
The singer, who is currently on tour with fellow German artist Cro, has been focusing on producing new material and making her way to the U.S. within the coming year. She recently took a break from life on the road to give us some candid insight into how winter is a time for her to create and to fully embrace her ‘Sip slow’ philosophy.
Hey Tee, how were you introduced to music?
Growing up, there was always music in our home. As far back as I can remember, my dad constantly had tapes playing. We listened to a lot of rap, but also African and Ghanaian music, Michael Jackson and Prince… I also had to go to Church every Sunday, so that played a big part. I remember dancing a lot – moving and singing along to music was definitely a part of my childhood.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Jenfeld, a district of Hamburg in Germany. Gangster rappers would describe Jenfeld as what it is: a ghetto or a low income neighborhood. I don't live there anymore, but I always get positive vibes when I think about it. We didn’t have a lot of money, but we were a bunch of kids from all over the world and we didn’t care about brands, about race, about religion. Those were the good times. The Ghanaian community is very big in Germany – it seems like everybody has a family member somewhere that can tell your mother what you were up to in the streets as a teenager.
How would you describe winter in Germany?
Well… Cold?! (laughs) In Hamburg, it’s always this wet coldness – never really snow. There’s just a lot of wind due to the Elbe River… Hamburg isn’t known for its winters of snow… There are no mountains around, so I never did winter sports or anything like that. But when it comes to fashion, winter is always a good time. Beanies, scarfs, gloves a lot of accessories and of course nice jackets! I like the winter for that. Sounds stupid, right?!
Has your relationship to winter changed between being a kid to now being a professional artist?
Of course! Now I have to buy Christmas presents, not my mom! (laughs) But yes, I was born in Germany, so winter has always been a part of my life. Not really for my parents, though. That’s strange when I think about it…
Is winter a creative period for you?
Yes it is – it's less hectic. You can relax your mind and you can be creative. There is also no need to be outside, I like that a lot. Sip slow is my lifestyle – it means to just slow down and think about stuff. Winter is always the period of the year to calm down. Summer gives me more inspiration, but winter is the time to filter it all.
What’s the perfect context for you to be creative and write music?
When I listen to beats on the train, in the car or on the road, I always freestyle or sing melodies. If something fits, it will stick with me. I also like the mood a music studio gives me. It can be any studio, but the lighting must be nice. Most of the time a studio gives me the vibe I need to create. I don’t always write my material down, but when I do, it will most likely be at night when all the troubles of my day are behind me and I don’t have my phone – no WhatsApp or Instagram open. That’s how my songs happen.
What are some of your musical influences right now?
Right now, I just listen to beats, beats, beats, beats. But I do like the mumble rap stuff coming from Atlanta… It makes it all seem easy – I like that. Also, artists coming out of the U.K., like Skepta and of course Wizkid from Nigeria. There is a lot… but when I’m travelling by train, I mostly listen beats.
How do you see the German rap scene evolving?
Rap in Germany is the biggest music in the industry… Artists like 187 Strassenbande go platinum with every release. It’s crazy! The only problem with the scene is that German rappers don’t quite sound like themselves. For example, they’re all over Afro Trap right now. They haven’t really owned up to their sound like U.K. or French rappers have.
What does a day in the life of Ace Tee look like?
I don't really have a day to day routine. I have so many meetings, tours and gigs. When I have time, I try to be in the studio making music – that’s for sure. I didn’t have a single day that was like another in 2018. I also just got my own apartment in Hamburg, but when I’m in town, most at the time I stay at my mom’s. It's kind of hard for me to be alone after a tour. You go from always being with people 24/7 to being completely alone. It’s a strange feeling so I enjoy being with my fam. If my career works out, I want to buy a house for my mom and my sister and me. I work hard to make it.
What are you most looking forward to in the coming months?
I might fly to Ghana to play a festival. That would be unbelievable! Besides that, I told my family and management that I just wanted to make music… Cozy time in the studio. I hope it works out…. And I really want anyone waiting for new music to know that I’m working on it! It doesn’t come easy to me. It’s a spiritual process that I’m learning, but music is the key.