"I Gotta Get Higher": An Interview with Yung Baby Tate

"I feel more comfortable onstage than I am in regular life."
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Sitting upright and attentive in a cozy room at Atlanta, Georgia recording establishment Doppler Studios, multi-disciplinary, Atlanta-born artist Yung Baby Tate recalls a fond childhood memory. “She asked, ‘What are you doing, Tate?’ I replied, I gotta get higher, I gotta get higher so you can see me perform.” 

The young woman born Tate Farris was four—maybe five—when she dragged a kiddy chair to the kitchen, determined to sing for her mother and her visiting uncle. It’s a story that is the genesis of her passion for performance. From an early age, there was an innate urge to be heard, to be seen, and to entertain.

On stage is where I first met Yung Baby Tate. It was late 2015, the year she began performing locally. What I remember most about her early performances is her compelling stage presence that is seldom present in new acts. Instead of visible jitters or signs of nervous fear, Tate’s butterfly wing vibrancy claimed the gaze of spectators. By the end of her charismatic set, everyone in attendance knew that this young woman, though tiny in stature, had a personality as large as a giant.

“I guess it's because I've just been performing for so long. I have been performing since I was in the third grade. I feel more comfortable onstage than I am in regular life, ” the 22-year-old genre-blender says when I mention the lasting impression she leaves on her live audience.

Tate began her career by attending DeKalb School of the Arts in Avondale Estates, Georgia, where she was voted most creative. In the eleventh grade, she joined a theater ensemble, which she remained a part of until her sophomore year of college. There were also piano lessons from third grade until seventh, impromptu beatmaking lessons on the MPC at 10 from a man who belonged to her family's church, and self-led GarageBand lessons at 13 in her mother’s backroom learning to make loops.

Tate chose the stage as a second home, but music has been prevalent in her life since birth. Her mother, esteemed '90s singer-songwriter, producer, and actresses Dionne Farris, was pregnant with Tate in 1996, the same year she attended the 38th Annual GRAMMY Awards. She didn’t win Best Female Pop Vocal Performance that year for her hit single, “I Know,” a record that peaked at No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100, but she did receive a gilded gramophone three years prior as the featured vocalist on the Billboard Hot 100 chart-topping single “Tennessee,” by revered '90s hip-hop group Arrested Development.

Growing up with a mother as highly regarded and successful as Dionne Farris certainly contributed to what attracted and encouraged Tate to follow in her footsteps:

"As a baby, I was in the carriage at the studio with her. As a kid, I would sometimes go to her shows and stuff. Sometimes she would call me up on stage. When I was a teenager, I would help her with shows, like selling merch. There’s a GRAMMY sitting in the living room and a Moon Man in the bathroom. It was all very encouraging. My mom wanted me to go to college, and I did, for like a year and a half, but she always knew this is what I wanted to do. The apple did not fall far from the tree. She got one GRAMMY; I have to get at least two." —Yung Baby Tate

All the years of practice, preparation, and performing culminated on February 10, 2019, the day Yung Baby Tate released her first full-length LP, GIRLS. The 11-track album is a hybrid of lush sounds and various styles, ranging from the sweetest cotton-candy pop sensibility to swagger-laced forward-thinking R&B. In 39 minutes, Tate created an album made in the image of every woman. 

During the making of BOYS, her 2018 EP, Tate decided the concept had to continue; that there had to be a GIRLS. It would be bigger, more expansive and collaborative than the projects she completed prior. With the album came the Christian Cody-directed short film as well.

 "I started thinking about what kind of girls I wanted to represent. I knew I wanted to collab and have features only with girls, so I started thinking about who I wanted to reach out to. Because I produce everything, too, I wanted to make sure that what I approached somebody with, they could make it the best song" —Yung Baby Tate

Originally, SZA was the songstress Tate envisioned as a guest for her based-on-a-true-story, hopeless romantic anthem “Lover Girl.” Knowing a feature from TDE’s leading lady was a reach, to say the least, she turned to Baby Rose, an impressive, Atlanta-based singer, and songwriter. “Her voice is so dope!” Tate exclaims, which is the same reaction most people have when they hear Baby Rose for the first time.

Then there’s the gifted, Little Rock, Arkansas-born creative Kari Faux who appears on album’s closer, “Hot Girl.” Made in 2016, “Hot Girl” began one scorching summer in an AC-less apartment she shared with an ex and a few roommates. 

“I was literally sitting right in front of the window with the fan blowing trying to make a beat that felt like air so I could help myself not die,” Tate says, laughing. After coming up with the chorus, she thought of Kari Faux, and how she would be the perfect feature for the song—despite having absolutely no way of getting her the song.

Two years later, though, after following each other on Twitter, Tate and Faux met in person at a BMI showcase. After expressing her love and admiration for Faux, Tate brought up the song, explaining why she would be a perfect fit. That fall, when Faux was in Atlanta on tour with Junglepussy, she recorded her verse. It was everything Yung Baby Tate hoped it would be. 

Speaking of guest features, bbymutha’s verse on “Wild Girl” is another example of a social media-made connection turned real-life collaboration.

“We initially met through Twitter. Basically, similar to Kari, I told bbymutha I have this song that I think you would be super dope on. It’s for my project GIRLS, and I’m only working with girls. I sent her the record, and she responded that it was dope. She flew in here [Atlanta] from Canada and was going to Tennesse the same night. To go home. She came in, did her verse… I think she told me she wrote it in the Uber. She was listening to it in the Uber from the airport with the sound all the way down so she wouldn’t disturb the driver. It was dope, we just shot the video in New York.”—Yung Baby Tate

One month before the release of GIRLS, Tate posted an invitation to J. Cole and Dreamville’s Revenge of the Dreamer Sessions at the infamous Tree Sound Studios on her Instagram. Dreamville invited Tate as a songwriter, a first for her. 

“I make everything at home, so I don’t normally like going to the studio,” she confesses; a statement that’s likely true for many self-taught artists who learned their craft in bedrooms instead of expensive studios. “But the Dreamville Sessions was the only time I was ready to go to the studio. It was the environment. It just felt so free. It felt like a family reunion and I didn't even know them.”

Tate says she enjoyed creating in the collaborative environment created by Cole and his camp, noting Ari Lennox was so kind and genuine, she seemed "unreal," like a cartoon character. Ironically, her first Dreamville collaboration, which can found at the end of J.I.D’s “Tiiied,” a track on his heralded 2018 mixtape DiCaprio 2, was the result of social media, too. After coming across a hilarious video on her Instagram Story, the East Atlanta lyricist reached out to Tate to see if he could use the clip for his album. “I was like, 'Oh my God,' when he sent me the video he wanted to sample,” Tate remembers with a laugh. 

It takes both unwavering patience and ironclad persistence to see any success as a recording artist, but Tate, who is currently supporting Leikeli47 on her Acrylic Tour, knows the industry is slowly taking notice. 

Whether through her arresting performances, individualist fashionista flair, viral videos, creative vision, or a combination of all she offers, she's only climbing higher—this time, without the kiddy chair. 

By Yoh, aka Yung Baby Yoh, aka @Yoh31

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