Back in 2018, Stormzy stole the show at the BRITs with a now-legendary performance that took aim at then-PM Theresa May and announced himself as a true contemporary icon. At 2020s BRITs, while it was Dave who took shots at the country’s current clown-in-chief, you knew Stormzy had something big in the bag for topping his outing last time round.
Serving up a seven-minute medley of ‘Don’t Forget To Breathe’, ‘Do Better’ and ‘Wiley Flow’, Stormzy also welcome some special guests, namely Nigeria’s Afro-fusion hitmaker Burna Boy for ‘Own It’ and soulful upcomer Tiana Major9 for ‘Rainfall’ (performed, of course, with rain falling).
While Burna Boy would be a name recognisable to the more tuned-in spectators at home (his Stormzy and Ed Sheeran collab ‘Own It’ recently topped the charts), you’d be forgiven if Newham native Tiana Major9 wasn’t yet on your radar.
She’s been described as a “singular voice in black British soul,” with her music bringing in elements of jazz, R&B and hip-hop. Still yet to release a full-length, last year’s ‘Rehearsal @ NINE’ EP showed the breadth of Tiana’s talents – from the infinitely smooth ‘Levee (Let It Break)’ to the Winehouse-inspired ‘Mr Mysterious’.
Here’s everything you need to know about Tiana Major9…
She shines bright on Stormzy’s album
It’s pretty tough to stand out on an album that already features the likes of Ed Sheeran, Aitch, Headie One, H.E.R., among others, as well as arguably the biggest star in the country himself, but Tiana still managed to dazzle and turn heads on Stormzy’s ‘Heavy Is the Head’.
Featuring on ‘Rainfall’, Tiana interpolates the joyous chorus from Mary Mary’s classic 1999 hit ‘Shackles (Praise You)’, adding even more heart to the triumphant hook and taking her big break to display some very impressive vocal gymnastics.
Speaking to Elle last year, Tiana explained how the team-up came about: “Stormzy first reached out to me on Twitter after seeing one of my videos online. If he likes something he likes it, it doesn’t matter if someone’s up and coming or already established.”
Michelle Obama is a fan
We know the Obamas have great taste. After all, Barack recently dropped his list of favourite songs from 2019, which included everything from Solange and Sharon Van Etten to The National and Frank Ocean. So it was a pretty big deal when Tiana made her way onto Michelle Obama’s coveted ‘2020 Workout Playlist’, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Kanye, Lizzo and Childish Gambino.
Tiana’s reaction? “Crazy… she knows my name! That’s Auntie.”
She recorded a song for one of 2019’s best movies
When enlisting the person she wanted to helm the score to her debut feature film Queen & Slim, which we called “a nail-biting road movie that deserves cult classic status”, director Melina Matsoukas was on the look out for “our current Quincy Jones,” finding precisely that in one Dev Hynes aka Blood Orange. For its accompanying soundtrack album, Matsoukas called on a whole array of modern talents, including Megan Thee Stallion, Syd, Vince Staples, Lil Baby and more.
The lead single from the album, however, was Tiana’s cross-Atlantic collaboration with Atlanta duo EARTHGANG. ‘Collide’, which has racked up almost 3 million views on YouTube alone, has all the haziness and irresistibility of a whirlwind love affair – much like the movie itself. Tiana hersef has described the track as “a beautiful love song [that] just spoke to me”.
She’s a proper jazz head
You may be wondering the meaning behind Tiana Major9’s unorthodox stage name. Well, it all comes from her love of jazz. She’s called the genre “the heart and soul of my music,” adding: “I grew up listening to Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan, but I’m really into new school jazz as well like Ezra Collective. I’ve always wanted to bridge the gap between older and young people because jazz is for everyone, and it’s influence is everywhere whether people realise it or not.”
“I wanted a name that related to jazz so I added the Major9,” she has explained. The major ninth chord, for those not in the know, is one common in jazz and a personal favourite of Tiana’s too: “It’s the chord I use mostly in my songs.”
She recently signed to Motown – and is already taking America
Labels don’t get much more iconic than Motown, do they? So it was a pretty big deal when the US imprint signed Tiana up. Since then, Tiana’s already been making waves in the US – thanks in no small part to the success of ‘Collide. Last month saw Tiana perform at the Soul Train Awards and make her US TV debut on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. In short: remember that name, because you’ll be hearing a lit more from TianaMajor9.