TinkTink, real name Trinity Home, was 19-years-old and watching TV in her parents’ basement in Chicago suburb Calumet City when she got the call from Timbaland. “I thought my manager was playing with me,” she remembers. “But then she put him through. He said: ‘I like your song, you’re talented. I want to meet you.’ How crazy is that?”

The song in question was ‘Don’t Tell Nobody’, which Timbaland was being played by its producers Da Internz. Two days later, Tink was on a plane to meet him. “I was nervous as fuck,” she says. “But he was humble to me! That blew my mind. He told me he started in his basement. I was like: ‘Damn! I record in my basement too right now!’”

In fact, Tink had already recorded and released five mixtapes from her parents’ basement, starting with ‘Winter’s Diary’ when she was 17. She had been singing in a church choir since she was a child, but got the confidence to perform when she posted a clip of herself freestyling over Clipse’s ‘Grindin’ to her brother’s Facebook page. Her mixtapes showcased the two sides of her: the soulful balladeer and the rapper with Minaj-like flow.

What she didn’t have yet was one coherent sound. That’s where Timbaland, who’s producing her debut LP in Miami, comes in. “For a long time I was searching,” she says. “The music I’m doing with Tim now is still my voice and message, but his production has a sound nobody can duplicate.”

Originally published in Mixmag, August 2015.