“Somebody/anybody/sing a black girl’s song/bring her out/to know herself/to know you/but sing her rhythms/carin/struggle/hard times/sing her song of life” – Ntozake Shange, for colored girls who have considered suicide when the rainbow is enuf
That “somebody” is Tarrey Torae, a Grammy award-winning singer/songwriter who is very easily your favorite rapper’s favorite singer, and her Black girl song of life is simply titled “Little Girl.” Tarrey, whose Chicago-grown sultry vocals have graced tracks and stages with Kanye West, The Roots, John Legend, and Stevie Wonder to only name a few, offers this latest release as a musical and visual love letter to young girls. Using her own hard-learned lessons on life and love, Tarrey hopes “Little Girl” will empower young women to not make some of the same mistakes that women before them have made while growing up too fast.
The soul singer, who is currently on tour with The Ruler Slick Rick, spoke very candidly recently with BlackDoctor.org about the inspiration behind the song, and the journey of the ‘little girl’ who grew to be a self-assured Black woman.
BlackDoctor.org: I’m loving all the throwback stories you’re sharing right now [on social media] of creating songs with Kanye, John Legend and others. Is there a special story behind creating “Little Girl”?
Tarrey Torae: The day that I created the song “Little Girl” I was vacuuming my living room rug and doing some housekeeping around a condo that we were living in at the time on the South Side of Chicago right next to Washington Park. I remember being in a super deep thought at the time, remembering my own childhood traumas and challenges as I was learning how to grow into a woman. The lyrics are a testimony and a shout of love to our little girls today. It’s my way or telling them that I love them. We love them and want to see them do well! It is my attempt to display the action of paying it forward. The lyrics in the song “Little Girl” reflect a symbolic ceremony for me of actually forgiving myself for some of the mistakes I made before I became more mature. The story of my life is drenched in life lessons, as it is for most of us.
WATCH: “LITTLE GIRL” BY TARREY TORAE
When I wrote this song, I was releasing something that I needed to push out and heal from. A great part of this story is that as I was writing the lyrics and singing to the top of my voice so as to hear myself over the vacuum cleaner, my husband, J. Ivy, emerged from his office in the back of our condo and asked what song I was singing. I replied, “My song!” and he said, “WHAT! You wrote that!? That’s original! I feel like Michael Jackson wrote that song!” He then says, “Wow, Babe, you are amazing! You should finish it and record that as soon as possible.”
He asked what inspired it, and I told him that it was my childhood and things I felt I had experienced for lack of simply knowing and lack of awareness. We sat and talked that afternoon and shared more childhood memories. We got closer and learned more about each other again. This song healed a part of me that needed healing.
BlackDoctor.org: Why is “Little Girl” needed for a time such as this?
Tarrey Torae: This song is extremely important to the times that we are living through now as a nation and as a world community. I wrote it with the hope that my words would move some people to do more for this generation and our little girls especially. It is a call to action and inspiration for women who will influence our next generation of women. We have to take this serious. We have to have a balance of examples both good and not so good so that our babies, little girls and young women can learn how to decipher and discern life decisions. I want them to have power in their thinking past what some parts of our society has delivered to them.
I was raised by a very old fashion family with tradition and deep moral values. I worry sometimes that it may be missing or getting too watered down. They are not getting it the from old fashion women that I knew and honestly they just might be getting it and just not listening as some young people do. I didn’t listen all of the time. It is a very human moment. It is also responsible for us to prepare them for the good times and the bad ones. They have to have tools and guidance. We can’t allow the Internet to raise our babies. And sometimes that is not the intention but it happens because we can’t watch them 24 hours and the digital world is very real in these days.
I wanted this song to touch the times we live in because I wanted to offer an option of view and an option of choice for them. I wanted them to see that it is ok to be a student of life but to keep love and joy in front of it all. Going down the wrong path is not the end of the world. I wanted them to see that even if they make a mistake they can recover with the right support. Even without saying it I wanted them to enjoy more of their lives and not make all of the mistakes by themselves.
It is a lesson of living vicariously through the adult women that surround them and learning the solution to the problem without having to go through it themselves. We need our little girls and young women to hear our voices in their head when they come to crossroads. We need them to feel covered even when they make mistakes.
BlackDoctor.org: In the verses you take on the role of the wise big sister or cool auntie. Can you also relate to being that “little girl,” growing up too fast? What things did you struggle with?
Tarrey Torae: Yes, I love being the big sister figure in this time of my life. I feel like I’ve learned so much. I had to grow up in a way where I took direction from my elders but at the same time I had to learn from the streets. Part of it was survival; part of it was maturing. Part of it was lack of maturity and trying to fit in with my peers that I was surrounded by. Being Black, being a girl and being in Chicago on the South Side all played dynamics in my life!