Welcome to AP&R, where we highlight rising artists who will soon become your new favorite.

TiaCorine defines herself as a superhero. But not the kind in a cinematic universe. Tia’s a “regular superhero.”

While superheroes can do things that the rest of us can’t, like how the 27-year-old self-described "anime trap" artist meshes musical worlds together to the delight of KennyBeats and her other big-name producer friends, not every superhero has the ability to step away from their powers to be a kickass mother like Tia. 

Read more: How Blazzy brought more awareness to the dangers of fentanyl with a T-shirt

As she talks over Zoom about her first headline show, which took place on her home turf of North Carolina earlier this summer, Tia gets emotional thinking about her 6-year-old daughter nervously rubbing her hands together and cheering her mom on the whole way through. 

“She knows all the words,” she recalls teary-eyed, thinking about her biggest musical motivator. “She says, ‘You just got this.’ The fans chant my name. They were like ‘Tia, Tia,’ and I come offstage, she just starts crying. I ask her what’s wrong, and she's like, ‘I’m so proud of you, Mommy. You did so good. You're so amazing.’ And that was just… whew.”

loading...

[Photo by Terry Suave]

But Zoe isn’t Tia’s kryptonite. She helps ignite her powers. After spending well over a decade chasing greatness as an MC in her native state, initially inspired by artists like Nicki Minaj and Lil Wayne and fueled by the punk aesthetics she now shows off through her visuals, Tia is closer than she’s ever been to seeing those powers at their fullest potential. She’s turning anger and Mike’s Hard Lemonade combos into her most memorable songs, rhyming about her occasional resemblance to Chaka Khan, and leaving every studio she touches with new fans. And it certainly helps that her daughter is in her corner. 

“She just makes me so alive,” Tia says. “A lot of things hit different because I have her. I just show her, if I’m going to work, and sometimes I’m gone for a week or two, and you’re sad or you miss me, this is what I’m doing. She has more respect now. ‘This is my mommy, and this is what she does.’”

While Tia’s daughter only really listens to her mom’s music, she’s still getting a taste of just about everything. The rock star’s catalog floats from cartoon-sampling, melodic hip-hop earworms (“Lotto”) to (fake) child-despising scream-heavy tracks (“FYK”) to her rapid-fire single “Dipset.” Whether she’s feeling silly, downright pissed off or a little show-offy, Tia brings the heat. And she, too, has a hard time pinning down how to describe it in a few words — at least outside of “anime trap.”

“I just say anime trap because it's really animated,” Tia shares. “When you listen to the song, you can picture things. It's sassy, and the beats are always hard and crazy. But then you got this melodic thing going on. I can do any type of song, but there's always this Tia sauce on it.”

Tia found her sauce when she first entered the booth at 16 years old. Surrounded by aspiring rappers as friends, Tia was a singer known for her childhood Aaliyah karaoke sessions at neighbors’ houses and love for everything from Usher to Queen. When it came time for her to do her thing in a makeshift studio at her friends’ mom’s house, her peers were already impressed with her abilities.

Hip-hop came to Tia easily thanks to her affinity for Minaj, Weezy and Juelz Santana, and while most people in her circle applauded her and her Auto-Tune-laced early cuts, not everyone was on board with the TiaCorine movement at first. 

Back when she was working at a clothing store at her local mall in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Tia stumbled into work 10 minutes late one morning after a late-night recording session. Her boss at the time wasn’t too thrilled. 

“He always got on my ass. He's like, ‘You won’t get paid for that shit. You ain’t shit. You ain’t nobody.’ Like going in on me,” Tia remembers. “Now he be in my messages. He be like, ‘What’s up?’ It’s like, ‘Bruh, you really said I wasn’t gonna be shit. Fuck you.’”

Tia didn’t enter the position to curse out her former employers until around 2020, when her 2018 track “Lotto” (which Drake may or may not have infamously bit off of) began to pick up some momentum nationwide. At the time, she was wrapping up a degree in exercise physiology, which made focusing on music a little tricky. And even on the same day of her college graduation, Tia traveled eight hours to Ohio to perform at yet another college. “I was nervous. I only had three songs out,” she remembers. “And it was going crazy. I couldn’t believe it.”

Since “Lotto” amassed its current 6.9 million streams on Spotify and since the release of her 34Corine project in 2020, Tia’s made it her mission to show fans just how different her stuff can get. Case in point: her 2022 single “FYK,” which not-so-secretly stands for “fuck your kids.” Of course, Tia loves her own child, but the song was made during a time when she was outright pissed at someone else entirely, and that’s when she freestyled the lines “I don't give a fuck about shit/ I'm not your bitch/I just get money, ho, fuck yo' kids.” It was jarring at first, but explosive. 

“I had a Mike’s Hard Lemonade and a fucking vape, and I go in there," she says. "That was real. I just thought, ‘I can’t believe I said that.’”

The video for “FYK,” a track that she effectively screams on, portrays her showing off a dangly choker, bob hairstyle complete with a knife on top and two active middle fingers. She knows it’s punk as hell, too. “I just do what I want, how I feel,” Tia says. “And you can like it or you can not. I don't care. It's just letting loose, like that feeling of walking around naked. You know when you walk around naked at your house and be like, ‘Hell yeah, it’s my house.’ Like that.” 

Tia’s track “Chaka Khan,” which she’s been teasing on Twitter since the top of the year, finds her tapping into the melodies that fans have fallen in love with from the jump. And it, too, has a backstory worth noting.

“I had a little purple [hair] moment. It was shaggy, and everybody kept saying I looked like Chaka Khan,” Tia says. “So that's the first thing I came with. Kenny couldn't believe it. He was like, ‘You're a fucking genius.’ We listened to the song so many times.”

With her new album, I Can’t Wait, out now via South Coast Music Group, it’s no longer just Tia and her daughter’s to listen to anymore. It’s the world’s. And whether or not her 15-track effort becomes the project that puts her on the map more so than “Lotto,” TiaCorine will undoubtedly bring North Carolina to the rest of the country eventually, along with superhero anime charm. 

“I just feel electric. My music is in your face,” she says. “It’s all the way me. I’m all these different people. But in reality, I’m just one person that can do anything. A fucking anime character. I’m that guy. You can’t deny TiaCorine anymore, man.”