Area singer takes R&B world by 6-octave 'hurricane'
Submitted Photo -- Local R&B singer Tiffany Tatum performs at a recent video release party at Trinity River Sports Cafe in Dallas. Tatum has garnered interest from Def Jam and Interscope, two of hip-hop and R&B music's most renowned record labels.
She screamed so loud at birth the doctors thought something was wrong with her vocal cords. Not exactly.
Local R&B singer Tiffany Tatum's voice is anything but wrong. It's powerful, and the music industry is taking notice.
"People want to hear something different," said Tatum, born and raised in Dallas. "I've been told my music is like a breath of fresh air. You're getting real music, and it's straight from my heart."
And from her first breaths -- screams, rather -- Tatum seemed destined for greatness. She was born at Parkland Hospital rooms away from Usher, one of R&B music's premiere performers.
Nurses told Tatum's mother and eventual manager, Yvette Bables, of "her little boyfriend." No one knew then that Usher would one day become a music star.
His "girlfriend" at birth is now on her way to following those same notes. Tatum will release her second record, "All About Me," on June 19.
This past summer, she met with Def Jam Recordings, which over the years has launched renowned hip-hop and R&B artists like LL Cool J, Rihanna, Ne-Yo and Kanye West.
Tatum's sound shouts a mix of jazz, neo-soul, pop and even a little country, she said.
Her influences span Teena Marie, Chaka Khan, Aretha Franklin and Denise Williams, the latter through whom she first proved her medical doubters wrong.
"I noticed when she was about 3, she was picking up a brush and singing Denise Williams," Bables recalled. "She sounded like she was 10. That's when I actually heard her voice."
Others didn't until age 14, when Tatum began wowing her classmates and teachers, each clamoring to Bables of her daughter's talent.
Bables never said much, for fear of cutting off Tatum's passion before its peak, as others had to her own potential singing career. Once her mother, also a singer, told her to listen, Bables finally relented.
"When she started singing, it just brought tears to my eyes," Bables said. "I was crying because it was like, I've got to do something with her, I can't let it go away like I did with myself."
By age 20, Tatum was writing her own music, meshing vocals with personal verses. She won first place in area vocal competitions, and expanded her performance allure when she graduated from Barizon School of Modeling and Fashion in 1998.
Her six-octave range developed through training with famous music composer Bill Riley, who guided Celine Dion, and opera composer Glenda Clay, instrumental in the rise of famed performing ensemble New Arts Six.
In 1999, she nearly signed with Interscope, an American record label that's helped launch groups and artists like Blink-182, Jimmy Eat World, Lifehouse and Lady Gaga. But Bables' friend at Interscope shut down the deal when the label wouldn't give him complete control.
"That pretty much left us out in the cold," Bables said. "It was heartbreaking."
As was Tatum's debut album "A Tainted Love," released underground in 2004 and fueled by pain. "I was going through a bad relationship, so you could hear it in all of my music," she said.
Her music and career has since turned around. She recently headlined for a show at Dreamworld Music Complex in Arlington, and has gotten calls about opening for Drake, hip-hop's brightest star.
"All About Me" reflects her revival, an attitude that's now "happy and free," she said. Refusing to let another broken deal crush Tatum's spirits, Bables has her own promotions team and is determined to pave their own path to greatness.
It's a path directed at doubters and powered by Tatum's vocal cords. American guitarist Howard Scott of the 1970s funk band War said, "Her voice has the sweetness of a nightingale with the force of a hurricane."
That force will make its way around Texas in coming weeks, with shows in DeSoto, Denton and Sherman the next three Saturdays. Tatum will have a red-carpet CD release party June 24 in Dallas.
Her fans will likely be screaming their support. And soon may "American Idol" judge Randy Jackson, who recently proclaimed R&B needed a revival, even after Usher.
It needs something different.
"I'm going to be the one to bring it back to life," Tatum said. "I really do feel that."
To listen to Tiffany Tatum's music and see a list of upcoming shows, visit www.reverbnation.com/tiffanytatum.
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