“Trying to find love in a world so cold, is that too much?”
Alongside such diverse voices as Chance the Rapper and Lil Bibby, Tink stands as yet another exciting artist confusing the recent narrative of Chicago hip-hop. Remarkably for such a new voice, Tink is equally comfortable delivering tender R&B songs as she is rapping over drill production, and has also collaborated with exciting underground production team Future Brown. Winter’s Diary 2, her fifth tape in the last two-and-a-half years, focuses on the R&B side of things and ends up being her most immediately and consistently satisfying work.
The tape loosely traces the arc of a relationship, but the concept isn’t all that important until the final run of songs. Tink spends most of the time here happy in love, comfortable with her partner and herself, though her shadowy, ambiguous past is often on her mind. On de facto opener ‘Treat Me Like Somebody’, Tink implores, “Don’t be mislead by the things that I said in the past – I was young, I was looking for a thrill." ‘Your Secrets’ represents the tape’s cosy mid-point: “You never judge me for the things I did, you heard the rumours but you never tripped.” The production on this one is incredible – the first of the tape’s only two hip-hop tracks, it uses a pitched-up Alicia Keys sample, and the gentle piano chords mean that the beat never gets out of control.
In fact, the production is pretty ace throughout. There are some lovely touches like the acoustic guitar on ‘Treat Me Like Somebody’, the almost-reggae beat of ‘Money Ova Everything’, and the jingle bells/autotune combination on tape highlight ‘Lullaby’ – a promise of love which brings to mind the falling snowflakes on the cover.
Winter’s Diary 2 is mostly at its best when the beats are soft and sparse – if Tink has sometimes had a problem with flitting between styles, this wouldn’t be a bad one to pursue. Her singing voice, if lacking a certain star quality, is undeniably emotive. Cheeky lines like “Forecast didn’t warn me about you” on ‘When It Rains’ (about getting naughty under the sheets while a storm rages outside) succeed precisely because of the sincerity with which they’re delivered.
There are, admittedly, a few missteps – ‘HML’ has a nice chorus and finds room for a Rich Homie Quan reference, but ultimately feels a bit confused with its annoying ringtone effect and unnecessarily loud drum hits. ‘Fight It’ is the only real clunker – it feels out of step with the intimate vibe, and outstays its welcome. Lyrically, the tape can feel a little generic at times, and it would be nice to have some more sharp details like “I be damned if I miss that call, so my shit up loud."
The last three songs are a surprise after 40 minutes of romantic lovers’ jams, and the tone changes quite dramatically. The brilliant ‘Talkin Bout’ is Tink’s showcase for her rapping skills, sounding like a more soulful Angel Haze and trading verses with guest Lil Herb in a breathless back-and-forth between the two lovers, wherein it emerges that Tink’s boyfriend has spent time in jail. She accuses him of betraying her faithfulness by sleeping with other girls after getting out, he tells her to stop complaining because he gives her money and clothes. They almost make up, until she finds something incriminating on his phone, and the final two songs lead to a genuinely shocking confession that makes some sense of all the darkness that was hinted at earlier.
Earlier on, in ‘Dirty Slang’, we’re reminded that Chicago – a city not-so-affectionately called ‘Chiraq’ because of its gun crime problem – is the backdrop to this narrative. Perhaps this makes the darkness in Winter’s Diary 2 less surprising, but more importantly, it makes those tales of love and longing all the more powerful.
Highlights: ‘Treat Me Like Somebody’; ‘Lullaby’; ‘Your Secrets’; ‘Talkin Bout’