Tasha Catour: Singing Between the Lines

Photographer David Walter Banks
May 20, 2013
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    At a time when rap songs live and die by their hook, a singer who can routinely provide the catchiest patch of a song—the bit meant to ricochet around your brain long after you’ve left the club—is valuable, but not uncommon. Plenty of guest singers have fallen into this lane, but it’s rarely one an artist finds to be his or her most marketable. Where most half-credited hook singers disappear between the bars, Atlanta’s Tasha Catour bursts through with confidence and humor. “I used to love how back in the day rappers would have girls singing on they hooks,” the 24-year-old singer says, her voice as twangy and sweet over a phone line as it comes across on record. “So I thought, What if I bring that back? Just sing a lot of hooks, and bring soulful hooks to those hip-hop records and bridge myself like that. I didn’t want to go the long route—even though there are no shortcuts.”

    If you live outside of Atlanta and know of Catour, it’s probably because you’ve heard “Rider,” a song tucked deep into Future’s 2012 Astronaut Status mixtape. On “Rider,” Catour trades affectionate harmonies with the rapper over a lengthy beat breakdown, and also constructs a sultry bridge all her own, proving her ability to match wits with Future’s endlessly imaginative arrangements. The song is exemplary of a role she’s played for Future (and others) countless times, having over the past three years become a go-to female voice for a new generation of Atlanta rappers. Catour’s winking lyrical phrasings and sleek, glittery delivery can also be found between verses from strip club staples like Rocko, Young Scooter and Cash Out. Of “Rider,” Catour explains the recording process as if it were preparing lunch. “He called me and told me he had this record and wanted me on the third verse. I went in there and wrote it, took my little time and laid it,” she says. “And everybody loved it.”

    Despite a relatively quick ascent up the rap ladder, Catour hasn’t skipped a step. Growing up, the Georgia native split her time between Atlanta and Alabama, honing her vocal chops in the church choir and recording her first song at 16. As a student at Alabama State, she spent weekends networking with local producers, churning out hooks and bridges for their artists. After finishing school in 2010, she set up shop in Atlanta. The fruits of those early days are documented on her Poetic Pen mixtape, a compilation of her collabs with artists from Atlanta’s evergreen underground as well as impressive outliers like Big K.R.I.T. and Rick Ross. So far though, Catour has managed to gain her biggest industry recognition from Christian music, winning a Grammy earlier this year for her contributions to 2013’s Best Gospel Album, Lacrae’s Gravity. “It was coincidental that I got my first Grammy in gospel,” she says. “I was in the choir since I was like five.”

    Her penchant for making the hardest rap songs literally singable is something she attributes to the same people who so frequently reach out for her services. “In Atlanta, we just got that catchy melody,” she says. “Even if you don’t know what they saying, you gon’ remember that Na-na, Na-na, NA, NA, she continues, parroting the chorus cadence from Future’s white-hot club banger, “Karate Chop.” Though she’s constantly working on her own music, teasing out solo material like her sassy, bass-heavy new single, “Count Me Out,” today she’s content to share her voice with everyone who can afford it. “When you’re always collaborating, it’s no guarantees,” she says. “So I’m just working with everybody. I like to just let my name pop up. When something new drops, [it’s] a surprise to me like it is to you.”

    Tasha Catour: Singing Between the Lines