While making his seventh full-length album, SLP2 [R&B Money/Atlantic Records], Tank posed a crucial question.
"What does cutting edge R&B sound like in 2016?" he asks.
He answered that question by crafting the long-awaited sequel to his influential 2007 opus, Sex, Love & Pain. That album not only provided a blueprint for the likes of Chris Brown, Trey Songz, and more, but it also debuted at #2 on the Billboard Top 200 and earned a Grammy Award nomination for "Best R&B Album," while its #1 single "Please Don't Go" became nominated for "Best R&B Male Vocal Performance." Following 2014's Stronger, Tank once again captured a creative spirit that resembled the process behind his seminal third body of work.
"Sex, Love & Pain was the first time I had ever made an album just because I wanted to make some good music," he recalls. "There was no pressure to meet a deadline or put out a single because money was low. We were writing and producing for pretty much everybody and just decided to create a Tank album one day. That was the inception of the project. We chose to write some great music and let the chips fall where they may. That process mirrors this process. I made Stronger, and it was natural for me at the time. People have been screaming for SLP2 though, and I wanted to give them what they wanted. To do that, we had to merge classic and modern sounds and make this super crazy hybrid. When people are asking for something, you've got to deliver it right."
It all started with his first single "You Don't Know" [feat. Wale]. Co-written by Eric Bellinger [Justin Bieber, Kid Ink], the track fuses a subtle trap beat with airy, open production. Meanwhile, Tank carries a smooth and soulful refrain between incendiary bars courtesy of Wale.
"My music parallels my life eventually," he remarks. "This song was happening at the same time I'd be telling my lady at home, 'Listen, you don't understand. I really love you. We're in a different space. You're on my back about all of this other stuff right here, and you're making issues out of nothing. This is not where we're supposed to be. You don't know. I'm trying to show you, but in my own way.' As soon as I got the record from Eric, I knew that was it. If you're getting someone to complement raw emotion, Wale's my favorite right now. It came together perfectly."
As far as sequels go, Tank knew he had to go even bigger to make SLP2 the blockbuster audiences desired. In addition to cameos from Shawn Stockman of Boyz II Men and Yo Gotti, he assembled a new West Coast anthem in the form of the Tank produced "Birthday" with a little help from Chris Brown, Problem, and Siya. He also teamed up with TGT collaborator and producer Brandon "BAM" Hodge to "help set the musical tone," of this new project.
Then, there's "She With The S***" featuring Rich Homie Quan. As a self-professed "huge fan" of the original Sex, Love & Pain, the Atlanta rapper jumped at the chance to fire off a verse on the follow-up. "It's so next level," smiles Tank. "Quan's one of the hottest rappers out period right now. I was literally in the booth cheering him on while he was rapping and singing. He's just fearless with it, and it was one of the coolest studio interactions I've ever had sitting in the booth."
In between crafting his albums, Tank continues to make an impact as a songwriter, leaving his mark on pop culture at large. His writing credits include songs for everybody from Jamie Foxx, Pitbull, Aaliyah, and Beyoncé to Trevor Jackson and Adrian Marcel. At the same time, he's evolved yet again outside of music with his fitness program Stronger U and starring role on the 2015 TV One hit Born Again Virgin. It builds upon his legacy, which encompasses everything from his first two gold-certified albums—Force of Nature and One Man—and 2013's chart-topping TGT collaboration with Tyrese and Ginuwine, Three Kings.
"The moon, the stars, and the sun don't align very often like they have recently," he smiles. "I finally feel like I'm in a space creatively where I'm doing my best music and best acting. I've reached this amazing place."
In the end, Tank taps into something timeless with SLP2, while delivering the perfect sequel.
"The meaning of Sex, Love & Pain never changes," he leaves off. "That's the order I put it in. I'm a guy, so most of the time, sex comes first. Then, we fall in love. Somewhere later, the pain creeps in—whether it's us doing the pain or feeling it. You build off that. The process starts all over. We fall back in love again. It's still the same. Nothing has changed. That's my life, and I write my life. I use that to inspire melodies, song titles, and lyrics. I want to create a moment that can help change someone else's life."