NEW YORK — The R&B star Tank has begun considering his latest album after considering pursuing other projects. However, this timeline was accelerated after he lost one of his most essential tools: his hearing.
“It just made me look at time differently. It just made me go, ‘Man, if I can lose one ear in three days, maybe I could lose the other one in the next three,'” said the crooner who released “R&B Money” this month “You just realized you don’t have as much time as you think.”
Last year he revealed he suddenly became deaf in his right ear while losing substantial hearing in his left, although his left has recovered.
“You start taking a drug that’s supposed to help your ear, but it hurts everything else,” Tank said of the side effects. “So when the engineer is mixing and he’s doing really cool stuff that goes left to right, and he’s like, ‘Did you hear that?’ I didn’t. … So there was a moment of depression.”
But the man born Durrell Babbs, who describes himself as a contender, worked to create a 17-track, undeniably rhythm and bluesy record, at a time when the lines between R&B and rap are often sonically blurred. A rare freelance artist who can write, produce and sing, he wrote or co-wrote every song.
Tank immediately sets the tone for his ninth studio album, expertly displaying the lost art of slow jamming with “When You Dance”, “Home” and “No Limit” featuring Alex Isley.
“You’re going to be drowned in sensuality,” the five-time Grammy nominee said with a smile. “I would rather you were with someone you are attracted to.”
For “See Through Love”, he connected with superstar Chris Brown whom he has known since Brown’s teenage years. Tank sent music to the superstar, who replied, “Bro, I love the record… I really want to do something classic R&B with you.” So Tank continued, “I sent him ‘See Through Love,’ and he sent back about 8,000 fire emojis and said, ‘It will be done tonight.'”
Previously released singles “I Deserve,” in which he creatively sampled his own hit “Maybe I Deserve,” and “Can’t Let It Show,” which reworks the Kate Bush song Maxwell introduced to music listeners black, also appear on the album; both reached No. 1 on Billboard’s Adult R&B Airplay chart. And he managed to create vibes with “Make Sure” with Feather and “It’s Nothing”.
A back-up singer in the late 90s for R&B icons Ginuwine and Aaliyah, Tank launched his solo career with “Maybe I Deserve” in 2001. He released around 20 hits like “One Man”, as well as hits #1 “Please Don’t Go” and “When We” in 2017. Five albums reached No. 1 on Billboard’s Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart during his two-decade career, maintaining their relevance thanks to R&B changes.
The tank comes out at a particular time; despite some questioning about the direction of the genre, R&B is experiencing a resurgence thanks to talented young artists and fans yearning for more than party music. But the ‘Heartbreaker’ singer wants to focus on nurturing the next generation of talent while building his own record label, and helping to keep the genre popular while it still has “some power.”
Co-starring in last year’s Lifetime movie, “Lust: A Seven Deadly Sins Story,” Tank hopes to deepen her acting skills and even delve into stand-up comedy. But he says he will play and release songs from time to time, but he won’t stick to any time-consuming work.
The music industry has gone through various iterations during Tank’s tenure, and he’s weathered all storms. But his most torrential downpour might be the one he’s currently harboring, sudden sensorineural hearing loss.
“I just refuse to let my ear win. I refuse to let vertigo win. It should have killed me, if that’s what you were looking to do,” he said. “But since you didn’t do that, I’m going to find a way to be better and stronger.” ___
Follow Associated Press entertainment reporter Gary Gerard Hamilton with his handle @GaryGHamilton on all social media platforms.