Contemporary R&B singer Tank (born Durrell Babbs) will headline Savannah State University’s 2018 Homecoming concert Friday night in Tiger Arena at 8 p.m. Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets are $35 at the door if you did not purchase your ticket already.
Tank, whose name is inspired by his build, recorded solo albums erratically, starting with his 2001 gold-selling debut, " Force of Nature." Tank established himself in R&B first as a background singer for Ginuwine. He became increasingly popular behind the scenes as a songwriter, musician, and producer.
After writing hits for Dave Hollister, Tank crafted songs for R&B heavyweights, ranging from Brian McKnight to Jamie Foxx and Charlie Wilson. His most recent album, "Savage," was released back in 2017.
We talked with him for 15 minutes about his Homecoming performance, life after his eighth studio album:
Q: What should SSU students be excited about when you arrive at homecoming on Friday, Oct. 26? Which songs do you love to perform? Songs you don’t like to perform? Why?
A: The man is coming. The myth. The legend. I’m bringing some clothes with me, just in case I wear them [meaning he rarely wears a shirt during his performances]. I’ve been known to be shirtless a lot, but I’m going to try to make it through most of the show with a shirt; I think that would be respectable.
I’m going to come and be my R&B self. I want to encourage the men to be men and give the woman hope that there are real men out there that still will do manly things in terms of taking care of them, their household, their children, and being the leaders of their community. That’s what my music represents, that’s what I represent, and that’s what I bring.
I’m not going to tell them what songs to expect, but I will be performing the classics. I have 8/9 albums worth of material, so I’ll be able to touch a few things here and there. There’s no song that I don’t like to perform. For me, it all kind of varies. I do so many different venues in terms of homecomings, R&B night, etc. It really depends on the audience and what they are vibing.
We kind of exchange energy like some nights “Maybe I Deserve” is the biggest song or “Please Don’t Go” is the biggest song, or other nights it might be “When We” is the biggest song. I’m going to let them [the audience] tell me how they’re enjoying the experience.
Q: Did you choose to come to Savannah State University’s homecoming this year? If so, why?
A: My goal every year is to be a part of as many college Homecoming events as possible, especially with me being an older R&B singer; I just want to be able to pass on that R&B energy. I keep a very current thing happening, but I’m also very rooted in the traditional style side of it too.
I want to always be able to give that back to the kids and the coming up who aspire to do it, who weren’t around to see the artist of my day or days before. I just want to continue to give that kind of inspiration. I am blessed to be a part of these events. I want to do this and be a part of it [Homecoming] because they don’t have to call the old guy.
Q: Why do you think it’s important to perform at an HBCU?
A: I’m black so I’ve been able to power through in an industry that does have its challenges. Most of these kids, who are going to college, [depending on their majors and other things] are going to be out into the world facing these challenges.
Number one, they need to see people like them powering through and they also sometimes need guidance and information. Going to college and seeing it is one thing [there’s information that comes with that]
A lot of times, I will sit back after the show and talk with students and others. We will sit and talk and exchange information because we have a thing that is ours. Information needs to be shared with each other to not just survive but thrive in whatever it is we set to do.
Q: You performed at a Black Gay Pride event in Washington, D.C. in May 2017, months before your eighth studio album, "Savage," dropped. You received both praise and criticism for a rare act of a male R&B singer to perform at one of the events. What do you think is the importance of performing at a Gay Black Pride event and showing love to your LGBTQ fans?
A: I didn’t really understand the circumstances of all of it before doing it. They called me and made a good offer and it turned into this thing that people were like ‘Well what kind of statement are you trying to make?’ or ‘Why would you do this now?" and I didn’t totally wrap my mind around it at the time. I’m not sure what the big deal was [at the time], but they made me an offer just like any other promoter.
They said, ‘We’re going to have your fans there and see you perform." It was that simple for me because I don’t see the divide. I don’t see an issue with showing up for my fans no matter who they are or where they are. I just don’t.
When it became this whole “You’re the first male R&B artist to do this," I was almost disappointed in the fact that I was the first artist out of all of these years to say, ‘Hey man, this is about people, love, and that’s it." It’s 2017-2018.
Pride has been happening for decades and I’m the first? We must do better in understanding that we are all human beings at the end of the day who are all connected and in that we are all different. In our differences, there’s a conversation and elevation. There’s no room to say, "My human is better than your human’ or ‘How God made me is better than how he made you."
My conversation since then has been "I don’t know what everybody’s so scared of and so up and arms about, but that’s my community, too." Those are my fans and people too. I don’t just sing my songs and get out of there, I go and hang out with my people. Since then I performed at many pride events. I don’t fear that thing that everybody else seems to have a weird idea about. I love everybody.
Q: It has been a year since your recent album, "Savage," dropped. How are you feeling about the body of work you created a year later?
A: You know what it’s crazy because in the climate that we are in now, everything moves so fast meaning that everything can be forgotten about in the matter of weeks, months for that matter. I’ve had a record that’s been around for over a year and not just lingering on the outskirts but at the top of the charts. It’s crazy because it just doesn’t happen the fact that this project lasted this long. It’s a blessing.
Now is when you know if what you made was classic and can stand the test of time and it has been standing the test of time so I’m proud of everybody that helped me make it and the project we are making now, we are trying to beat that project.
We’re lining up to do something crazy with this [next] album, so I feel good. I feel like I have more to fight for. There’s another level to get to. If that record can last a year and some change then I’ll need to make a record that last two years and so on. It’s making me push to that next level.
Q: Out of all your projects/mixtapes/albums, which is your favorite?
A: That’s a tough one. I have no idea. I try to have a story for every one of them. I try to have a theme for everyone of my projects. They’re all different. You can take away something different from every project. Sometimes I’m in trap mode, love mode, or nasty man mode. It just depends on how I’m feeling and what album/song connects with me.
Q: You have collaborated with many artists such as Chris Brown, Trey Songz, Ludacris, Candice Boyd, Yo Gotti, and many more. Who would you love to collaborate with next?
A: It’s crazy man because I am really focused on collaborating with more R&B artists. Some of the newer artists and of course a lot of the older artists who are always with me. I just want to reach out to some of the younger R&B artists.
Jacques and I are getting ready to do something cool. I reached out to Ella Mai [as well] just to continue to keep the longevity between R&B, whether it be young or old, so we can continue to pursue that. I am focused on not just younger R&B artists that who are signed or with major labels.
I reached out to an artist by the name of Katrina Carson who was on The Floor and she’s sick. It had nothing to do with a label, a single out, or nothing. She’s dope, and those kinds of moments are very important to me.
Q: Would you ever want to collaborate with Nicki Minaj, Cardi B, or any female rapper?
A: Absolutely. I love those two young ladies. We have a young lady by the name of Maliibu Miitch signed to Atlantic. She’s fire. We’re a moment away from doing something crazy. I told her as soon as I saw her, ‘I’m working with you period, I don’t care what you say’. She called in and I want to figure out something with her. I just want to create with creative people.