What do Billboard and OnlyFans have in common? They’re two places you can find Memphis hip-hop artist Tori WhoDat. Not long after her latest single “Heather Grey” got love from the legendary music magazine we got Tori to take a beat so we could hit her with Five Questions.
Being a woman in the music industry has historically not been easy – but a woman in hip hop? That’s another level of male domination. What was it like for you early on when you were establishing yourself and your reputation?
When asked this question in the past, I used to answer and say that my experience as a woman in hip hop wasn’t exceptionally hard. In retrospect and after a lot of reflection, I can now acknowledge things that I ‘excused’ or didn’t see for what they truly were at the time. I was ignorant to the concept of intersectionality and didn’t really realize that the way I was treated in a lot of situations was wrong; because it was normalized, and I was honestly just well-adjusted to feeling different and being addressed accordingly. As a woman, I was pressured to succumb to being sexualized and submissive or go the other extreme, puff my chest and front with a bravado that just wasn’t me. As a lesbian, I was mocked and constantly had to defend my sexuality. I chose to go my own way, which put me in a lot of uncomfortable situations. My come up wasn’t quick and I spent a lot of time earning my respect, but I remained authentic in the process and I think that’s ultimately what won people over and attracted them to my music. Hip hop is about storytelling and sharing your truth and that’s what I do.
Who have been the women artists you’ve looked up to or whose careers or paths you’ve drawn inspiration from?
Growing up, there weren’t any women artists or artists in general that I felt fully represented who I was, but I listened to so many kinds of music that the exposure to all of that motivated me to be unique and find my own sound. I also didn’t know about a lot of female hip hop artists when I was younger because it wasn’t as mainstream, and until I figured out Limewire, I was at the mercy of the radio most of the time. Hip hop wasn’t welcomed in my home either, so I got a late start on appreciating really lyrical female rappers. The earliest I listened to regularly were Salt-N-Peppa and Missy Elliott. Then I got on this Christian hip hop kick and that made it even more difficult to find women artists. I eventually discovered artists like Lady Sovereign, M.I.A. and Nicki Minaj that really intrigued me and got me thinking about my own ability to rap. Once I started pursuing my music as a career, artists like Snow Tha Product, Angel Haze and Lauren Sanderson influenced the way I handle my brand and the business. Most recently, Mama Duke and Jen Miller are women who inspire me to be more confident in my truth!
Obviously the pandemic has had us all in pause mode since early 2020, so it’s tough to plan – but what can we expect from you post-COVID, and later in 2021? Any touring? A new album or are you in singles mode?
Yes, 2020 changed everything! It’s impossible to move forward from a year like that and not have a new perspective. My team Street Savvy Unlimited and I did put a lot on hold, but we re-strategized and are full steam ahead now. At the end of 2020, I launched my OnlyFans account. There’s a lot of misconceptions about OnlyFans, but it’s similar to any other fundraising platform like Patreon and allows creators to, in the words of Julian Mitchell, “get paid to be yourself.” Subscribers get a ton of exclusive content and special opportunities to connect with me. I also just released my new single “Heather Grey” on February 12 and it was featured in Billboard Magazine! The writer, Stephen Daw, gave me an incredible review and said, “with a rich, fascinating sound, Tori WhoDat is a name to look out for.” The music video will be out soon as well! Beyond this release, we have several singles on deck. I have a collection of unreleased songs from over the years that will finally be heard by the masses and I believe any one of them could be a game-changer for me! With the uncertainty of realistically being able to tour any time soon, it’s difficult to plan for that in the foreseeable future. However, we are going to do more ‘live’ shows in 2021 and maybe move to outside venues this summer if it’s safe!
You’ve collaborated with a lot of male rappers – can you name names on your favorite one? Have you found that you have to approach those collabs in a certain way or do they see you as a creative equal?
I wouldn’t want to create with anyone that didn’t see me as an equal! Even someone like DeeDay, an artist from New Orleans that was definitely “bigger” than me, was so humble and cool in the process of recording my song “Ima Get It” back in 2016. I have been blessed to work with some amazing, genuine men though. One of my favorite songs I’ve put out is “Thru My City” and I made it with a Memphis rapper named Miscellaneous. What enabled that song to be so powerful was because we were both vulnerable when we wrote it. He poured out a lot of heart in his verse and we have had a close bond ever since. Then there’s JFetti – he was on my song “Money”! Fetti actually reached out to me first a few years ago via Instagram DM regarding featuring me on one of his songs. I knew about 30 seconds into it that he had a rare kind of talent! The relationship continued beyond the music and we are so solid because there was mutual respect off rip.
Last but not least: what do you love the most about being part of the Memphis music scene?
Memphis is a city that keeps you on your toes. It has a rich musical legacy that motivates you to level up everything you do! The culture here has created and influenced some of the greatest artists in history, so there is a special spirit and strong sense of pride when you’re making music in Memphis.