I keep a diary regularly. Sometimes I’m embarrassed by this habit, sometimes secretly proud. “The impulse to write things down is a peculiarly compulsive one,” Joan Didion writes in her essay On Keeping a Notebook, “inexplicable to those who do not share it, useful only accidentally, only secondarily, in the way that any compulsion tries to justify itself.” The ideal image of diary-writing is the one depicted on the cover of Tink’s new mixtape Winter’s Diary 2: curled up by a window in placid solitude, enjoying a sort of introspective spa retreat. In reality it is a much more furtive, ugly activity. When I write, I am more often curled up in a tight ball than peacefully reclining, as if engaging in an addiction that many others share, but few talk about.
And then there is the problem of what goes in a diary—that is, both the best and worst parts of you, depending on the day. Almost everyone who keeps a diary knows the wriggling embarrassment of looking at an old entry written in a fit of expired passion. The lesson that a diary teaches you is that there are many, many parts of the one person you assumed you were, and you can really only recognize those parts when looking back at them.
Tink seems to know this very well about herself—on Winter’s Diary 2, she shares fifteen songs and fifteen personalities. Some of them are rational and reasonable, others overrun with lust, others are imbued with love and compassion—and one, on the eerie closing track “Confession,” is driven by rage to a brief and abrupt fantasy of violence. With “Money Ova Everything,” the singer encourages with a literal working relationship with her lover behind the beat’s gentle shuffle: “let’s get money, babe,” she moans with monetary desire. Fast forward six tracks and it seems she’s outgrown the partnership, as she spits with venom the fact of her financial autonomy: “You think that designer make up for this shit? / I buy my own Prada man, that’s not the problem / The problem is you too caught up with that bitch.” It would be easy to believe that these two songs were made by two entirely different people (I mention this not only because it supports my little theme here, but also because it speaks to Tink’s diversity and range as a performer; her craft as a singer is effective in the same way that the craft of acting is).
“Who was I back then?” Track 13 Tink might ask of Track 7 Tink, Just as I have said when I picked up a journal from my middle school years and saw an all-caps rant about the fact that I was being given fish for dinner that night—now I crave tilapia regularly. Those moments of extreme self-consciousness directed to a self I feel barely related to sometimes makes me wonder if it’s even worth picking up the pen in the first place. Is there a correct way to write a diary?
Perhaps the key is pure, unabashed gusto—that seems to be the way that Tink does it, and even in moments when she is exploring her greatest weaknesses, it sounds beautiful. Her beats are bursting with honest expression, each one overflows with commitment to the story being told. On the standout track, “When it Rains,” the bassline descends with cathartic booms as sounds of thunder accompany Tink’s fevered submission to the desires that, as the weather changes, begin to swell within her and catalyze questionable decisions. That is the catch with diary writing, or perhaps, any form of expression: if you are going to be revealing yourself, you’d better do it confidently, or else not do it at all. Sure, you may cringe in half-recognition at some stale version of yourself, but what are the alternatives? Not create anything at all? When it comes to a talent like Tink, I can only hope she chooses to stay vulnerable.
Winter’s Diary 2 is available for download now via Dat Piff.