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Bars, grime and gospel - meet Tneek

TURNAROUND: Tneek re-visited Christianity after a stint producing secular music with SoundBwoy Entertainment (image credit: Tneek)

ONE ARTIST that stands out like a beacon in the UK gospel scene is Tneek – one of a handful of female artists who perform grime and rap.

Tneek – real name Tanika James – recently released R.I.C.H., her debut EP. This eight track offering features Tneek’s own songs, as well as collaborations which touch on themes anyone, whatever their outlook on life, can relate to.

One song, Broken Girl, features a guest appearance from singer Fiona Yorke, and speaks of a painful time in Tneek’s life. She explained:

“It takes listeners through my darkest place before I came back to Christ, when I cried out to God after feeling broken and I didn’t have any hope left. I was heavily relying on cannabis and alcohol to find that sense of escape.”

Then there’s Flesh, a collaboration with A Star. Tneek adds:

“This talks about the battles of the flesh and my mind and how I left the church because of the church, how I overcame all that to forgive people after questioning my own weaknesses, and how I rose above it.”

She recently performed some of the tracks to a packed crowd at her launch and is praying that R.I.C.H. will do well so as to fulfil a word the Lord gave her about her music when she was 17. She recalled:

“God said that I need to create music that is relatable, perfect my craft, make the beats ‘banging’, and that He would use that to reach people outside and within the church. And I shouldn’t limit myself.”

Tneek has been on a journey to become the confident, Christian artist that she now is.

32 years-old and a married mother of a five-year-old daughter, she was inspired to rap after listening to artists like Da Brat, Missy Elliott, Lil’ Kim and Queen Pen whilst growing-up in a Christian family along with her three siblings. As a teenager, she started performing in churches across London with her brother.

The talent came to the attention of secular outfit SoundBwoy Entertainment (SBE), and she was invited to join them and perform beyond the church circle. Tneek then started to do solo gigs and performed at places like the Royal Festival Hall, Hackney Empire and events like the Notting Hill Carnival.

By her early 20s, Tneek had left her faith, and had started singing alongside some of the popular grime acts of the time including Wretch32, Fugative, and Artcha (FRSHRZ). She even contributed to a mixtape that touched on themes that were out of kilter with her Christian roots. It never got released, though, because by the time she had finished recording it, she had returned to Christ.

“The music and songs that I had written reflected who I was at the time,” Tneek explained.

“I was bad mouthing guys, I was bad mouthing girls and saying how hot and sexy I was. It was that typical female stuff rap artists came out with. When I got reformed, I knew I couldn’t put out a negative message. And God convicted me of it.”

Tneek now attends Eden Christian Centre in Ilford, Essex and is part of the women’s group. She fully understands how some young women without confidence can feel, because that’s how she felt – but she suggests there is an antidote for that.

“Women have to accept themselves,” she said.

“Ultimately, though, it comes down to God and what He says about you, because all the things He says in the Bible about us, we don’t naturally believe ourselves; but I find that the more I reassure myself with the things He says about me, the more confident I feel to walk around.”

The future looks bright for Tneek, with her looking forward to performing her EP tracks, and inspiring her audiences to be R.I.C.H. in God.

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