EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: We know Zonnique as T.I. & Tiny's daughter, a VH1 reality star, or even as one of the OMG Girlz—but she spoke with us about reinventing herself as an artist and stepping back into the scene as her own person, free from expectations.
It feels as if just yesterday Zonnique and her OMG Girlz were tearing up stages as teen sensations. In 2015, the trio of singers decided to go their separate ways as they matured into young adults, and since that time, Zonnique Pullins has been a staple on reality television. Her mother, Tameka "Tiny" Harris and her stepfather T.I. are popular figures in the music industry and beyond, whose names rarely take a break from being featured in headlines. In turn, Zonnique and her brood of siblings often find their lives under a microscope as well, but the 24-year-old has managed to maintain some semblance of normalcy by learning from the successes and failures of her famous parents.
Currently, Zonnique and her family are featured on VH1's T.I. & Tiny: Friends & Family Hustle. While her family navigates some of the controversies that have played out on social media in recent months, Zonnique shared that viewers will see another side of her as she focuses on her music career. After years of radio silence from the singer, she recently dropped two new tracks: "Winner" and "FTCU."
"On the show you can expect to see me doing my second project, putting it together," said Zonnique of her forthcoming album. "Really growing as an artist. Really trying to reinvent myself as an artist because I haven't put out music in a couple of years. So, you'll kind of just see me going through that on show." She added, "I've been working on this music for two years now, so there's some songs where I was definitely in a place where I'm not even at now." Zonnique has been sharing bits and pieces of her music with her fans for years, so she feels a tad obligated to her supporters to release the tracks that she's been teasing.
"A lot of my music now is more mature but also growing with me, as well," she continued. "A lot of my fans have grown with me so it's not like, over the top. Everybody will be able to relate." Expect to hear quite a few songs about love and relationships, a topic that she said T.I. often teases her about because she pours her heart out in the booth.
Speaking of relationships, Zonnique and rapper Bandhunta Izzy have been happily in love for quite some time and she recently revealed that they live together. She's quick to admit that she may not have the same traumatic experiences as others in her age group, but when it comes to matters of the heart, she has a few war wounds.
"I haven't been through so much stuff in my life where it's just like I can talk trash," she admitted. "But when it comes to love and heartbreak, that's my focus because that's what I know." With all this new music talk floating about, we couldn't help but get a little nosy and inquire about potential collaborations she has on her album. Zonnique let us know that she has locked down a song with Jacquees, but her team has their eye on other artists Like Megan Thee Stallion and Lil Baby.
"We're still trying to figure it out," said Zonnique. "I feel like, on this project, I don't want to have too many features because, like I said, I'm reinventing myself all over again. So I kind of want it to be me, but I am looking for more collaborations before I put out my project." With Grammy Award-winning parents like T.I. and Tiny, it would be understandable for Zonnique to feel as if she carrying burdens of expectation from all directions. Tiny is an R&B icon as a member of Xscape, and T.I. is one of the most acclaimed and accomplished hip hop moguls of our generation. Yet, Zonnique isn't trying to walk their paths—if anything, she wants to surpass her parents' success.
"I don't really put the pressure on myself to do what my parents do because I feel like I'm in my own lane," she said. "I mean, I feel like maybe outside people are going to always make that comparison no matter what, so I just strive to be my best." Zonnique couldn't help but add with a chuckle, "I want to be better than my parents."
"Being in my family, it's probably one of the hardest things or like, struggles I would say, that me and all my siblings have to deal with," she said of growing up in the spotlight with mega-famous parents. "Just always having to be T.I. and Tiny's daughter or son. I feel like that's always something that we try our hardest to make our own thing happen." Zonnique mentioned that her 19-year-old brother Domani, an artist in his own right, decided to take a break from reality television to develop his career outside of being linked to his family.
"I think that with doing my career, making sure it's just going and doing my own thing, that's how I maintain my sanity and try to get my own thing going on. Just continue doing what I want to do," Zonnique added. When speaking to her, it's clear that she's been raised to see herself as equal to any other person. Many children in her position can feel entitled or may even tend to act superior, but Zonnique has been taught humility and thankfulness.
"I'm extremely down to earth. I don't expect people to ever put me on a pedestal. I don't even like being called a celebrity," she admitted. Her three million followers on Instagram may disagree, but she held fast to her beliefs. "I have to earn the title to be a celebrity. I'm honestly to people a celebrity's kid, so... I've done my thing in the younger years during OMG and even as a solo artist, but I don't really care to be looked at like a celebrity."
Whether she sees herself as a celebrity or not, she's definitely operating in that wheelhouse. Other artists her age are learning the ins and outs of the industry without proper guidance, but gratefully, Zonnique has had a tribe of entertainers around her to steer her in the proper direction. Throughout her career, which at this point has lasted over a decade, the singer has received her fair share of advice from the well-intended. She shared with us what advice she's held close and always relies on.
"The two things that always stuck with me was that one, try your hardest as an artist to learn and know your business," Zonnique asserted. "Not just let people give you things and you sign [contracts] without reading it yourself or just giving it to somebody else to read it. Really knowing [things] so that you can be your own boss and be up to date about what's really going on." Basically, boss up.
"And also, André 3000 told me and my friends when we were in OMG Girlz to always bring something different to the picnic because people always want something different," she revealed. If there's anyone who knows about being unconventional, the Outkast icon is it. "You don't want to be the same as anyone else. [Bring] something different, something outrageous to the picnic table."
As we all await her anticipated project—an album that she said we can expect within the next month or two—stream Zonnique's singles "Winner" and "FTCU" below and make sure to tune in to T.I. & Tiny: Friends & Family Hustle Mondays at 8/7C on VH1.