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For Broken Ears is a Sonic Manifestation of Tems True Self…

For Broken Ears is a Sonic Manifestation of Tems True Self…

By Monica K. Savanne

“I’m sending my messages to people that can understand. And even the ones that can’t understand, they don’t need to understand right now, but they will in the future.”

Tems - Drummr Magazine

I connect with Tems over a Google Hangouts call. She’s in the car, the muffled chaos of Lagos traffic mirrors the hustle and bustle of London’s rush hour outside my window. This muted cacophany serves as the backdrop of our conversation. She exudes a quiet confidence, a steadfast assuredness of who she is.

Tems’ star has risen meteorically since the release of her first single ‘Mr. Rebel’. This year alone has seen the singer, songwriter, producer and Rebel Gang leader chosen as a YouTube Foundry artist and, more recently, selected as the latest Spotify Radar Africa Artist, a feat I congratulate her on. She calmly thanks me, adopting the tone of someone who knows that this is only the beginning.

Tems’ raw, honest energy is refreshing and is what lends her music its relatability. Not one to dwell on negative emotions, her songs are written as a moment of cathartic release, never to be revisited again, “When I make music, I don’t draw from the past. I draw from the present”. One of her superpowers is her ability to take complex, difficult to deal with emotions and translate them in a relatable manner. She’s unlocked levels of both vulnerability and confidence that enable her to express deep-seated emotions that others struggle to articulate. Allowing her lyrics to wash over you empowers you to look squarely at yourself in the mirror and not only face your demons, but overcome them.

Listening to For Broken Ears is like reading Tems’ diary and simultaneously studying a how-to life guide. She gets real with us. The EP is full of messages on achieving higher, positive vibrations and purging toxicity from your life, all stemming from the artists’ personal experiences. Sonically, the EP’s production is effortlessly flawless. If you listen keenly, you’ll notice that Higher, Damages, and The Key seamlessly transition into each other, a serendipitous occurrence that Tems narrows down to being due to “God’s grace”. Only two of the songs on the project were written fairly recently. The remainder are older, previously unreleased tracks from her catalogue. She was neither in a hurry to introduce her true self nor was she going to conform to what the industry or the public wanted or expected: “I just wanted to introduce myself without giving into public demand, public expectations”. For Broken Ears is a sonic manifestation of Tems’ true self, presented on her own terms. This project was created for people who are looking outside of the mainstream; for those looking to tap into a higher frequency; and for her day one fans who’ve stuck through since Mr. Rebel.

Tems - Drummr Magazine

Tems indulges me in a dissection of For Broken Ears.

The EP opens with Interference, a song not originally intended to be on the EP. “Interference came to me when I was in quarantine,” Tems recalls, “I just poured myself into it. I was like yeah, I’m switching this out”. And I for one I’m glad that she was struck by this last minute stroke of inspiration. On this ballad, Tems welcomes us into her world and offers a presentation of who she truly is: “This song is about…identifying and stating who I am. And this is where I live in this space right now. And you’re welcome into it. There’s no judgment and there’s no shame here. And this is for you. If you didn’t know who I was before, this is who I am now.” Her voice feels like a comforting hug, drawing us into a space of peace and restoration as she calls out,“This is a place with no shame/This is a mind with no frame/ This is a life with no pain”. The simplicity of this track’s production, if handled by someone else, would perhaps sound dull. However, it is the perfect vessel to carry her uniquely arresting voice as she showcases her vocal range; from the rich tone of her lower register to her delicate falsetto.

With ‘Ice T’, Tems poetically reminds us of the old adage, when life gives you lemons make lemonade as she croons, “Finally, I’m not turning back/I’m turning up…I make Ice T and I make it with your lemons.” On this feel-good, beat-driven song, she experiments with manipulating pitch and artfully layers her vocals to fill potential empty spaces in the track. “I can turn whatever bitterness, whatever sadness into something sweet. There is no point in internalizing others’ negativity,” she states when I ask her about the intent behind the song.

The EP’s third selection, ‘Free Mind’ is an extremely relatable take on feeling bogged down by the grind and grappling with the venomous voices in our heads. Tems repeatedly calls out. “I really need, I really need time now/ I really need, I need a free mind now.” This song came into being during a particularly vulnerable and low point in Tems’ life. “I was hustling. I was suffering. I was going through a lot in my mind,” she recounts. Too often we find ourselves succumbing to that malignant inner voice: the one that turns everything into a competition; the one that tells us we’re not good enough; the one that tells us no one cares. And the vast majority of us don’t recognize the power that this voice has over our sense of self-worth and the control it commands over our actions. Borne out of a desire to find herself, ‘Free Mind’ signifies her awakening and she encourages us to embark on a similar journey of emancipation from our inner demons.  “That voice is what’s causing all the problems,  the anger or the sadness or the depression. And that’s what we need to free our minds from. Because once you free your mind of that force, there isn’t anything that you cannot do, everything is possible.”


‘Témìládè’s Interlude’ is delivered over a stripped down version of Free Mind’s instrumental, presenting a powerful turning point in narrative. On the latter, Tems is beaten down and struggling to find her confidence but this interlude offers redemption and validation. We hear her mother recount a pivotal experience during her pregnancy. Everybody around her was convinced that her next child would be a boy but she was certain that she would be giving birth to a girl. Not only did she make this bold assertion, but she went a step further by  going against Yoruba cultural norms and choosing her unborn childs’ first name.  “When she was pregnant, God told her that my name was Temilade [meaning the crown is mine].” From the very beginning, Tems was destined to go against the grain and achieve greatness.

‘Témìládè’s Interlude’ sets the tone for the EP’s remaining tracks, a tone that is confident and self-assured. On ‘Higher’, Tems delivers a F*ck you to her haters carried on a bass-driven track sprinkled with hazy guitar riffs. The track was inspired by being in a situation with someone who was taking her for granted and her decision to break free and find herself. We hear her find her strength and come into her own: “I don’t care about your feelings anymore when you speak. When you speak, I can’t hear you. When you speak, it’s as if no one is talking,’ she sassily chuckles. “I can’t hear you. I don’t rate you enough to hear your voice. That’s what Higher is about.”

On ‘Damages’, the EP’s dance-floor ready, chart-topping lead single, Tems celebrates finally breaking away from toxic situations. “It’s like, thank God for no damages. Like woo, I’m happy, I’m living my life! I’m in a great place. I’m chilling and I’m vibing.” For Broken Ears closes out with ‘The Key’. Like ‘Interference’, this song wasn’t meant to feature on the EP. However, a chance, 11th hour freestyle over a beat brought to her attention by her manager resulted in the perfect outro. On this up-beat, afrobeats-tinged track Tems takes stock of her journey, reflecting on leaving behind fake friends and celebrating finding her voice. She once again declares who she is, as she did on the EP’s intro, creating a full circle moment. “This is the key to life from my eyes,” she tells me, “Seeing the world, living beyond it. I don’t need to fake any type of vibe. I don’t need to like copy anybody or be who I am not. This is who I am.”  

As a self-proclaimed perfectionist, Tems battled with releasing the project. Reflecting on the creation and release process of ‘For Broken Ears’, she candidly admits that, “I went back and forth. If I was left to my own devices. I probably wouldn’t have released the EP. I always want to do and over do in terms of everything.” Her work ethic and her willingness to continuously be a student of her craft are the key ingredients to her success. “I’m learning a lot. I’m always trying to get better at everything I do. From anything, my voice, my singing, my production. I’m always trying to get this up. I always want to be better than what I currently am.”


Being a fast-rising star puts your life under a microscope. Many succumb to the pressure and unwarranted attention but Tems remains grounded. Her focal point is her purpose and everything she does is steeped in intentionality. “I’m focusing on my purpose and the long term. Am I making an impact?” sayas, her voice sharpened by determination.  “Some people might listen to this and they might not feel it, but it’s not even about whether anybody feels it or not, there’s some things that have already shifted just by me releasing this EP. There’s some things that you might recognize right now, but in five years, you’ll see that by me releasing a different sound, there’s a different light on Africa. I’m part of the difference. And that’s very, very important.”

As we conclude I ask her where she’s headed to which she responds, “wherever God takes me.”


See Also

Fashion Editorial

Creative Direction: Amarachi Nwosu (@Amaraworldwide)

Photography: Jerusa Nyakundi (@JerusaNyakundi)

Styling: Rey Jaiteh (@reyjaiteh) & Zaawdi (@Zaawdi)

Production: Melanin Unscripted (@MelaninUnscripted)


Creative Direction: Amarachi Nwosu (@Amaraworldwide)

Photography: Jerusa Nyakundi  (@JerusaNyakundi)

Production: Melanin Unscripted (@MelaninUnscripted)

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