Tiny Jag Keeps Her Circle Small and Her Spirit Rich in New Single “How It Was”

Tiny Jag has never been one to mince words. Ever since her first EP Polly debuted in 2018, Jag has been known for her no-bullshit lyricism and cutting delivery. Though her sound has grown and shifted since then, the heart of it remains the same: an uncompromising sense of self that’s easy to sing along to. In the video for her new song, “How It Was,” Jag emphasizes the importance of keeping your circle small and supported. 

“When I made this song I was dead in the center of thinking about what relationships were working for me and which ones weren’t,” Jag explains. She says that the last year has been a time of not only looking inward, but looking around her and tempering expectations around friendships and relationships. What she discovered was that supporting herself first and foremost yielded the ability to show up for others in the way that she wants to. “I feel clearer over the last few months since that song has been created,” she says. “Just being comfortable in exactly where I am at any moment… and finding a way to have my own back… makes it easier to figure out what you expect out of the souls and spirits around you.” 


This realization led Jag to write the ultimate ride-or-die anthem that mirrors the relationships in her own life. She explains that her tendency to keep her circle tight in her personal life bleeds into her creative process. In an industry that is built off of multiple people – sometimes strangers – co-writing songs and cranking them out like an assembly line, Jag takes a more intimate approach to songwriting. She says that 99% of the time, she’s going into the studio with someone she has a prior connection and strong basis of trust with, and if not, that bond is made before the session even starts. “Any producer that I went into the studio with blindly, we probably talked for like two hours before we started working,” says Jag. “I think that for my peace of mind, and the way that my anxiety is set up, I need to focus on the people that feel the pull… some type of law of attraction has brought us together and here we are vibing the fuck out.”

The video follows Jag and her besties (Jag’s long-time DJ and friend Wah Wah and local musician Shannon Barnes of White Bee) as they devise a plan to rob their douchey corporate boss. At some point, we’ve all probably fantasized about tying up our boss and taking all of their money, which makes sense, considering that the average CEO in the United States makes up to 320 times more than a typical worker. The visual shows Jag and her posse enduring various morbid circumstances like domestic abuse, a messy breakup, and debilitating debt. The three decide that in order to escape their current situations, they’ll team up and take down their superior, Robin Hood-style. 

While the video was inspired by fantastical scenes like the Joker walking away from a burning hospital in Dark Knight and the grocery store heist in Good Girls, Jag says her vision was one step closer to reality. “I wanted it to be something that you could see some mother fuckers fuckin’ around and doing,” she says. And that’s how a Tiny Jag song usually makes the listener feel – like you could rob your boss and get away with it. An indestructible aura surrounds her music, permeating through the speakers and touching whoever is listening. It’s fitting, then, that Jag’s ultimate goal as a creative is to be an entity rather than solely a musician. 

“Even when I started doing music, I knew it was going to be a leg of something bigger. I always wanted to be a force more than any one designated thing,” she says. “I would rather be a reminder of something that reminds you to be yourself, or don’t be wasteful, or don’t throw your trash on the ground or whatever the fuck.” She lives out this intention not only through her music, but, more recently, through repurposing old fabrics to make her own merch. She explains that having multiple outlets allows her to nurture her creative self and shift focus from output to being present with herself and her art. 

Jag’s unending quest towards self-discovery is what keeps her music so authentic, and inspires listeners to do the same. “It feels like every time I talk to you, I talk about how I’m being my most authentic self and that’s the best thing that’s going right now,” Jag muses. “But, every time, I feel like I’m getting closer and closer to that most internal piece of myself, that highest self.” 

Follow Tiny Jag on Instagram for ongoing updates.


With this absolute dumpster fire of a year coming to a close, the next few weeks are a time for reflection, rest and recuperation. That means a lot of things for a lot of people, but in the music world, it means year-end lists. I usually tend to stay away from this sort of thing because I don’t love the hierarchical nature of the practice. However, it has truly amazed me to see the amount of stellar music come out of Detroit in the midst of such a gut-wrenching year, and it feels important and cathartic to look back on some of the beauty that surfaced in the sea of chaos. I don’t pretend to be a curatorial genius or an authority of any sort, but here are some of my favorite releases from Detroit artists in 2020, in no particular order.

Jay Daniel – SSD (EP)

Detroit house mainstay Jay Daniels gives us fifteen minutes of percussion-driven, layered dance music. While his roots as a drummer remain evident on the EP, Daniels guides the listener through a vibrant forest of sound and space with ease. Shiny synths and deep bass embellishments wrap his complex rhythmic patterns into a pleasurable and meditative listening experience.


Lead singer and songwriter of Zilched, Chloe Drallos, has the innate ability to immortalize potent emotions. Delivered with thrashing drums, distorted guitar and apathetic vocals, Drallos recounts moments of heartbreak, angst and boredom that are crushingly relatable. The record is reminiscent of the ’90s riot grrrl without being derivative and satiates the screaming late-teen, early twenty-year old in all of us.

Tammy Lakkis – “Get Up”/”Moon Rock” (single)

Tammy Lakkis makes irresistible electronic music with attention-grabbing percussion and melodic sensibility. “Get Up” feels like spinning out of control without worry or regard for where you’ll land, while “Moon Rock” captivates the listener with the pairing of Lakkis’ mesmerizing vocals and trippy synth layers.

Boldy James, Sterling TolesManger on McNichols (LP)

It’s hard to find the words to describe the gravity of this record. Detroit rapper Boldy James teams up with masterful producer Sterling Toles to blur the lines between hip-hop and jazz in a record that took nearly a decade to complete. Boldy’s often gutting depictions of the city and his experience therein are his most personal and potent verses to date, which he credits to Toles in “Mommy Dearest (A Eulogy).” Toles’ diverse sampling, intricate rhythmic patterns and orchestral arrangements are the perfect pair to Boldy’s visceral anecdotes, making for an undeniably timeless and legendary record.

Omar SSimply (EP)

A true staple in the Detroit house realm, Omar S unsurprisingly delivers a trance-inducing, escapist EP. The perfect amount of dissonance mixed with bouncy up-tempo tracks gives the listener what they want without being over indulgent.

Milfie (feat. Supercoolwicked) – “From Milfie, With Love” (single)

In a year filled with so much uncertainty, there’s something ultra comforting in listening to an artist who knows exactly who she is, and that’s Milfie in a nutshell. In this two-part single, Milfie reminds us of her unshakable self worth, demanding flow and refreshing realness. Joined by ethereal R&B singer-songwriter, SUPERCOOLWICKED, on “Ain’t Got Time,” the two powerhouse artists reflect on the importance of loving yourself and blocking out the bullshit.

Jake KmiecikHorizons (EP)

Kmiecik – drummer of psychedelic-folk outfit Bonny Doon – shows his range in his solo ambient project, Horizons. Glimmering synths are the guiding force in this minimal and cerebral record. Soft and spacey moments intertwined with lush, cascading layers call to mind the ebbs and flows of nature. As a whole, the project feels like a much needed deep breath.

Maya MereauxSeauxl (LP)

Songstress Maya Mereaux makes the stream of consciousness melodic on her first full-length record, Seauxl – a ten-track journey to self-awareness. The album weaves a strong narrative via incredible vocals about losing oneself in a romance, only to come out the other end knowing yourself better than ever before.

White BeePsychedelic Flight Attendant (LP)

White Bee’s Shannon Barnes shares a soulful and transparent foray into her innermost thoughts on Psychedelic Flight Attendant. Barnes has spent the better part of the last decade not only teaching herself guitar, but creating her own unique sound along the way. Filled with syncopated rhythms, unexpected melodies and universal truths, this record is a shining time capsule for Barnes’ growth as an artist.

ZelooperzValley of Life (LP)

Part of Zelooperz’ allure is his ability to jump from character to character within a single project. Just as the title Valley of Life suggests, this body of work feels like a sample platter of all the people Zelooperz is, has been, or could be. That range extends into his seemingly effortless flow, which can fluctuate between sincere and satirical in eight bars.

Tiny JagMorph (EP)

Deviating from her former trap-hop style of writing, Tiny Jag “morphs” her sound into alternative power pop on this 2020 EP. Her cunning wordplay is still there, this time delivered with more blasé, controlled vocals and accompanied by booming 808s and shimmering synths. Though this music has all the elements of top-charting success, don’t be mistaken – this isn’t like anything you’ve heard before. 

whiterosemoxie – white ceilings (LP)

People love a prodigy. And while many blogs focus on Moxie’s age –  just 17 years old – it’s important not to gloss over the fact that no matter what age, the rapper is a talent that only comes around once in a while. His poetic flow is reminiscent of Long Beach’s Vince Staples, and though the two are an entire country apart, they share a penchant for repping their city and distilling their experience in a way that makes them charmingly relatable.

MoodymannTaken Away (LP)

Detroit’s Godfather of house music – Kenny Dixon Jr. – is back with his legendary funk grooves and repetitions, but this time they’re paired with an undercurrent of pain and longing. After a tumultuous year which included being harassed by police in front of his own building, it would be impossible not to inject some of that frustration into the music. Taken Away isn’t a record that encourages you to forget the tears, but rather to dance through them.

Fred ThomasDream Erosion (Synthesizer Songs) (LP)

Thomas is known for his devastatingly honest, stream of consciousness style of writing. And although Dream Erosion is devoid of lyrics, the writing still feels like a magically unfiltered outpouring of emotion. This is especially true of “Kitchen,” a collaborative improvisation that was recorded entirely in Chuck Sipperly’s ‘synth kitchen.’ The record is as beautiful as it is somber and sounds like the amalgamation of collective despair, surrender and inevitable hope.

Anna Burch – If You’re Dreaming (LP)

Burch’s second full length release is soaked with a nostalgia we didn’t know we’d have in 2020. “Party’s Over” reminds us of the times there were parties that we didn’t want to go to, where instrumentals like “Keep it Warm” and “Picture Show” emit a longing for something we can’t get back. Burch’s sweet voice glides over melancholy guitar strums and lackadaisical drums, leaving the listener with the feeling of waking up from a fever dream.

Cousin Mouth – “New Memories” (single)

Cousin Mouth’s songwriter and lead singer/guitarist Alex Burns gives us a glimpse into his forthcoming record MayflowerPeacemakerHolyredeemer with its premiere single, “New Memories.” Burns’ soulful falsetto and intricate guitar riffs are accompanied by the gorgeous voices of Detroit vocalists Supercoolwicked and Salakastar to create a sort of psychedelic R&B. Burns’ lyrics teeter between the ephemeral and the literal, weaving a story of self-doubt and redemption.

Jacob SigmanColor Coded Heart (LP)

Prolific songwriter/artist Jacob Sigman gives us forty-five minutes of uplifting and earnest pop music. Sigman’s knack for earworm-type melodies paired with uncontrived optimism make his music inherently loveable – even “Get Your Love,” a song about losing a lover, is sprinkled with a carefree hope that has the power to momentarily release you from the gravity of heartbreak.

Black Noi$eOblivion (LP)

DJ and producer Rob Mansel, a.k.a Black Noi$e, enlists a star-studded roster of friends to complete his first full-length Oblivion. With appearances from Danny Brown to bbymutha, Mansel demonstrates that he has a well of talented peers to pull from. Despite the high-profile collabs, his dark, layered production style stands on its own throughout the record. He doesn’t bend his arrangements for any of the featured artists, but rather creates his own world of mangled percussion and ominous synths in which his collaborators can dwell with ease.

Madelyn Grant – “Purpose” (single)

Neo-soul singer-songwriter Madelyn Grant ponders life’s meaning on her debut solo single, “Purpose” – a song about blocking out the noise and expectations of society to find what truly moves you. Grant’s pristine vocals sit comfortably on a bed of horns, electric piano and steadfast drums.  She pays homage to some of her Motown idols, like The Supremes and Marvin Gaye, with airtight harmonies and infectious melodies.

MeftahInformation Travels Through (LP)

A record that truly shows the vibrant and singular spirit of its creator, Information Travels Through is a breathtaking ode to finding a sense of self in a world that is so often telling us what we should be. Meftah shared a gorgeous statement along with the record that says it better than anything I could say, partially quoted below:

“So this is me creating my own context, beyond the one painted for us on Earth. Beyond just the music, and the record. It is a spiritual war going on. Mentally. Physically….Right now, in 2020, because we STILL exist within a system founded off of land and body theft from Africa, and all colonized lands, this work is dedicated to all my fellow soldiers. It is for all children of the Diaspora. We will always move together.”

Sasha Kashperko – “Can We Not Go to War, Please?” (single)

Kashperko displays his kinship with his instrument on his plea, “Can We Not Go to War, Please?” The track is urgent and erudite, showcasing Kashperko’s deep understanding of rhythmic structure and melodic phrasing. Asking a simple enough request that has clung to the minds of so many of us in the last few years, he doesn’t give any answers, but cries out in solidarity and frustration.

Salar AnsariSayeh E Nour (LP)

Spacious synths and watery percussion create a kaleidoscopic atmosphere in this lush ambient record. Ansari’s use of experimental instruments and uncanny sounds transport the listener to a different world with every track. Perfect for both blissful dissociation or centering mindfulness.

Mario Sulaksana – “For You” (single)

Producer, composer and pianist Mario Sulaksana’s first solo release is a glimmering ode to his most concrete influences – Stevie Wonder, Quincy Jones, Marvin Gaye. A true student of the craft, Sulaksana fuses his own cascading style with the formula of the greats – a simple but strong melody, the perfect balance of space and sound, and satisfying harmonies.

don’tLightning Slow (LP)

don’t finds a way to make their apathetic garage pop cozy and charming. Baked in warm and fuzzy guitars and steady but unexpected melodies, Lightning Slow feels like a first kiss in your parents basement; surprising, a little uncomfortable, but welcome and oddly familiar. Lead singer Frances Ma delivers poetic verses with angelic apathy, merging nostalgic feelings of teenage angst with more recent feelings of existential dread.

Eddie LogixPlacebo Palace (EP)

At any given moment, Eddie Logix likely has his hands in myriad different projects around the city or even country. The diverse producer, engineer and DJ is known for his elasticity when it comes to making and engineering music, but on Placebo Palace, it’s clear that his heart lies in dance music. The EP feels like a love letter to Detroit and is a welcome ray of light in this dark year.

Tearyeyed – “ForceField V4” (single)

Tearyeyed combines beautiful textures layered together to tell a story that the listener can mold into their own on “ForceField V4.”  The song starts out like an afterthought – a simplistic tapping rhythm and guitar strums laced with tearyeyed’s pillowy vocals chase one another in circles. The song’s mantra stands out through the melodic mist: “My love is like a forcefield, I am there to protect you.” Slowly, his voice fades and the drums crescendo into an outpouring of unspoken emotion.

Double WinterIt’s About our Hearts

Beachy riffs, sentimental melodies, and charming honesty are the makings of the debut LP from psychedelic-surf rock outfit Double Winter. It’s About our Hearts has something for everyone – from goth wallflower anthem “Sad Girl at the Rave” to the ’80s drag racing soundtrack stylings of “Rodeo.” Their myriad influences range from doo-wop to Italo, and are what make their sound universally accessible and very much their own.

DonJuan – “Red Plum” (single)

DonJuan is a grossly underrated songwriter and producer based in Detroit. “Red Plum” is just an introduction to his catalogue of simplistically poignant material. This song in particular contains the type of intimacy that makes you feel like you were in the room when it was recorded. The lyrics are simple enough (“I never seem to say the things I mean, I never wanna ask for things I need”) but when repeated over and over they serve as both a reflection and a question to the listener.

2Lanes“Baby’s Born to Fish” (single)

A strikingly influential group of musicians comes together on this pulsating meditation on change and resilience. Detroit’s Kesswa, Ian Finkelstein, Shigeto and John F.M. are all contributors to this atmospheric track. The result is haunting and unyielding dance track that could only be made in Detroit. 

Billionaire SophiaOotgoat (LP)

Billionaire Sophia makes music that meets in the middle of pop, house and R&B. Her voice is as smooth as butter and floats perfectly over her self-produced, synth and percussion heavy beats. Her melodies are satisfying but not predictable, lyrics colloquial but not cliché. There’s a touch of glamour and fantasy to all of her songs, both sonically and thematically – it’s the type of music that makes you feel like anything is possible.

PLAYING DETROIT: Tiny Jag Smashes the Patriarchy With Horror Rap on Salem EP

Photo cred: Se7enfifteen

If you haven’t boarded the Tiny Jag train yet, it’s time to hop on or forever be asleep. The Detroit-based rapper has had an explosive year since her debut EP Polly last year, and she just dropped a brand new tape, Salem, which brings her cheeky horror-rap to the next level. “This tape has a lot of different layers and themes, but right now let’s just have fun and hear the first track which is me being a zombie and eating people,” Jag said at her first show since the release at Detroit’s UFO Factory on June 1st.

Jag’s hard, matter-of-fact delivery is what drew fans to her upon her first release, and there’s much more where that came from on Salem. “I can’t keep responding to these bitches cuz that shit annoying,” Jag tells us on “Nagasaki Zombie.” Part of her appeal is her ability to say what all of us are thinking – whether you’re working and sick of playing nicey-nice on email or a burgeoning trap-pop star on the rise, sometimes, these bitches can just get annoying.

The question is, who are these bitches? To Jag, the majority of Salem attacks the patriarchy and its stronghold on feminine creativity and expression. “When I was making Salem, it was during a time when I really just needed that dump, that vomit of emotion,” says Jag. “I was in a space where I was ready to get back to raw self. I was running into recurring themes that were limiting my process… and they all had to do with the expectation of maturity and femininity.”

“Nagasaki Zombie” in particular was centered around the feelings of dissociation and loneliness that one can feel when dealing with relationship problems. “It’s like this zombie state where you feel like you’re in a foreign land and so isolated from everything when really, everybody deals with it,” says Jag. “But, in that moment, you feel like your heart’s broken. You’re having all these crazy ideas like, ‘If I see him with a girl, I’m gonna pull her out of this car.’”

Jag explains that most of the record was created in a space of rebelling against all expectations of what it means to be “ladylike” or exist inside the patriarchy. Take, “Bizarre,” an ode to the highest level of no fucks given. “I’m so bizarre bitch, what? / I don’t give a fuck / I need bread bitch yah,” is the hook, which simply and bluntly describes Jag’s current mood. These lyrics are the perfect example of saying a lot with a little: I’m me, I don’t care about societal standards, and I don’t need a man or anyone else to provide for me. It’s the independent woman’s anthem that reinforces the message Destiny’s Child has been trying to tell us for years.

As far as the title, Jag says that she’s setting out to reclaim the blame put on women that started at Adam and Eve, led to things like the Salem Witch Trials, and beyond. She figures if we’re gonna take the blame for letting all the “sin” into the world, we might as well acknowledge all the litness it brought with it. “Whether we wanna admit it or not, some of the best or worst times of our lives have been in these areas that would be considered ‘sinning,’” says Jag. “So it’s like, okay, we can blame Eve, but we’re also gonna have to give her some credit for some amazing ass moments  well.”

Fair point, Jag, fair point.

Whatever you believe, the record itself is an exhilarating listening experience from front to back, especially if you, too, believe in dismantling the patriarchy. In Jag’s own words:  ”It’s just a really good release and a good, therapeutic fuck you.”

PLAYING DETROIT: Tiny Jag’s ‘Polly’ is a Piece of “Glam-Trap” Gold

Detroit’s Jillian Graham, a.k.a Tiny Jag, is a force to be reckoned with. The hip-hop artist released her first full-length mixtape, Polly, this August, and it is a stunning debut that paints a portrait of a gives-less-fucks-than-thou, brazenly confident master of wordplay. Graham explains that the record is a symbol for her break out of the limiting schemas she spent a lot of her life trying to fit into. She finds freedom in existing in dualities and performing them in whatever way she feels like.

Polly is the type of record that can take you out of whatever place you’re in and transport you to another world – one where badass lady monsters rule the world and stomp over anyone who gets in their way. Graham’s brash and piercing vocals jump from the speakers and cling to the listener with every growled word. The eight-song mixtape unfurls as a series of clever puns and short and sour rants, combined to form a protest against gender normativity, haters, and fuckboys. We caught up with Tiny Jag to talk about what went into making Polly and what the record means to her.  

AF: Can you talk about the cover of Polly? What does the big devil monster represent?

TJ: Absolutely! The “devil monster” is hilarious, by the way. But I spent a lot of time with my grandmother – my mother’s mother – growing up. One of the many messages that she communicated to me while I was young was to never be afraid of what looks back at me in the mirror. Whether I was staring into the reflection of my darkest moments or maybe square dead into my potential, she never wanted me to fear who I am. That was an ongoing motif throughout the creation of Polly.

AF: This is your first full-length release. What did it take to bring this project to life and who did you work with?

TJ: A lot of understanding and patience was required with this tape. I recorded it in a few different studios, around a lot of different energies, under the scope of many different eyes. I had to be patient with myself while I processed it, all while still setting that expectation within myself to rise to the occasion. I had the opportunity to work with several producers from Detroit to make Polly, which truly makes it a mixtape to me. Those producers – ABSTRACT, Benny Banter, Pri$m and YellxBxy – showed appreciation for my work and my vision and were really assets to the project. Kato On The Track is a great producer out of Atlanta who has two tracks on the project as well.

AF: Is there an overarching theme or story that goes along with the record?

TJ: As I mentioned in the story with my grandmother, I didn’t want to allow anything, not vanity, not self-consciousness, nothing, to keep me from expressing myself unapologetically on this tape. Accepting the duality and contrasts that I encompass – dark vs. fun, girl vs. boy, “woke” vs. trap, healthy vs. hood – was a big deal to me. I spent so much energy before music trying to fit in one of those lanes at a time out of fear. I wanted to announce that I was done doing that shit.

AF: How much did growing up in Detroit influence your artistry? Are there any local female hip-hop artists that inspired/influenced you?

TJ: I think the experiences I had running around Detroit through the years influenced my artistry greatly. Our city has a lot of duality as well; grit and grace, highs and lows, love and hate. I can’t say I was influenced by Detroit female hip-hop a great deal growing up, but I can say a peer of mine, Che, was one of the first to show me that you don’t have to give up being cool as fuck to talk about anything. She really drove the point the home that it’s not about what you do, it’s how you do it.

AF: There seems to be an emphasis on independence on this record – were there any events in the past few years that molded this focus?

TJ: A lot of the time, when I found myself trying to fit into those limiting molds, I was never doing it for me. I was not checking in with myself. I was not owning my existence or moving in a way that was true to me. I had to get selfish and think on my own. I wanted to celebrate thinking independently and that selfishness. It’s something we oftentimes frown upon.

AF: It sounds like a lot of influences come together to make your sound – who are some unlikely artists that you channel in your work?

TJ: I think that’s fair as well. I’m sure I have a few less than typical influences. I think Limp Bizkit and No Doubt are both bands that captivated me as a youngster and introduced me to that kind of hip hop, urban rock that I definitely still feel connected to when creating.

AF: I kind of think of your music as “glam-trap” – do you think that’s a fair description?

TJ: GLAM TRAP. I love it. I would say it’s fair too. A lot of my songs, if not all, offer a relevant, trap element; whether it be the percussion in the beat or the melodies used. They all also bring a raw, creepy harshness to the table but it’s often wrapped in a glamorous, boss bitch bow.