Some of the most beautiful and intimate art is birthed from the rawest of emotions. For singer/songwriter Tianna Esperanza, it’s the heart of their music’s universe, a place where they freely tells their story in a way that can resonate with anyone. The depths of that expression are not only vital to their messaging, but it’s woven into their DNA. As the 21-year-old rising star unveils their debut masterpiece Terror, Tianna is geared to create a movement fueled by honest and authentic music that will stand the test of time.

Growing up in Cape Cod, Massachusetts Tianna was hardly surrounded by diversity. As a multiracial child in an affluent, predominantly white beach town, they navigated as best as they could, knowing they was wired differently for a myriad of reasons. They were one of a handful of Black students in their school, yet also the only Black person in her family. That too set them apart, bringing them into their own little world, where they sought solace through writing poetry. While enamored by the soulful greats like Nina Simone, Tianna was also drawn to the brutally honest lyricism of raw rappers like Eminem. Both would inevitably be their compass as they made their own music. “I learned to own my vulnerability through Hip-Hop,” they state.

While they could sing and play instruments at a young age, Tianna wasn’t sure where music would take them, but they knew in a way that it was their birthright. Their grandmother is Palmolive (Paloma McLardy), drummer and founder of the legendary UK Punk band, The Slits. Understanding their grandmother’s legacy in music, Tianna sought to forge their own path, though their life’s journey wasn’t smooth. Experiencing othering and colorism was felt on both a micro and a macro level for Tianna as they grew up, but they also suffered the loss of their younger brother, while later surviving sexual assault.

There are layers to those levels of trauma, though their survivor’s instinct and therapeutic creativity fuel their debut album Terror, a project that is not only a composite of all they have endured, but also a means to find themselves within the music. Terror’s first release was the heartfelt “Lewis,” birthed from a documentary they saw in school about the Black bookseller Lewis H. Michaux. The track delves into Michaux’s activism, as he was known for dissecting constructs surrounding race and self-identity.

On the project’s title track, Tianna sings in great detail about so much of what they have experienced, with all of the peaks and valleys. From the grief of losing their sibling to the tragedy of sexual assault, they go the distance with their art—something that many are too hesitant to accomplish. “In some ways ‘Terror’ is just scratching the surface, but in other ways it’s letting it all out,” they admit of the track. “It’s scary starting your career like this, and I feel like I’ll be talking about that song for a very long time.”

Other tracks like “Princess Slit and the Raincoat Prince” showcase Tianna’s knack for slick songwriting, even while tongue in cheek, as they display their own vocal versatility. The title and punk-leaning production are an homage to their grandmother as part of The Slits and their mentors in another legendary Punk band, The Raincoats. “I wanted to do a little bit of a tribute to my grandmother’s music and her legacy,” they explain, “but also something that felt like my own.” Tianna carries that momentum into “Three Straight Bitches From Hell,” where their storytelling remains front and center. With a soulful edge and a Punk attitude, the project is full of personality and self-actualization, from an artist who knows exactly who they are, while still evolving into whom they will become.

“I wanted to honor every part of me,” Tianna says of Terror. “I knew that I had a story, and for a lot of artists their debut album can be autobiographical.” Terror is a cathartic balance of both darkness and light, where Tianna Esperanza sings about their lowest moments, yet ends with an unbridled hope. It’s through their masterful wordplay, their range of vocals, and carefully selected production, that their introduction is geared to be strong and impactful—and they are just getting warmed up. “There’s so much more that I haven’t spoken about,” they hint. “I’m saving that for my sophomore album and everything else to come.”