Hiphop artist/poet/activist Tanis recently sat down to talk with iamtheindustry.com on one rainy and dreary Saturday afternoon. The throaty-griot agreed to meet a at local coffee shop in Shaker Heights, a suburb in Cleveland, OH home to major artists such as, Kid Cudi, and Machine Gun Kelly. He walked in with butter Tims, a Cleveland Indian’s jersey, pants low, an ethnic headband, and topped it all off with a kind aura. Before we could begin the Q&A Tanis immediately asked “can I grab a brew? Want to go wit’ me to get a brew?” A few minutes later he returned with a brew and an empty coffee cup, and began to fill his cup to the rim. Over the past few years the twenty-something has been through a lot and accomplished more than many have at his age. He survived run-ins with gangs, the street life, and understands what comes along with taking a stand for a belief. During that afternoon The ACTUAL Tanis provided the most in depth account of his life, development as an artist, affiliation with MGK, his work as an activist in the community, and much more.
“…out in New York that’s where I learned the ability to Freestyle… it was a whole new world”
If you browse the Internet for music by the ACTUAL Tanis, and start to go through single after single you’ll begin to realize that he’s not your average indie rapper trying to make it. Tanis’ lyrics are at times beyond conscious; he explores the metaphysical. One of the topics we explored during the conversation was in regards to his beginnings and early musical influences. When asked about those early musical experiences, Tanis described being first introduced to hiphop by his mother, and how the Notorious B.IG.’s Ready To Die LP was the first album he ever heard “my mother had a B.I.G. tape, and she used to play it and I remember every word to ‘Everyday Struggle’ ‘I don’t wanna live no mo’… rest his soul… he’ll never understand the profound effect he had on me and my life.” Although the Cleveland rapper officially started his career in the Midwest, his early years were spent on the west coast. Federal Way, WA is where the drugs, alcohol, and street life began to take a toll on his mother, and eventually led to Tanis being placed into the foster care system. The rapper recalls moving to Long Island, NY after a series of circumstances reunited him with his mother. It was on the east coast where he was introduced to the art of freestyling, and hiphop culture “in New York that’s where I started to get affiliated with the roots of hiphop.” He mentioned being introduced to Nas, Tribe Called Quest, and really becoming immersed in the culture at that time.
“… I came to Cleveland and started seeing these n—– with they simplicity, and how just one-dimensional they were”
When Tanis moved to Cleveland he stood out from all the rest lyrically, and began grabbing the attention of several local producers. The artistic frustration began for the artist when he realized that many of the local producers were looking for quick fame, and mainstream commercial success at the expense of jeopardizing artistic integrity “they didn’t want to talk about none of the critical issues…” At this point Tanis mentioned developing the conscious aspect to his music “… I started to see my raps as a way to shoot at that wall, at the industry and their requirements and what’s popular.” The conversation got deep when he revealed that he began to incorporate certain messages in his music after learning about occultism in the music industry “as an adult I started to do personal research… that’s when I started hearing about these secret societies the Illuminati… and this is where it started to become deeper than music, it was deeper than sounds and lyrics.” He went on to say “this shit is a war, this shit is like way deeper than just a song, this shit is a muthafuckin’ political, philosophical, religious war of humanity all being translated through sounds on a song!” We shifted gears and started talking about his affiliation with rapper MGK. Tanis mentioned meeting him on the train one day, and how the two began a comradery over their shared interest in hiphop. “I used to visit him at the airbrush store,” where MGK was working waiting for his rap career to take off. “I used to visit him when I could at the airbrush store, and come rap… let him hear my shit in my composition books.” Tanis talked about the feedback he would get from MGK “he would be like ‘bro you need to spit that shit, if you want to get on,’ and I’m thinkin’ in my head,’ain’t you the one that’s gettin’ on, and pumpin’ up? Why the fuck won’t you just work wit’ me bruh!?’” Tanis went on to say, “he seemed like he was superficial, and he didn’t seem like he was from the heart with a lot of his shit… he’s a manipulative kind of a deceptive muhfucka, and I kinda disliked him for that.”
“Me, I’ve always been a vocal n—-, I always been a n—- led by his convictions”
Exactly almost one year ago to the day a Cleveland judge found Michael Brelo innocent of the shooting death of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams. The nation watched as protestors gathered outside of the Cleveland justice center. People all over the country from various backgrounds expressed their disgust with the justice system in America. Tanis was one of those individuals, and as many others did, he took to social media to express how he felt. He was challenged by a follower to do something about it, so he hoped on the train with a homemade sign and headed downtown. There’s a picture floating around the internet with Tanis holding a sign that read “Racism Lives in Cleveland” that was taken not long before he was arrested by the Cleveland police who randomly yanked him out of a crowd of protestors and threw him the back of a van. Tanis commented on the bystanders’ reactions right before the arrest “A lot of white women were covering their kids’ eyes… they said ‘you’re an asshole, sir! Get the fuck out of here!” Tanis was eventually released, because he was never charged. However, he did mention that he’s still reeling from the incident stating that he’s currently homeless after getting kicked out of his aunt’s house for being involved in the protest. He also stated that he may have to stop making music for a while until he works out some the tumultuous issues going on his personal life. Follow Tanis on Soundcloud,https://soundcloud.com/theactualtanis; and Facebook,