Q&A Feature: Random Tanner

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Random Tanner is a hip-hop artist who has held his own while representing Clinton, Iowa since the beginning of his career. He has been heard on various radio stations, including Eminem’s Sirius XM station, Shade 45. His resume speaks for itself.

Now, I had an amazing opportunity to sit down with this musician who’s re-emergence exploded in 2018. We talked about his presence in the hip-hop community, the changes with his current brand, who he would love to collaborate with, as well as, future plans and goals going into 2019 as Random Tanner.

Back in 2014, when we first met, you were going by the stage name of Skeez. Even though you built a successful platform through that name, you decided to change your branding to the name of Random Tanner in 2017. What influenced that change?

Random Tanner: Plenty of things influenced the change and transition from Skeez to Random Tanner. One, being that I was tired of the word “Skeez” being so unrelatable to who I was as an artist. Another huge reason was wanting to be more marketable and searchable. By that, I mean that when you google search “Skeez” I was a tiny fish in a huge sea.

When you search “Random Tanner” I am the only thing that pops up so it just made so much more sense. I think people have really taken to the name change well, especially the entire new fan base I’ve gained over the past year & a half. I’m honestly not sure the majority of my supporters even know I was anyone besides Random Tanner.

What’s the story of how did the new name come about?

RT: I linked up with a long-time music friend, DJ K Yung, and we decided to ink a management deal. She helped me make the decision as did my family and a few other close music friends. It actually took a while for me to pull the trigger but when I did, I had an amazing response from my followers so it made it a lot easier.

What is the difference between the persona Skeez and the new persona of Random Tanner?

RT: I don’t think I’ve really changed because of the name change. I think when I was finally ready to change the name, I decided that I was going to go all-in with it which has really been an enormous change, if that makes sense.

This process has always been a growing experience and I invested way more time, energy and money into the new brand, Random Tanner. I have an officially merchandise line. I am always trying to be innovative and creative when it comes to pushing my name. To me, Random Tanner is a direct reflection of who I’ve always wanted to be as an artist.

Along with the name change, the message in your music has shifted. What’s allowed you to be more open and vulnerable in your music? What sparks or influences the topics and passion you have put into your art recently? Has that influence or spark changed from the past material under Skeez?

RT: I don’t think the message has really shifted in my music. I think my outlook on life has matured though. I’ve always talked about things that are important to me, but finally connecting with the right producers, engineers, and support system has been a major influence on the quality of music and image that you’ve been hearing and seeing lately.

Looking back into this year, you’ve released five singles so far, “Clockin’ In”, “Go Away”, “Back When We Were Kids”, “M-80”, & “Here For You.” Which of these singles were your favorite to produce?

RT: My favorite song that I’ve put together out of all of these is probably “Here For You” with “Back When We Were Kids” being a very close runner-up. They both feature Alex Fischbach but “Here For You” has singing from me in it along with a proposal in the music video to my fiancé!

A pause in the interview to share the song “Here For You” and beautiful music video! A huge congratulations to RT & Liz! Such a beautiful proposal! 🙂

 

Now back to the interview… 

Which of the new singles are your favorite to perform live?

RT: This answer always depends on the crowd that I’m performing for. My most consistent song out of all of these to perform has been “Clockin’ In”, because it’s the first single I dropped. I really love performing “M-80” as well though.

22279834_1377604232352508_6091974729446975936_nDo you still perform songs from the Skeez era? If so, what are your favorites to perform?

RT: This question is funny, because my DJ, DJ Smokey, was just trying to tell me that I should perform one of my “Skeez” songs, because it gets crowds super hype. While I do agree, I told him that it feels like a step in the wrong direction to perform music that isn’t available anywhere for people to stream, download, or buy. Plus I wanted to completely “shed” everything Skeez when I transitioned.

Over the past decade as a recording artist, what is the most (bad or good) you have gotten out of the experiences?

RT: Being a musician, especially a hip-hop artist, is one giant roller coaster of emotions, successes, failures and all of the above times 100. I have lost friends, gained friends, seen things that no one else will get to see, experience the times of my life and more. There are definitely bad memories, but in no way, shape, or form do they outweigh the good memories. Every single part of this journey has been worth it to me and that’s one of the main things that keeps me going.

You have an astounding resume when it comes to live performances with some heavy hitters in the hip-hop industry. Which of the artists you’ve performed with was your favorite over the years? Who would you want to perform with again in the future?

RT: I have two artists who were my favorite to perform with. Machine Gun Kelly and Tech N9ne are hands down the best two shows to be a part of. I’ve opened for MGK four times and Tech N9ne three times and the crowds that show up to those concerts are beyond supportive of the music, including the openers. The biggest deal to me is rocking for a crowd who actually is there to possibly become a fan of you. I would want to perform with both of them as many times as possible in the future until I can start headlining shows that bring in 1,000+ people on my own!

20664050_1327853897327542_5294092834511762917_nWho have you not yet collaborated with musically, that you’d love to work with? Should we expect more collaborations with you & Jon Young in the near future?

RT: I’d love to collaborate with Tech N9ne, Rittz, Twista, NF, Witt Lowry, Kevin Gates & so many more. Honestly, I’d collaborate with any big name if it fits my message and makes sense for both of us. Yes, actually I have a song on my upcoming album with Jon Young called “Never Be” and it’s exactly what our fans would want to hear from us together.

Should we expect an album in the coming year? What else should we expect in 2019 for Random Tanner?

RT: Yes, I will be dropping my “debut” Random Tanner album this year entitled “Fast Forward” which will feature all of my recently released songs plus more. 2019 is going to be filled with all kinds of things that I’ve never accomplished as an artist. A lot more traveling, touring, festivals, strategies and hard work! I honestly can’t wait for whats to come!

Do you want to expand beyond music with your brand in the future?

RT: I don’t think I’d really be all the way in with my brand if it didn’t involve music. Music has been so good to me over the years and has morphed me into who I am as a person that I’d feel guilty trying to force the brand on people if I decided to stop music. If that time does come, where I call it quits, it will be at a point of self-appreciation. A point where I can say I did every single thing that I wanted to and I am truly happy with everything I did with it. At this point, I don’t regret any part of it. With all of that being said, I want to say thank you to everyone who has ever supported me and to everyone who has yet to find out that I exist, thank you in advance!

Q&A Feature: K. Sankofa

DSC_0367.MOV.00_00_35_09.Still003K. Sankofa isn’t your ordinary music artist. With a dab of hip, a splash of jazz, and a spruce of Caribbean flow, he surely knows how to keep his sound original, while eclectic in the ears of his listeners. That isn’t the norm produced in the music rooted from Wisconsin, or from the stereotype from Wisconsin, but here we are. K. Sankofa isn’t going anywhere else anytime soon. Music isn’t the only knowledge K. Sankofa possesses. He proves that with us in this recent interview with the young man, himself, as well as the song lyrics he creates for his content.

K. Sankofa is such a unique stage name, yet a beautiful name as well. Would you tell us the story of how you came up with that name for your musical presence?

K. Sankofa: For the most part, I learned of the term ‘sankofa’ while in college. It is a proverb from Ghana, Africa that means, “Go back and get it.”

Being involved in many social justice efforts I was able to see how the term was used in fighting for justice. Reclaiming culture and heritage in roots of indigenous, as well as, revitalizing the spirit of justice that swept over those who fought through momentous periods like the Civil Rights Movement.

For me, personally, it has become a motto for continued self-development, while never leaving behind the upbringing that made me who I am. I celebrate every part of my past and every lesson that I have learned. This includes being raised in south central L.A.,  and being raised to reverence God in everything.

I started writing and experimenting with music early on in life. However, when I got to college, I told myself that I’d have to leave music behind to focus on things that I believed to be more important. I soon realized that when times got hard it was music that could make me feel whole and revitalize me in the way that I needed to move forward and carry on. With that I took on the stage under the philosophy of sankofa, going back, and getting the music.

For someone who might not have listened to your music before, can you tell us a small description of what your music is about?

KS: My music is about liberation. For me, I feel a sense of freedom in the creation of my music. Even more, I hope to reflect the struggle of the people who may not have the voice to speak out against injustice. My music is spiritual. I try to keep God in everything I do.

My music reflects my own pain and my own adversity that I have experienced. I feel like it might have a blues feel to it with how saddening the content can be sometimes. My music is about rising up against the forces that are here to keep people in inequitable socioeconomic conditions. My music is about love, hope, truth, and justice.

DSC_0380How did you find your voice for the music industry and how did you find your gift for writing music and your ability to rap?

KS: I started rapping in the 7th grade. I first discovered my love for rap music during that time, because a friend of mine urged me to get into some writing sessions with him. I loved putting the pen to the paper and expressing my thoughts. I try to make sure I let my influences and life philosophy speak through me. I try to stay in tune with God. I think it is a confluence of these thing that helped to develop the voice that I have.

Are there any current musicians who have helped influence your style of music?

KS: Definitely. Kanye West, Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, and Jay-Z are a few people who influenced me the most, but even today I have been influenced by newer artist like Chance The Rapper.

Even though your music focuses on your life stories, music is actually not your priority goal is it? Care to tell us what is your main goal in life is?

KS: My main life goal is do what I believe is right. I want to do what God has set out for me to do in this world. I believe that encompasses organizing towards justice and being a voice for the oppressed and the unheard. I believe that it is our great mission as a race of humanity to serve our fellow man and put our focus into achieving a well-fare state. I know that the task is endless and bigger than any one individual but I believe that we all have a part to play. My main goal in life is figure out the part that I am best suited for and fulfilling the duties of that role to the best of my ability.

_DSC0008You’re not actually from Wisconsin, but you are originally from California. How did you find yourself in Madison?

KS: I got the Posse Foundation full-tuition scholarship to come to UW-Madison.

Not only are you gifted and talented, but you are a young, well-educated human being. Can you tell us what you are studying and/or majoring in for your Bachelors degree? What drew you to choose your field of study?

KS: Sociology was my major. I chose this, because I had a mentor who opened me up to the major. I fell in love with the pursuit of understanding the development of our world through a societal lens. I was drawn to how interdisciplinary sociology is. You will learn about the law, history, the economy, politics, and so much more. I graduated back in May.

Does Sociology have a part in your influence to make music?

KS: Most definitely. It gives me perspective. If there is one thing that I have learned it is that we are social creatures, and that people are generally a product of their social environment and upbringing. I try to equip a broader lens of understanding of this in my music.

_DSC0250In December, you dropped your first mix-tape album, The Audacity. I must say my top three songs on that album are “Young, Gifted & Black”, “Surrender”, and “Say Less.” What were your top three songs you enjoyed creating the most in the studio process on this album? Why?

KS: I enjoyed creating every song because they are all different and require different approaches in the creation process. But if I had to pick a top three it would be “Sing Sankofa,” “Surrender”, and “Go Down.”

“Sing Sankofa” was the first song I recorded for the tape, so it was exciting to jump into it with full intensity. I got to work with the brother, Lucien Parker, at Strange Oasis Entertainment. Lucien is cold with the audio setup and the vocal production.

“Surrender” was an interesting recording process, because we incorporated live instruments. I was literally rapping the track to the beat while the homie, Mandell, went to work with the saxophone. Then, later on, we brought in the home girl, Jada, to hit a violin outro. So overall, music collaborative process was just powerful in “Surrender.”I can’t forget to mention that I was able to record the first hook with DJ Pain 1 who actually made the beat for the song.

Last, but not least, I gotta go with “Go Down”, because of the intensity of the recording process. I felt like I put my all into the spitting that song in the booth.

With all the access to many independent artists on various music platforms like Spotify, ITunes, SoundCloud, and ReverBNation, I see a transition within the music industry in itself. Do you see or feel a change with the music industry changing or reconstructing?

KS: With social media and a wave of independence it seems like music is in the hands of the people. There is no telling what’s to come. Hopefully major labels don’t get to control what we listen to in the future. Hopefully that power is transferred to the hands of the people.

Do you feel the polarization of modern politics has an influence with the transitions of the music industry? Why or why not?

KS: Not really. I think the music industry changes are because of social media, technology, and massive access to information. However, I think these same factors have shifted modern politics too.

Where do you see the music industry in five years from now? Where do you see yourself?

KS: Nothing new is under the sun. I think the music industry will still reflect a variety of perspectives and thought. However, I do think as we evolve as a society drawing nearer knowledge, purpose our music will reflect that growth. Hopefully we elevate the musical leaders in such a society. I hope to be one of those leaders.

Majority of artists out there, whether it be actors, musicians, painters, singers, or whatever, always has that one role model or influence with their pathway in life and/or artistic missions. Who has been the most significant role model in your life?

KS: My older brother Eric. He was the first in my family to go to college. He was amazing. He lived a life of service and integrity. He was also a rap artist.

If you could write a letter to your younger self in one sentence, what would it say?

KS: Don’t let anyone try to define you and always stay tight with God.

This is simply a challenge, rather than a question. Give us a random playlist with the first ten songs that come to your mind.

  1.     Jay Rock: Win
  2.     Michael Jackson: Human Nature
  3.     Outkast: Ms. Jackson
  4.     Ice Cube: Today was a Good Day
  5.     Kendrick Lamar: Mortal Man
  6.     Tupac: Changes
  7.     Lauryn Hill: Ex-Factor
  8.     Cardi B: I like it
  9.     Beyonce: Halo
  10.     Bob Marley: Get Up Stand Up

Oh, there is plenty more coming from this young individual. Currently on a light tour, just to increase his presence in the scene. K. Sankofa also has a new album in the works! Stay tuned for how the founder of #RebelGang turns up!

For now, enjoy the new single, “State of Emergency.” Make sure to just hit play right down below and check it out.

It’s. That. Simple.

Just. Push. Play.