Born in Dallas, Texas as Tory Davis, the artist known as Tey Yaniis started his musical journey at an early age, playing different musical instruments such as the violin, trumpet, and bass cello. Tey Yaniis realized his potential to rhyme after being inspired by Nas and Lauryn Hill’s single ‘If I Ruled The World,’ by writing 20 different versions of the song, explaining what he would do if he had the power to rule the world.
Tey Yaniis influences include John Coltrane, Art Blakey, Cab Calloway, Otis Redding, Jackie Wilson, A Tribe Called Quest, Nas, The Fugees, Digable Planets, Blackstar, and more. His impressive debut single ‘Coffee Brown’ was created as a love letter written to a special lady, and turned into a song that he felt should be heard by the world. Tey Yaniis looks at the song as a refreshing title for a beautiful, intelligent and educated women. The song symbolizes the strong relationship through the eyes of a loving man. Trey reckons that the song should hold a special place in hearts of anyone that has, or wants to experience real love!
Tey Yaniis is on a solid mission to build a foundation as one of soul/hip-hop’s biggest stars and recently gave us his inner thoughts in an exclusive interview with Rick Jamm.
1. How long have you been doing what you’re doing and how did you get started in the first place?
Tey Yaniis: Well I’ve been doing music since I can remember, but recording professionally and putting out music I would say I’ve been moving music since the age of 14. I actually got started doing music around the age of 10. I started out playing instruments but somewhere along the lines I fell in love with poetry and hip-hop in all forms. I use to write out all the lyrics to every cd I owned and would try to mimic my favorite artist, but when I wrote and recorded my first joint its on after that!!! Lol!!
2. Who were the first influences on your music and style?
Tey Yaniis: I was heavily influenced by Nas, The Fugees, Digable Planets, A tribe called quest, Jay-Z, CL Smooth and Pete Rock. I’ve always been influenced by lyrical wordplay so that’s always been what drove to be the artist I am today.
3. In your opinion who is the most influential and successful artist in your genre today and why?
Tey Yaniis: Man honestly I would have to say J-DILLA!! Actually I caught on to J-Dilla records later on down the road but when I did I can’t turn it off. His records never get old to me at all!! His production was amazing and if you actually sat down and listened to jay-dee rap his rhyme style was dope as well. I mos def look to him and study his work especially when its comes to finding what I want in my records from producers.
4. Which famous song or sound production, ultimately describes what you’d like Tey Yaniis music productions to sound like?
Tey Yaniis: Honestly I can’t just pin point one song LOL!! One thing I can say is that I absolutely love the electric piano, live bass, and live drums in my production. The Tey Yaniis sound embodies elegant neo-soul/hip-hop/smooth grooves something that’ll just take you away when you hear it!
5. Do you think music today is enjoyed more for the beats or for the lyrical flow and content?
Tey Yaniis: More now I would say production more than lyrical talent when it comes to mainstream music you know, but for what I do most def lyrical content and beautiful music is what counts for sure.
6. Do you make your own beats and write your own lyrics? If yes what software do you prefer to use? If no, who and where do you get your beats from and who writes your lyrics?
Tey Yaniis: No I don’t produce my own records but I write my own lyrics for sure!
7. If you could choose to work with some of today’s established artists or producers, to get your game to the top, with whom would you like to collaborate?
Tey Yaniis: Well when its comes to artist my ultimate goal is to collaborate with artists like Dwele, Chokalate, Slakah The Beatchild, Ledisi, the list goes on man!!! Producers I would love to work with Robert Glasper, Flying Lotus, Illa J, Snarky Puppy and more. Honestly with production I just love dope musicians! Right I’m working with my guy form sacramento DAMANI RHODES and man he is one of the dopest musicians I’ve come across that’s willing to build with me on a neo-soul tip! So shout-out to my boy DAMANI RHODES.
8. Which of your original compositions is currently your personal favorite, and why?
Tey Yaniis: Right now I would have to say that “coffee brown” is one of my favorites because the lyrics of the record I hold very dear to my heart. The song was actually a poem that I wrote that turned into the song that it is today! The song has gotten very good responses but I love that record because its very personal to me!
9. Which ingredient do you think is most essential in making the Tey Yaniis sound so special?
Tey Yaniis: It’s the message in the music that’s essential for me. Also bringing that neo-soul feel to the table as well.
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10. Which emotion more than any other, currently dominates your music? Joy, sadness, anger or passion etc. , and why?
Tey Yaniis: Passion for sure. I have a passion to see everyone enjoying the lives that they have. I want to uplift everyone’s spirits when my music comes on. I’ve learned to enjoy my life, community, surroundings and the music itself without the materialism that comes with it. it’s a spiritual love that I’ve found in the music and I just want to share that with the listeners.
11. What aspect of the music making process excites you most, and what aspect discourages you the most?
Tey Yaniis: One thing that excites me the most is that when I step inside the studio to record a song I know that I have an actual purpose of making an impact on someones life. Bringing a soulful, feel good flavor to the world. I usually tell people when you listen to my music, just get prepared to let all your troubles go and just vibe out. One thing I dislike about music is dealing with people who do not have a passion for it and imma just leave it at that.
12. How involved are you in the recording, producing, mastering, selling and other processes needed to make and market your music, and do you outsource any part of this process?
Tey Yaniis: I’m semi-involved but I’m learning different programs as I go along with the process of recording my joints. Only thing that I outsource when It comes to the music is mastering but all recording, mixing etc. is in-house.
13. Do you think the advent of internet and all the new technology, has helped your music and independent musicians in general, or do you think it just creates a mass of mediocre “bedroom artists” who flood the web, making it difficult to distinguish yourself?
Tey Yaniis: Well at the end of the day a lot of artists go for whatever is hot at the time so its hard to tell who’s who. I love to listen for new artists and what I look at is what the music represents, more than worrying about how much buzz it has. I love to connect with people who have a passion for soul music, hip-hop music. The internet has most def been an avenue that I’ve taken advantage of to promote my music. I’ve been able to get blogged and get internet radio play from here in California all the way to UK so its really a big push for me I love it. One thing I can say about the over-flood of artists is that just listening to their music you will be able to tell who’s passionate and who’s doing music just to do it. Also its all about branding yourself, sometimes social can either make you or break you. There are way more outlets to promote your music besides that as well so….. You know just work your heart if this what you really want. That’s all I can say.
14. In your experience, what is the best piece of advice in this business you actually followed so far? And one you didn’t follow, but now know you should have?
Tey Yaniis: Im still learning myself, but one thing I can say is that this is the music business so spend time to research, make a plan and execute it properly.
15. Being an independent artist, which is the one factor, above all else, that you currently desire most (increased music distribution, better quality production, more media exposure, club performances etc…)?
Tey Yaniis: Media Exposure and Live performances for sure. Thanks to Jamsphere that’s happening now!!!!!!
16. Where do you distribute and promote your music ( Amazon, iTunes, CD Baby, Your own Website, Youtube etc…) and why?
Tey Yaniis: My music is distributed through CD Baby so its available in every digital distribution music store. Also I’m a big Youtube user, people like to see what you have going on.
17. Tell us something about your projects and latest releases? With whom, where and what are you currently working on or promoting?
Tey Yaniis: Right now I’m currently dropping singles. I have “coffee brown” prod by kreatev, “1-tyme” prod by The drumaddictz, And I’m working on a project with my guy DAMANI RHODES which is coming out beautifully. So be on the lookout for that joint for sure!
18. Is going platinum or winning a Grammy important to you? Where would you like to see your career within 5 years?
Tey Yaniis: Just making music my full time job is were I see myself. Traveling and touring the world performing has always been a dream of mine so that’s the goal for sure. Going platinum and winning Grammys is cool but I would not want them unless my music is in its purest form, to touch peoples lives. One thing I say is that if you’re going to spend your hard money on my music I just want you to take the fruit from my music you know. So that’s why I strive to be the artist that I’m becoming.
19. What in your opinion is the biggest barrier an artist like yourself, has to face and overcome, to gain any commercial success?
Tey Yaniis: I have my eyes set on my goals you know. I’m not really looking at obstacles I’m just looking at getting over them. I would love for there to be more blogs based on positive, uplifting soul music buts its all good its all in gods hands and he will take care of me and music.
20. Do you consider your Rap and Hiphop genre as a simple musical art form, or do you regard it as a political, social and cultural evolution in progress?
Tey Yaniis: No not at all, like I said before, with passion its takes time to craft something beautiful for the audience so I don’t think hip-hop isn’t simple at all! Getting out there is the hard part!!! I feel that as people we need to evolve and as we know music is the mecca of evolution. I do feel that balance is needed but we just have to keep pushing ourselves to be better in and outside of the music!
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