Have you ever felt like you might snap?
Tasman Keith, a self-described 'mission boy', raised between the Sydney inner city bustle and the humble Bowraville Mission in the Nambucca Valley in northern New South Wales, believes he could have easily snapped as a young Aboriginal man.
“It’s just that feeling... Like at any time I could snap and become a stereotype that a lot of my cousins fell into… When you’ve felt society’s pressure and see people take the easy way out with drugs and alcohol, it makes you question things.
“It’s about that inner fight to not go down that path. That fight within yourself to not snap.”
But he says this struggle inspired his newest track, Might Snap.
“Letting people know that I also do feel this way, that at times I was angry, frustrated and could have snapped. This is to let them know they can relate to it and see that the stereotype isn’t right. Our mob doesn’t have to fall into these pressures that get placed upon us,” Tasman explains.
The song features heavy beats and intense lyrics that depict the harsh reality faced by many Indigenous youth. The video clip is black and boldly suggests the path you chose to follow in life, be it wrong or right.
Tasman is proud to represent the Gumbayngirr Nation in Aboriginal hip hop. From the ripe age of just 8, Tasman has been making tunes and following his musical dream. This comes as little surprise seeing he is a descendant of hip hop legend Wire MC, but Tasman just calls him ‘dad.’
“Ever since I was a little kid I remember my father performing, so I just followed his steps and it just seemed so normal for me to do.”
Epitomising everything ‘dope’ about the ‘newest generation of his culture,’ Tasman says for him, music is a modern day tool to tell stories.
“A lot of our people can’t get initiated because they got taken away. This for me is my way of getting back to my culture. My uncles never really got that handed down to them, and it’s not handed down to me. I’ll never ‘become a man’ in that sense, but music really helps me continue to tell our story and connects me to my culture in a different way, because I can’t in the original sense.”
When the hip hop star isn’t busy making new beats, he spends most of his time helping young people find their way. But he says it’s actually the kids who help him.
“I love working with my little cousins and seeing that drive in their eyes, where they really believe anything’s possible. They have a crazy imagination and the type of energy they bring to me really inspires my music. Hopefully, I can inspire them too one day, with what I get from them.”
It’s been an intense journey for Tasman, who’s found balancing his career, future goals and personal life rather challenging. But his main focus is developing his musical abilities.
“I really just do it because I come from a place with a population of only two thousand people and obviously I’m doing something right. All I’ve really ever done is just practice and do it as often as I can.”
On January 26, 2017, a group of Australia’s leading hip hop and rap artists got together to push for a national debate to change the date of Australia Day. Together, they created a uniquely groundbreaking 3D virtual reality anthem that shed light on the dark truths of Aboriginal history. Tasman Keith was a huge part of that collaboration.
Making his mark alongside Nooky, Birdz, Urthboy and Thundamentals, he says it was an honour to surround himself with other talented Australian artists.
“It’s dope! Especially when you’ve come from a tiny place, where you’re the only person that really does music. So when I work with people that have a lot of knowledge and have been around longer than me, in terms of the music business, I can really learn a lot from them, so I take in as much as I can.”
For any aspiring youth looking to break into the music scene, Tasman warns that you only get out what you put in.
“You can have big dreams about something, but you’ve really gotta follow through and make sure you have the determination and the work to do it.”