Tia Bank$ is setting her own path. After struggling for years, the Scarborough emcee is learning to become the independent woman she always wanted to be.
From duking it out with the boys in high school cyphers to firing shots at well-known Toronto IG personality Chromazz, Tia is proving she has something to say. Carving out a lane for herself as a fierce, battle-ready rapper.
Growing up in Scarborough’s Galloway area, Bank$ proved her tenacity competing with boys in cyphers. As Tia tells it, she sees herself as an athlete and a top competitor.
“I’m a rapper, [and] rapping is a sport to me. So, I consider myself an athlete in the rap game. I’m all for the competition,” she tells Complex Canada.
Both in her music and personally, Bank$ has done things her own way. The femme fatale carries on the tradition of confident female rappers like Remy Ma and Lil’ Kim, anointing herself a queen who’s ready to give those she deems unworthy the guillotine.
Her latest single, “Pop Shit,” is a battle cry that hears her declare herself a presence in the Canadian hip-hop scene. Bank$ saunters on the bouncy single with unwavering bravado. Her confidence seems almost out of place in the post-SoundCloud depression rap era.
That’s not to say things have never been difficult. At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Tia had no way to support herself, so she turned to OnlyFans to make an income. This has caused friction between her and her religious mother, who kicked her out of their family home once she found out.
But Tia isn’t getting discouraged. She’s holding steady to her faith both in God and herself. Faced with being homeless, she decided to double down on her efforts to make music.
She’s thankful and in high-spirits after signing to independent label Nycesound Production Inc. On the aforementioned song, she sings, “Rapped for seven years and now I finally got a deal.”
Overnight celebrity she is not. Bank$ has been quietly grinding for this moment. We caught up with her for a conversation about her journey, her Chromazz diss track, and what’s next. The interview, edited for conciseness and clarity, is below.
Tell me a bit about yourself. What was it like growing up in Galloway?
I was born in Kingston, Jamaica. I came to Canada when I was four years old. The first place I ever lived was Scarborough, and Galloway is in Scarborough.
Growing up in Galloway, I always went to this Boys and Girls Club that was down the road from me. I was able to pursue my passion in music because they had a lot of music opportunities. They had free studio sessions for the youth. I was able to get a lot of song recordings done there. I really loved growing up in that neighborhood.
Tell me a bit about the battle rapping you’ve done in the past. You had some friendly competitions in high school. How did that influence who you are today?
I always used to see the guys having cyphers in high school, having freestyle sessions during lunchtime. I’m like, ‘Wait—I write music. I never thought to be a rapper. What if I hop in and recite some of the lyrics that I’ve written before? Let me try this thing out.’ So, I hopped in one of the cyphers and I spit some shit. Everyone was like, “Woah… what?”
I did that. I participated in a lot of cyphers. A lot of girls weren’t really doing it. So, I was mostly rapping with the boys and going head-to-head with them. After that a lot of people were like, “You have to go and actually record something.” I gave it some thought and thought I could really be a rapper.
“It feels like every day I’m waking up trying to prove a point. As an independent artist you’re trying to show people you can do it too. We all can win.”
What made you do the Chromazz diss?
I was really tired of seeing that she was the representation. All these platforms were only posting her music. We have so many other talented individuals. We’re not getting the shine. We’re not getting the spotlight. I feel like when Americans probably search up a Toronto female rapper, they see her. If you call yourself a queen or first lady, you’re going to be challenged.
What are your goals in the industry?
I’m trying to become worldwide. International. I want my music heard everywhere. I want to be an inspiration. I’m trying to be a legend in my country. I want to be the female face of Canada.
How would you describe your music?
It’s aggressive. It’s in your face. It’s hard.
I understand that you had some tough times at the start of the pandemic. You then decided to post on OnlyFans. How did your family take it?
Not good. My mother, she’s Christian. So it’s like I’m already making vulgar music and now I’m going to show my body. She’s not going to understand. So it really put us at odds with each other. I struggled for a bit.
When you were in that situation, where you were faced with being houseless, what went through your mind?
I was literally looking to God at that point. I was like ‘God, I need to do something about this. I need to get back on my grind.’ Remember, I wasn’t working. OnlyFans was my only source of income. It was hard. I was living with different friends. They were trying to support me and help me out. I had friends invest in my music whether it was something like do my hair or help me with a music video.
You mentioned that you turned to God. It’s sort of a recurring motif in your music. Is that fair to say?
I do mention God in a lot of my songs. We all go through our own journeys. So whether I feel I’m singing it or feeling like I don’t deserve to be blessed, I still feel like I am blessed. So I gotta thank God.
What does being an independent artist mean to you?
You really get to prove yourself. It feels like every day I’m waking up trying to prove a point. As an independent artist you’re trying to show people, you can do it too. We all can win.
I see a lot of homages to 50 Cent in your music. Was he someone you gravitated toward growing up?
Yes, I listened to a lot of 50 Cent growing up. He’s very inspirational. The things he’s done in the music game, it’s crazy.
Is there anything you would like to add?
I have an EP dropping soon and I’m ready for the streets, the whole country, to hear what I have coming.