practices gratitude a lot

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Tantra Grillo    “…….. practices gratitude a lot”

Tantra Grillo, a Southern California girl from a small suburb of Tustin near Santa Anna, began writing poetry at age fourteen. She was influenced by the pain and poetry of Tupac. She started recording at Hot Tracks Studio but the head of the studio told her that it just wasn’t working — her white girl rap just didn’t fit. However, Tantra wouldn’t listen and kept writing songs.

She also loved astronomy and, at age 17, was accepted to the Astronomy School at the University of Hawaii in Hilo on the Big Island. She lived in Hawaii for most of the next two decades. While in Hilo, she was picked up by the radio industry after her first year. She changed her major to communications and began working in broadcast radio in Hilo, later moving to Maui, and a few years to Oahu and Waikiki. Tantra ended up having one of the top grossing shows on Oahu.

Tantra worked for over 15 different frequencies throughout the Hawaiian Islands — Power 104.3, Island 98.7, Maui Q103, and Maui Roots. After three months of hard studio work in Maui, her first full length album of original music was produced in 2016. The album, Loves Heretic, was recorded after a long-time romance and very painful breakup.

During the COVID lockdown, Hawaii was worse than the Keys. Tantra couldn’t handle the complete lockdown 3,000 miles from the West Coast. She had a friend from the radio business that lived in Key West. After the Keys reopened, she visited for a couple of months and, like many others, fell in love with Key West. She returned to Hawaii briefly to finish her divorce and sell her condo on Waikiki. Returning to Key West a few months later, she bought a house and began to settle in.

Grillo feels Key West is its own place. After living in Hawaii where there is a strong native Hawaiian culture that has difficulty accepting outsiders, the “kindness and One Human Family here is amazing”. Key West accepts everyone, and to Tantra, is all about simplicity, character, individualism, and originality…. with a side order of Jimmy Buffett. She finds herself telling tourists “Slow down, what’s your hurry?”. One similarity with the Hawaiian Islands is, if you don’t quickly fit in and get along, you probably won’t last.

Tantra started to fit in very quickly and collaborated with other Key West musician. Rap and hip hop are not the biggest or most supported genre in Key West. Tantra collaborates and tries to integrate her rap style with working musicians that are willing to share some stage time. Within her first six months, she hosted a show at General Horseplay with Just George (Chapman) and Lee Sharpe. The place was packed and was a very successful Key West debut.

Tantra has performed at General Horseplay, Rock House, and her favorite club, Heroes. She opened for Mike Stack at the Garret Hughes Benefit Concert at the Coffee Butler Amphitheater. Adam Lufkin is another favorite collaborator along with Zack Lovering who Tantra considers one of the most incredible voices that she has worked with

She is also a professional Tarot Card Reader which helps pay the bills and “keeps connecting her to humanity.” She has a large clientele from all over the world.

Shortly after arriving in Key West, Tantra began working with a group of “old school Rap artists”

they called themselves the Key Rhyme Directive with Chief Blesn, Keli Mat, Billy Rivera, and Sognarr from Fort Lauderdale at the Rock House. She is currently collaborating with a more famous hip hop artist on her new songs for her third album (current working title is Initiation).

Her latest album, On the Brink, was released December 2023 at the Key West Theater. Her band consisted of Ross Brown, Jeff Dalton, Daniel Clark, and Mark King. One of her most frequent collaborators Spogga (Hash) performed some of his original songs in between the album sets. It was a well-received event.  On March 18, 20204, Tantra Grillo received the R&B/RAP Act of the Year Award at the Key West Music Awards.


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