THE WAX POETIC
We sit down and have a joint session with Ty Dolla $ign, better known by his moniker TY$, to talk about being the current torch bearer for South Central LA, what the biggest differences between 90’s hip-hop and today’s bangers are, and how a DM on Twitter from Wiz Khalifa helped him jumpstart his career.
Words by: Richard Coyle
Snaps by: Leah Moriyama
To become a product of your environment is almost unavoidable. To become the face of your environment, however, is another story altogether. Lofty for sure, it’s the mentality behind Ty Dolla Sign that has catapulted the South Central rapper/crooner into the spotlight as hip-hop’s current torchbearer. Ty Dolla $ign, or TY$ as he is more widely known, is an amalgam of rhythmic talent and social commentary, representing the hip-hop generation and translating the virtues of the culture to millennials and the mainstream in one fell swoop. Equal parts urban poet and risqué persona, it is creation and commentary that propels his messages across the musical genres of hip-hop and R&B into a new archetype: turnt-up club bangers. TY$ is a master at translating booming speakers into canvases and painting portraits of lavishness and sexually-charged lyricism, knowing exactly what his ever expanding audience is looking for. “The big difference is that shit’s dumbed down more…and (the music is) R&B’d the fuck out. It’s completely different, but…it’s all good, it’s just growth and evolution.” says the Campaign crooner. On paper, the man is doing just that – the Grammy® award-nominated artist has quickly become one of the hip-hop’s most sought-after collaborators, with hip-hop royalty contributing to his highly acclaimed production and writing prowess. With the likes of Chris Brown, Kanye West, Fifth Harmony, Rihanna, Trey Songz, Wiz Khalifa and Snoop Dogg just to name a few that have collaborated with him, it’s his “Beach House” mixtape & EP series that has garnered him further attention, prompting Rolling Stone to call Ty one of the “10 New Artists You Need To Know back in 2014”. In reality, however, Ty is the polar opposite of his projected brash and salacious lifestyle, the epitome of the old adage ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’. In fact, Ty, not TY$, is a polite and down-to-earth young man that you’re more likely to catch sporting a pair of Vans and jamming to Bad Brains; than rocking some chic fashion label while popping bottles of Ace of Spades Champagne. Aside from his music career, Ty finds the importance of paying it forward and giving back to the community. He takes great pride in where he comes from and is grateful for having grown up there. “It was amazing. It’s my favorite place on earth, and I’ve been everywhere.” With his involvement in the ‘Schools not Prisons’ program, he aims to help bring awareness to communities about the issues in spending on prisons versus education and hopes to educate his incarcerated brethren about alternative living. “My brother is in prison and I found out that a gang of states wastes way more money on fucking prisons rather than people’s education, and that pisses me off. Some of my friends and I started a tour, where we’re able to talk to the people in prisons and encourage them to get out and do the right thing.” Having said that, we spend the day with the game’s hottest commodity and talk about his motivation behind the Dolla Day concert and what his life’s cheat codes are.
Your father was in the band LakeSide known for the hit song “Fantastic Voyage.” What was it like growing up in a musical home?
Growing up in a musical home meant I learned to play tons of instruments. I can play bass, drums, keyboards, piano, guitar… it was like a cheat code for me. I learned so much about music that I feel like I have an up on other cats around here, you know?
Who are some of the artists that inspired you along the way? And who would you collaborate with, anyone dead or alive?
Bob Marley is the one, dead or alive. And as for influences, damn, where do I start? Ron Isley, R Kelly, Dr. Dre, J-Dilla, Erick Sermon, Tupac, Lauryn Hill, Bad Brains; I could go on for hours, bro. Shit, I’ll just leave it that for now. There’s way too many.
You have an extremely eclectic taste in music. Do they influence your process?
I love all different types of music. Shit, you come to my dressing room, to my house, to my car, I’m always going to be playing something different. I’ll go from Gucci Mane to old school Bad Brains to Disclosure. I’m down with whatever. I might listen to Ariana Grande’s new shit or Unknown Mortal Orchestra. I’m a fan of all types of music. If I listen to one type of music, then I feel my music wouldn’t be anything. For instance, a keyboard has the keys A-G, and there’s only so much you could really do if you really think about it. If you listen to other genres, however, you might be inspired to arrange them differently. In fact, that’s another cheat code for you.
You’re a big 90’s hip-hop fan. What do you feel are the biggest differences between the hip-hop of today and that of one of the genre’s golden eras?
Well, the big difference is that shit’s dumbed down more. It’s funny – a long time ago, there was this intro on a Wu-Tang album about hip-hop and how people are going to turn it into R&B and fuck up the genre, and everything he said happened! [laughs] It’s watered down and R&B’d the fuck out. It’s completely different, but I appreciate the shit that’s out now. Honestly, some of its better than the shit back then. It’s all good, it’s just growth and evolution.
How did the deal with Taylor Gang come about?
I had met Wiz years ago through my homie at the studio. I was chillin’ on Twitter one day sometime between putting our Beach House 1 and 2, and I got a DM from Wiz saying that he and the whole gang had been listening to Beach House 1 during the entire tour and that he wanted to work together. So once he got back into town, we got in the studio and did like 11 songs in one day. I asked Wiz what he thought I should do and that’s when he came at me with a cool little situation. Shout out to Wiz man for putting a boost on my career; I got much respect for him, that’s for sure.
How does it feel knowing your debut album Free TC was considered one of 2015’s best albums? Does it add any pressure going into your sophomore album?
It’s so amazing that people loved it. Campaign is the segue to the sophomore album – I’m excited. No pressure though, because I’m always ready. I’ve always got shit up my sleeve.
You recently released a mixtape called Campaign. Can you tell us a little bit about it and why you chose that name?
Campaign was all about a song, and then the song turned into the name of a project, and then it became about the presidential campaign season. Then it all just worked itself out. Usually, when I start projects, they just seem to work out.
What was the motivation behind the Dolla Day concert?
I wanted to show my appreciation for the people in LA. I hadn’t done a show in LA since the EL Rey back in 2014, which is like 800 capacity at the most. Our show at the Palladium, which has a capacity of 4,000, sold out in like 5 minutes. It felt good to come back to the city and get so much love. I brought some of my favorite artists out, and it was just beautiful. I want to make this an annual thing, although I’m thinking about going from the Palladium to the Staples Center.
Let’s switch over to community and environment. What prompted your involvement in Schools Not Prisons program?
My brother is in prison and I found out that a gang of states wastes way more money on fucking prisons rather than people’s education, and that pisses me off. Some of my friends and I started a tour, where we’re able to talk to the people in prisons and encourage them to get out and do the right thing. It just feels good to do the right thing and give back to the community.
And speaking of the environment, what are your thoughts on our current political environment regarding the legalization of cannabis in California and other states this November?
Cannabis should be legalized everywhere. I have a lot of friends that can’t smoke it, so I don’t think it’s for everyone, but the people that do want or need it should be able to get it without any legal repercussions. So, yes on 64!
What are your favorite cannabis strains and why?
Anything OG really. Dolla $ign, Larry, Irene, Luigi… Anything that comes from Berner – I have been getting into his Cookies brand lately, and of course, KK!
Do you prefer to roll, dab or vape?
Roll all day, although I was vaping in the studio just the other day. Vaping is cool, dabbing is cool, but rolling is my all-time favorite.
What’s TY$ doing five years from now?
Selling out stadiums, killing it and bringing out new artists on his label and being amazing! [laughs] As for Ty, being the best dad ever and all around good guy.
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