Ahead of teaming up with Rodney P and Blak Twang for the Kingdem tour, we spoke to London rapper Ty about his latest release, sample joy and the art of the struggle.
Date published: 31st Jan 2019
With a debut album, Awkward, released in 2001 via Roots Manuva's Big Dada label rapper Ty is considerably part of the furniture as far as the hip hop scene in the UK goes, harking back to its earliest period of popularity.
His first release is a triumph of laid back beats, frank lyrics and melodic ear worms such as 'Break The Lock' and 'You're so...' that make the album so brilliant - and these features attributes continue throughout Ty's follow ups, the Mercury nominated Upwards plus Closer and A Special Kind Of Fool.
Multiple singles and E.Ps have followed, while 2018 saw the rapper deliver a full length studio release for the first time in eight years in the shape of A Work Of Heart - again displaying an assured calmness in delivery a love for sampling that has been ever present in his work.
This year Ty goes on tour with fellow ambassadors of UK rap Blak Twang and Rodney P to deliver a masterclass in beats and bars on The King Dem tour and ahead of those gigs we were lucky enough to catch up with Ty.
It’s been some 18 years since your first album dropped - but with ‘A Work Of Heart’ where does Ty sit in the UK hip hop scene right now? What are your goals as an artist within the rap scene?
It’s been 18 years since my first official album “awkward” dropped but before that I had a further 12 years of establishing myself as an artist in the uk and travelling around making a name for myself so that’s 30 years actually. My goals have been to establish myself as a unique artist , have my own style and also to not be caught up in hype of being an artist. Time isn’t a consideration when it comes to music for me. I don’t consider art a young persons playground only, I’m an artist for life.
What obstacles do new rappers trying to break into the scene face now do you think? Conversely what benefits are there to releasing music as a rapper now?
I’m not sure what obstacles new rappers face; they have a whole new world to deal with.
Unfortunately the true meaning of hip hop isn’t so easily digested now so a lot of new artists are having to find themselves and find what it is they are trying to do, on their own. Obviously releasing music is easier. But that doesn’t make the art better sometimes. Take away some struggles and you create new struggles, it’s like for like.
Comparing that to your own experiences when Awkward came out - what problems / benefits did you face?
When I released Awkward I was already a seasoned artist making demos and recording my material, I already knew what it was like to rock an audience and travel around. Awkward wasn’t the beginning of my career basically and so I think all people have problems in any field of work or career but it’s how you push through and what you learn that’s important. I had to learn how to not walk with the pack.
As a producer what is more rewarding - sourcing a great sample to use in your tracks, or creating your own killer hook from scratch?
Both. Sourcing some material, and sometimes making the material from scratch can be the same thing, it’s all about process.
It's all about building an idea, developing an idea and delivering an idea. Everything in between is just process.
In the short film that accompanies A Work Of Heart you talk about your love for cutting up samples - how long typically would you spend on a track in perfecting the bit or getting the sample just right? Is it the kind of thing where you obsess to a point it keeps you up at night?
It’s a life thing. if I’m in the mood it can happen quickly or I can come back t something I started years ago and simple solve the puzzle.
I’m messy my ideas are all over the place, I’m not a methodical guy and so I stumble through things and make mistakes and make rubbish music as well as good music that no one will ever hear. I generally wait for the lightning to strike to take something to the next level so sometimes I don’t hear the song or the hook straight away. I’ve learned to switch on when I need to...but sometimes it comes out of nowhere and I’m grateful for that feeling.
You also say attention to detail is changing in hip hop is dying in this era - what do you mean by that specifically? are there any tracks or artists that you have heard that you think could benefit from more attention to detail?
Technology and opportunity has made making hip hop music a doodle but also folks are missing the point of process. A little of everything is available which means if you don’t have to struggle you might not appreciate what you have available.
I remember what it felt like to have to save up and wait to be able to get in a studio. And work with an an engineer and find ways to make your song work and those moments were golden.
The fact that you can do everything from your bedroom now means some of that knowledge is being left out, some of the tricks are being lost. Things like recording to tape are deemed unnecessary now, which is a shame.
Do you think hip hop is given the platform it deserves in British music nowadays?
UK Hip hop is not given the platform it deserves.
What’s come after it is benefitting much more, which is great for the new artists and scenes and I hope they run with it and don’t look back at uk hip hop as a failed genre because it isn’t.
Thing are titled as UK hip hop by journalists and new labels with no appreciation of what’s come before or still exists and that’s just confusing to me.
I want it all to succeed but there needs to be an understanding of the true origins and developments of uk hip hop in this country, you can’t just cut and paste titles and labels.
Could you please talk about the Kingdem tour, who is involved, the reasons behind the tour and what fans can expect and look forward to?
The Kingdem tour is exciting it’s an artist led movement where legends like Blak Twang, Rodney and myself have created a live show to celebrate our existence, our legacy and general hip hop importance for the uk to enjoy. This is not about claiming to be the best it’s something deeper.
We are calling the shots. We’ve put ourselves out there to show that there is an audience, there is a culture and there is a legacy of great UK music being made and already existing and we are inviting everybody to the table to witness it.