UK MC/producer Ty looks back on the making of his album Closer, the follow-up to 2003’s Mercury-nominated, Upwards. ‘Generally, everything just came together really well. Everyone’s intentions, as far as getting the music done, were great. It all came together through a constant chopping of ideas. Sometimes I would leave an idea alone for a while and we would come back to it later. And some songs just happened. For example, ‘Hustle’ just happened. It was written in New York with Rich Medina. We were kicking it and it just leapt out’.
When Ty first broke onto the burgeoning hip-hop scene in the mid-90s, he found himself surrounded by only a few likeminded artists who similarly eschewed the American version of the genre, determined to put their own British stamp on things and consequently rejecting the commercial rules of the industry. These days, very little has changed. Except that Ty is not so lonely anymore. ‘Rap music is dead’, he proclaims.’Hip-hop music can be resurrected, but only in the hands of people who understand and appreciate its importance. Modern day conglomerates do not understand that at all’.
Creating a soulful blend of funk, jazz and hip-hop delivered with a serving of thought-provoking lyrics designed to both humour and attack, Ty refused to conform to any one genre or style. From his 2001 debut, Awkward, to 2006’s Closer, he has thrown spoken-word poetry, Nigerian and afro-beat into the melting pot, a direct influence of the eclectic childhood he experienced.
Growing up in Brixton, Ty was put into fostering for a brief period before returning to his Nigerian parents. Their strict nature forbade him from playing any popular music, and he was forced to listen to what he could secretly. He would memorise the lyrics and melodies in an effort to prolong the music in his head long after the radio was furtively hidden away. The leap into music occurred after a few years of immersing himself into the spoken-word scene and being heavily involved in the Ghetto Grammar organization – a group that strongly encouraged the DIY aesthetic that remains in his work today. ‘I decided to follow my dreams when I felt confident enough to do that’, he explains. ‘It was hard and still is. But I’m glad I did it. The worst part of this decision to make music, however, was having to accept the fact that race will always play a hand in how far I can go. I wish it wasn’t true, but I can’t lie – it really seems to be!’
The Mercury-nominated Upwards, documented this very subject, with Ty tackling the topic in a honest and thoughtful way. But now with Closer having just been released, Ty says that this is an album purely crafted for the enjoyment of music, and nothing more. ‘Closer is different from the last in that it’s a different tempo, harder, more in your face and bangs on the eardrums. There is no real message. This is simply music to enjoy and to dance to’.