Ty Dolla $ign has taken over the airwaves and the rap game with his label mates at Taylor Gang Records. Founded by Wiz Khalifa, the new rap regime stars Ty, Juicy J, Chevy Woods, and a host of other talent. After first gaining notice on YG's track "Toot It and Boot It," which he wrote and produced, Ty quickly gained critical attention for his Beach House mixtapes and subsequent EP. "Paranoid," which you may have never heard of if you've been living under a rock the past two years, was and still is a certified party hit. After years of releasing singles and mixtapes, he's finally prepping to drop his debut album next month. We chat with the rapper about production, the meaning behind Free TC, and apple pipes.
Free TC has been under development for a long time. When did you realize it was finally finished and ready to go out into the world?
I realized it was finally finished after I added the strings from Benjamin Wright and it just sounded right. It’s currently getting mixed and mastered and then it’s ready for the world. So make sure you get that you little bitch you.
How does Free TC separate itself as an independent unit from your previous work? Or, would you say it is a culmination of everything you've done so far?
It’s definitely separate. This is an album, the others were just free projects. I put a lot more into this and I gave something to the people that’s worth their money. There’s more substance to this one.
You grew up with a range of influences from J Dilla to The Isley Brothers. Which artists that you grew up listening to do you keep finding influence your style as you work, either sonically or lyrically?
My style is a culmination of all the artists that I’ve listened to. I can’t name just one as to what’s influenced my style. I’m listening to Dilla, 2Pac, Chief Keef, Gucci Mane... can’t name just one.
You and many of your contemporaries are prone to creating collaborations with each other. How does the production process compare and contrast between having another artist imbue with their style versus working on a track solo?
Working on a track solo is always fun and they’re cool but it’s always exciting to have one of your favorite artists come through and spit their thoughts on a song you’re doing. It’s just textures.
You named the album to bring awareness to your brother TC, who was wrongfully charged for a crime he didn't commit. The rest of us aren't releasing hit records. What can we do to fight this kind of atrocity so it doesn't happen to others?
Let other people know about this cause. Support this album, which will let me go talk to more people and let them know this is what I’m fighting for. No more bullshit. Cops should wear cameras, there shouldn’t be no Sandra Bland’s, no TC’s, no wrongfully accused or treated. If we can change the laws together with this, there’s no telling what Dolla $ign will do next.
You recently visited Franklin-Wright Settlements in Detroit to speak with students. What was that day like and what subjects did you discuss with the teens there? How important is it to engage with the next generation?
That was one of the most important days of my life. I was honored to be there and thankful that the kids were up on my music and they allowed me to teach them. I let them know that whatever they wanted to be they can be it. I gave them examples of how me, YG and Mustard got on. Mustard didn’t do beats at first, YG didn’t even know how to record — I taught him at Atlantic studios. It’s not about shitting on the next person, it’s about teaching and learning with each other. I grew up in a similar area as these kids and wanted to know that someone looks like them can be successful vs having a white fireman or policeman coming in and trying to inspire them.
Typically a lot of beats are done electronically but you're multi-instrumental. How do you usually craft your sounds? You've brought out a guitar when on stage on a few occasions. Any chance we'll be hearing more live production elements in future tracks?
There’s definitely a lot of live instrumentation in my tracks and you’ll see more on stage but I won’t give away the magic potion.
Would you describe your writing process as free-flowing, let things stream out, or do you have more of a blueprint from the start?
They’re definitely more free-flowing — just coming from the airport. Sometime’s its pre-meditated.
What's the the most creative or out-of-the-world way you've gotten high. Was it a blunt sculpted as a piece of artwork or some kind of crazy technology?
It was probably when you carve out of an apple or the time I’ve made a bong out of an FIJI water bottle
Ty Dolla $ign's new album FREE TC releases November 13th via Atlantic. You can pre-order the album through http://smarturl.it/FreeTC, accompanied by 3 gratis downloads.
Photography by Chelsea Lauren
Interview by Jordan Blakeman
Hair by Robert Rea
Make up by Brandon Bentley