Ty - Awkward
Ty - Awkward
(CD/2xLP) Big Dada BD026, 2001-01-29
01. Rev. Cloud Speaks
02. Mind Made Up
03. Walk With Your Ego
04. Trippin' Over Words
05. The Tale
06. The Nonsense
07. She's Not Feeling Me At The Moment (skit)
11. You're So…
13. Front Free
14. Break The Lock
15. Shake Your Tings (skit)
16. Ghetto Perspective
Press Release :
'Awkward' may seem like an odd title for an album by a man like Ty. A veteran of hip hop, he is renowned more for an easy-going sense of humour and a relaxed sense of melody than he is for being difficult or a brain-mangler. But then, you're probably taking the meaning the wrong way.
First up, forget any negative connotations. For Ty, 'Awkward' just means "not being normal" – not fitting into the stereotypes, stepping away from the crowd and doing his own thing. It means, in short, being an artist who is true to himself and his own vision, wherever that takes him. "I never have fitted in with what's out there. I've never been the stereotypical."
Ty's strength of mind is legendary. His debut recording back in 1995 was on one of I.G. Culture's (New Sector Movement) legendary One Drop Inter Outer albums. He has worked with the likes of MC Mell'O', Jonzi D's Apricot Jam, and DJ Pogo and has recently featured on albums and singles by the Nextmen, Unsung Heroes, Funky DL, Procryptix and Krispy. He hosts one of London's best-known and longest running hip hop nights, Lyrical Lounge. In 1997 he released singles with well-known DJ Shortee Blitz. As a duo they are now signed to Bear Mountain, a US imprint owned and run by Maceo from De La Soul. He has appeared as a presenter on Channel 4's Flava. He has been invited to share the mic with luminaries such as Talib Kweli, De La and Jeru the Damaja. He has even dropped verses for Eric Benet! Yet, 'Awkward' is his debut album. Rather than rush into anything or deal with people he didn't want to deal with, he has waited, developing his material, developing his skill at putting over his character and personality on vinyl. Now he's ready to shine. "I'm not going to blow my horn but I am going to toot it. I've always done something slightly different to everyone else…"
But strength of mind doesn't just appear. It's forged by hard times and difficult circumstances. It's something that's possessed by the awkward outsiders not the smoothies on the inside.
Ty's family moved to the UK from Nigeria, although their son was born here in London. But, "in the early '70s when a lot of Nigerian people were settling here it was hard - to the point that you had to work all day and maybe all night and if you had children you couldn't look after them. So a lot of Nigerian children went through the fostering thing. Or part time fostering. And I was part of that. I was getting on two buses at the age of four, five. I had the responsibility of my little sister from quite an early age."
Although Ty was back with his parents fulltime by the age of six, the sense of being an outsider, of not belonging, remained. Then came hip hop: "It was in primary school, one of those parents' night. I was playing my xylopohone - I thought I was hip. Then these guys came in and started doing body popping to "ET's Boogie" and I was like "WHAT. IS. THIS?" Xylophones meant nothing. To this day I still wanna be them. They had me."
But the outsider status remained. Ty was a "secret hip hop listener" as his mother didn't approve. As a result he missed out on the whole 'Covent Garden scene', joining up later, more as a dancer than an MC. The decade that followed is what the album is grounded in – great times and great disappointments. Its culmination can be found in 'Awkward'.
"It was a healing process. It came at a point where I was very depressed. I kinda lost my momentum. And that's why it's not necessarily gonna be a straight hip hop album, a cliched, 'independent', Primo-copying style of album. I tried to find emotion in most of the songs."
Although Ty is eager to state that he is not a poet, he has long been involved in the spoken word/poetry scene, as well as running workshops in schools and beyond since his pivotal involvement in the mid-90s Ghetto Grammar organisation. He has taken lessons from this experience which set him apart from the norm. The most important of these was the injunction to "just be yourself".
The result is a record which shines with emotion (as well as sometimes being very funny). That's why it's as much a soul album (in the traditional sense) as a hip hop record. The "five year repeat college dropout" felt liberated by the chance to see a project through and finish it, to the extent that, "I feel like a Stevie Wonder. I feel like Hubert Laws right now. I'll walk into the studio and the engineer will be saying, 'What are you gonna do today?' and I don't know. You just go into the studio and create."
But with this sense of freedom also comes a sense of duty. "There's a lot of responsibility not being taken for the music that's out there. People can say, 'Oh it doesn't make people kill people'. Fine. But when Marvin Gaye made a record he made a record to inspire people. People are not making music to inspire people or giving people the best of themselves."
And in a sense this is what makes Ty's album such a landmark – he allows his complexities and contradictions to shine through, allows us to see him as a multifaceted, awkward, non-boxable individual. It's an approach backed up by a fiercesome technique, one which makes the complex look simple. He has made sure, for instance, that the rhyme pattern is different on every track on the record. 'Jealousy' talks about the green-eyed monster from three different standpoints. 'Front Free' is a boast song deliberately built without any specific disses. 'Hercules' is a song about being bullied which slyly turns the tables on the bully through the power of words. "Zaibo' is an international celebration of blackness and individuality and difference.
The cleverness never outweighs the emotion, though, or the humour. There's a whole person here and the best way to learn about him is to stop reading and start listening. To revel in the good times and the bad.
"I could be a dustman in twenty years," Ty ponders. "But I'm really enjoying this right now".
Enjoy it with him.