The British Music Experience (BME) at The 02 provided the perfect sense of intimacy for the select audience who attended the showcase and Q&A with internationally renowned British hip hop artist Ty. The night not only celebrated the release of the rapper’s forthcoming single ‘Heart is Breaking’ featuring Sway from his hotly acclaimed album, ‘Special Kind of Fool’, but for the entire month of June the BME will be exhibiting the exquisite Ty sculpture by Ben Wachenje as featured on the album cover.
The sculpture is a blend of wood, guitar strings (eye brows and lashes), pics (irises), ipod connections, USB leads and screws (hair) making it a true celebration of music. For Wachenje the sculptures creator, the art piece is a contemporary twist on West African traditions and one that he felt, “reflected TY's music”.
The Q&A facilitated by the British Music Experience’s curator Paul Lilley, was for Ty an ‘important moment’ and opportunity to truly engage with the audience in terms of why he makes the music that he does. As an artist who aspires to be, “a vocal piece for the community proving that is possible to have dialogue with rappers and break stereotypes”, Ty proved that he is not only well on his way, but already there.
Without a doubt there was a sense of genuine dialogue between the audience made up of a spectrum of cultures and generations and the rapper who was put through his paces with questions being fired from both the floor and via the live stream and tweets. Whilst he recognises that he is an artist and not a politician, having previously turned down a contributor invitation with Jeremy Paxman following Obama’s ingurgitation, his insight and integrity make him a captivating spokesman for the emerging era of black British music.
The real meat of the discussion touched on the legacy and reality of black music and even entertainment in Britain today, and the continual manipulation of youth and urban culture. In addition to combating the perceived link between of hip hop and youth violence, which he believes begins with the honest admission, like it or not, “it does contribute”. It is a matter of also emphasising the distinction between certain forms of rap and hip hop as a whole. In doing so he adds, "To effect change, you have to be that change. You have to make small steps, you can't save the world five times – you have to save your house first”.
In terms of Ty’s music, the video of ‘Emotions’ as featured on ‘Special Kind of Fool’, his fourth studio album, celebrates the diversity of different influences, which is at the core of the album. During a performance of the track on the night, a ‘jerking’ dance crew in attendance took the unique opportunity to subtly showcase and pitch their own talents in the hope of appearing in Ty’s next video, of which he agreed. Encapsulating the musicians own ethos of following your dreams, and ‘if you’ve got it now, do it now’ – in essence seize every opportunity.
As an artist who by his own admission probably has a greater following in Europe than in the UK, and is also a member of both Tony Adam's and the James Brown tribute bands he continues to seize varying opportunities to showcase his own talents.
Yet for Ty, he claims that Rain (Upwards, 2004) is probably amongst greatest compositions or the track which truly symbolises him and his music, proclaiming that, "You can start a record and mean one thing but the greatest validation is when someone listens to it and makes it their own”.
In keeping with the theme of African traditions, this was truly an evening reminiscent of the story telling customs in which forefathers passed on their wisdom and insights to an emerging generation – marking a new and exciting era for hip hop.
The new Ty album 'Special Kind Of Fool' is out now on BBE Records, and also available in The British Music Experience shop on CD and limited edition Vinyl.
By: Thuto Mali | Photo © Siobhan Bradshaw