As I recently discussed in a previous article, the vocal component of hip-hop is currently undergoing an evolution, producing some of the most exciting, diverse music we’ve heard in years.
Not only is singing becoming more commonplace in hip-hop, but a new generation of artists has emerged with an unparalleled confidence in their vocal delicacies. Artists like Smino, J.I.D, Pell, Allan Kingdom and countless others are helping to re-define the borders around hip-hop that once seemed destined to keep out creativity in the name of tradition.
Earlier this week, I was put onto a young artist by the name of T.Y.E, whose breakout single “La La Land” has taken the Dallas native’s local buzz and flung it into the national realm over the past six months. On his newly released single “Unusual,” T.Y.E packs damn near every reason you should be excited about his potential into a four-minute and 51-second song that I cannot for the life of me quit hitting repeat on.
Almost immediately, T.Y.E's background as an opera singer—a path brought on by choosing choir as an “easy class” in high school that eventually led to a full ride scholarship at Abilene Christian University—becomes apparent as his haunting bravado plods along a bed of piano chords and string arrangements before giving way to a drowsy drum pattern.
Opera is a “completely different style of music,” T.Y.E explained via email, but he finds a similarity in that, “the framework is the same.”
While the first half of “Unusual” takes its time building an atmosphere of muffled intensity, halfway through the track things take a sharp left turn and we’re treated to T.Y.E’s monstrous abilities as a rapper. Aggressive, double-time flows offer a sharp contrast to the track's hazy first half, a sort of musical microcosm of T.Y.E’s own mental space.
Despite being diagnosed with bipolar disorder after a suicide attempt in 2015, the 22-year-old makes no effort to disguise his past or his present in his music, especially in “Unusual” and “La La Land.” Having been diagnosed with bipolar myself, I’ve always had a secret fear that “getting better” would somehow be a detriment to my creativity. When I asked T.Y.E if he experiences this same fear, he responded matter-of-factly, “All the time. It shapes every decision made, daily.”
The lyrics in T.Y.E’s music are filled with the sort of dichotomous conflict you’d expect from an artist embroiled in treating a disorder that went undiagnosed for most of his life, but with a healthy dose of fear that it’s actually the driving force behind his artistic voice.
With his debut album slated for a June release through Passion of the Weiss’ POW Recordings, T.Y.E’s exhilarating brand of hip-hop is about to turn heads on a national level.