I first became familiar with rising Dallas talent T.Y.E after DJBooth Editor-in-Chief Z sent me his haunting video for “Unusual.” Almost immediately, I began to scour the web for every bit of information I could find about the artist born Tyler Harris so that I could write a fitting introduction to an artist I found to have some impressive potential.
As a singer, T.Y.E makes brilliant use of his background in opera to provide bravado and emotive energy to his music. As a rapper, he sounds like the sincerest form of today’s domineering sounds, trimming all the fat and keeping only the most impactful influences and sonic aesthetics.
Having been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, much of T.Y.E’s debut album, entitled 32, is centered around his struggles with a constantly fluctuating brain chemistry, and at no point does it come off as gimmicky or disingenuous. T.Y.E handles his affliction with creativity and relentless honesty, using his vast array of talents to provide a musical embodiment of his highest highs and lowest lows.
Three Standout Songs:
What instantly hit me on “Universe” is the production, as the beat is centered around a flip of the same sample of Woodkid’s “Iron” that is used by Kendrick Lamar on Section.80’s “Spiteful Chant.”
The familiarity doesn’t last long, however, as the beat gives way to a militant drum pattern with T.Y.E chopping swagger-packed lyrics over the sparse instrumental. Halfway through the song, the beat changes up again, allowing T.Y.E to pursue more orthodox deliveries as he expertly mixes vulnerability and unapologetic arrogance.
T.Y.E's innate understanding of when a sound or style has run its course is vital to his success as an artist. It's clear he has no problem reaching into his bag to pull out a new trick that is guaranteed to keep the listener's attention from faltering.
Directly following “Universe” is “Asshole,” a record that finds T.Y.E embracing his bipolar nature and translating it perfectly into a musical context. His gentle delivery throughout the track’s first two minutes lulls listeners into a dream-like immersion, with tiptoeing piano keys accenting his introspection.
Everything comes crashing down halfway through the song, however, right as T.Y.E laments, “I’d hate to think that one day Tyler Harris will turn to Tyler Durden.” An oppressive bassline cuts through the track’s serene vibe as T.Y.E introduces listeners to his anxiety with aggressive bars and guttural ad libs.
T.Y.E is at his most potent when he embraces his emotional duality and successfully translates these feelings into his lyrics.
Ahh, the record that jump-started my interest in T.Y.E. Within the context of the album, “Unusual” hits even harder than it did as a single. Everything about this track is hauntingly beautiful, from the ominous piano loop to T.Y.E’s operatic musings on his mental state.
A plodding, echoed drum pattern evokes memories of Portishead’s more chill-inducing tunes, and T.Y.E quickly gives up the dreamy singing for semi-automatic bars befitting of the track’s building freneticism.
On “Unusual,” the danger inherent in T.Y.E’s mind is palpable, but he’s the ultimate victim of his own internal atrocities.
As an introduction, 32 is potent, aggressive and memorable from start to finish. T.Y.E is captivating as a straight up emcee, but his vocal versatility adds texture and intense moments of emotive energy to the project’s 10 tracks. There’s a dream-like vibe that runs through the entirety of 32, with surreal soundscapes and lush vocal exercises often giving way to moments of nightmarish aggression.
32 is as much a show-and-tell of T.Y.E’s daily emotional roller coaster as it is an introduction to his abilities as an artist. The sequencing of the tracks and the harsh sonic switch-ups construct an emotional haunted house of sorts, allowing listeners to take an immersive journey through some of the thoughts and feelings T.Y.E has experienced throughout his life.
By the time I reached the end of the album, I felt like I had just awakened from a vivid nightmare, unsure if my surroundings were to be trusted. It’s an intense, unforgiving listen that provides as many moments of ecstasy as it does despondency. Ultimately, a balance is achieved that it would appear T.Y.E has been unable to replicate internally as of yet, opting instead to exercise his demons through music.
This decision not only benefits listeners immensely but, hopefully, will also benefit Tyler Harris, keeping him from turning into Tyler Durden.