The operative reaction to finding out Pusha-T likes your music? Nearly crashing your car. Such is the case for upcoming California rapper Tyler Thomas, who got the fateful call while driving. Thomas would go on to be one of 10 artists hand-picked by Pusha-T for his 1800 Tequila-partnered album, 1800 Seconds. The record is an incredible artist discovery tool. Ten artists, three minutes each, one album of who all could be next up in hip-hop.
"Oh, shit, it meant everything!" Thomas tells me over the phone. "That’s the reason I had so much confidence going in there. That’s one of my idols, so for him to pick me… It definitely was an aha moment for me. It made me feel a lot better, and translated into the performance of the track. [With the other artists] it became like a family, so it was very comfortable. That was all reflected in the song."
Thomas' track brings a "chill, classy" and "refined" feel to the album. He bridges old and new school flavors, with an emphasis on making music you can dance to regardless of your age. Before stepping into the studio, Thomas had most of the song floating around his mental, but make no mistake, he's a writer through and through.
"I write a lot beforehand," he says. "I went to go see my dad two weeks before and I had just spent time out there just writing and coming up with new songs, already having skeletons on paper and in my head before we get in there."
With the 1800 Seconds album under his belt, the plan from here is more content, more moves, and more successes: "Once I have all eyes on me, that’s all I feel like we really need. I’ve never had this type of support from people."
DJBooth's full interview with Tyler Thomas, lightly edited for content and clarity, follows below.
DJBooth: When did 1800 reach out to you initially?
Tyler Thomas: I almost crashed, I’ll admit. I picked up the phone, my boy called me. I was trying to figure out which way to go [in life]. Somebody throws you a little Hail Mary, that’s what this was for me. I just took advantage of it, to the best of my ability. It’s been awesome. Ever since that day I got the call, life just got a little bit simpler. I got to figure out what I want to do and how I want to do it.
Walk me through the process of the record.
I’m already in LA. When they came out here, we went in [the studio] and I played a bunch of records. The process of me making that record was honestly… I had most of it in my head and down, so it was mostly fine-tuning things and finding out what made a good cross between people dancing and every age group and every demographic being able to listen to something and still move. It was some old-school type bounce stuff. I felt like that incorporated the 1800 brand very well because it’s fine drinking. It’s more of a chill, classy type thing.
How would you define the energy you bring to the album?
I would say it’s more of a refined feel. You can still dance, but it’s not crazy. It’s fun, free. You don’t gotta look a certain way, just be smooth with every movement. It’s a grown-up, big boy thing.
What does it mean to have been hand-picked for this record?
Oh, shit, it meant everything! That’s the reason I had so much confidence going in there. That’s one of my idols, so for him to pick me… It definitely was an aha moment for me. It made me feel a lot better and translated into the performance of the track. [With the other artists] it became like a family, so it was very comfortable. That was all reflected in the song.
Biggest lesson learned from the process?
Nothing matters until it matters, basically. Nothing matters until it matters to people. You can talk all this, but if you bring it to the table and look like you’re in your element, come with it. Worry about how everybody sees you after.
Now, each song is around three minutes. So you have to make a big impact in a short time frame. How did that affect your creative process?
Time isn’t really much in there. I don’t really sit there and write everything down. The beat comes on, and I just jump in. A lot of my stuff isn’t written down.
How do you usually create?
I write a lot beforehand. I went to go see my dad two weeks before and I had just spent time out there just writing and coming up with new songs, already having skeletons on paper and in my head before we get in there. A lot of it is different topics I wanna talk about. Once I get in there, it’s time to go.
How do you fill in the skeleton once you’re in the booth?
I’m good at freestyling and staying on topic with stuff, then I’ll come up with stuff and replace. I just constantly practice and practice, so being able to stay on a storyline isn’t hard for me.
Is social media more important than music nowadays for upcoming artists?
I feel like it’s equally as important because you need to put yourself on a platform these days. It’s so crowded, and I feel like people are fiending for good music. It’s everything for you to make sure that they get it.
In 2018, what’s the best way to hook a fan as quickly as possible?
To show them the inner workings of how you do stuff. I like to record different sessions and give them sneak peeks and listen to it. People wanna know that you’re just like that, that you’re one step away making music that they enjoy. They wanna know that they’re one step away from being comfortable with themselves to make something crack. You’re one step away, all the time. That’s why I don’t really care if I mess up because it’s gonna happen.
How do you plan on using this opportunity to your advantage?
Stay ahead of the curve. Keep making more songs. Keep making more content. Once I have all eyes on me, that’s all I feel like we really need. I’ve never had this type of support from people. The 1800 team is just out of this world. They’re everything. Working with them has just taught me what I need in a team. They gave me the tools, for sure.