This gentleman surely doesn’t need an introduction but here goes anyway.
Ty is one of the UK’s longstanding and well loved and respected representatives of British Hip Hop blah, blah, blah, yadda, yadda, yadda. You should know who he is okay!
What we want to talk about is Ty’s recent stint as the Black James Bond. For whilst on a recent train journey to (he will explain where) he overheard a somewhat controversial conversation… and nosey-parker that I am, I had to ask him what went down…
What the hell happened on Monday?
So yesterday, I was on my way to Andover, a little town over near Basingstoke and Salisbury to deliver a Hip Hop Shakespeare workshop created by Akala, to some young people at Barnardo’s. I secured my table seat, relaxed and prepared to just think about the workshop on the 90-minute journey. About one or two stations in, three men rocked up and sat down in the opposite seats to mine. I paid no attention until I realised that they were music industry bods by the way they were talking. Confident, I wouldn’t say cocky, but they were assured in their mannerisms. My ears cocked up when I heard the words “great white hope”.
Let’s be clear, I don’t eavesdrop as a profession. I was caught between trying not to look astonished, trying not to look like I was listening and trying to figure out how to capture some of this casual boardroom banter that I was unknowingly being allowed to listen in on.
The sentence went like this; “So what’s going on in the world of great white hopes? Who’s next to do well? Who’s working and who’s not working?”
I heard… Lily Allen, Jessie J, Florence and the Machine, James Morrison, Robbie Williams, etc, etc. They went on to talk about mixes for songs and how they didn’t want them to sound too Hip Hop … Now the tone of their voices and the way they referenced Hip Hop made me feel like there was a general lack of love for it. (Let me stress, this didn’t feel like it was a meeting, just some A&R guys travelling together, chit-chatting about their work).
The conversation continued and not once did they mention any Black artists or ‘Urban’ artists (which is not a requirement), but the undertones were heavy – our music isn’t a top priority. At this point, I would urge you to read my timeline (@TyMusic) to see how it all transpired– I was tweeting as things were being said.
As an artist and member of the black music community, I wasn’t surprised by their comments because we know this attitude exists in the boardrooms and offices that we are not privy. But to sit on a train and have it confirmed by the very relaxed trio sat near me, that it’s not something I’m imagining or seeing in my head [that] people really are thinking along the lines of colour when considering artists. It’s not the first time, Amy Winehouse and Adele have predecessors in Cilla Black and Lulu, it’s heartbreaking and brings very serious questions.
Is it official that the mainstream white audience only want to buy music made by people who look like them? When was this established? Where are the polls? How come this isn’t public knowledge? Who’s been taking these polls? Can we see if they’re legit? I think folks need to check my timeline to see what was being discussed line for line as it occurred to get the full gist.
What did the Music officiando’s certify for you a British Afri-Carib musician?
What they quickly certified for me, is that it’s been decided that sounding Black is okay, but you being Black is not. It’s not sellable and is not desirable in mainstream UK, hence the lack of new, emerging Black Soul singers in the UK, doing what they want to do, NOT what radio is suggesting. It is scarce, Black females singing soul how they want to sing it, is at an all time low.
Most Black singers that I know have settled into backing singing in the UK for this very reason. There is a high demand for Black girls to be in the background in the UK, it’s a lucrative business; X-Factor, The Voice, all echo the same thing – if you’re Black and talented, that is not enough. If you’re white and you sing, similarly to the above, then you are truly amazing. Double, triple standards are occurring, and whenever it’s challenged by Black people, we are made to feel troublesome or agitated, or just bitter! Run down a list of Black and white girls singing soul over the past fifteen years in the UK, that have been given that Good Morning Britain access and you will struggle. IT’S NOT COINCIDENTAL FOLKS… WAKE UP!
What has been the biggest obstacle you’ve faced when trying to break your music into/onto the mainstream?
The biggest obstacle I face is being Black and British. Period! I wouldn’t change that for the world, so bring on the obstacles.
Some people who saw your now infamous tweets are saying that ‘we’ brought it on ourselves in regards to how disrespected black British artists are in the UK…What’s your opinion?
Whoever says we brought it on ourselves, I understand the real sentiment behind that line of accusation, but it’s too blanket. We never brought about such secrecy and skull-duggery in regards to the covert missions of music execs using our music cultures to bolster white musicians and never give credit to the source… i.e. break-dancing is in all formats of dance music yet we can’t have another programme like Dance Energy on TV that pushes our music? That’s free enterprise. That’s not entirely our fault surely?
What’s your take on the British Afri-Carib music scene today?
Unbalanced. We lost messages and struggle in music. We are covering up our wounds just to get on the battlefields, with no weapons or cause. Pointless. Music is much more than just feel good – it’s sustenance for people of all backgrounds and it’s not being delivered or allowed to even exist anymore. When Daryl Hall and John Oates did ‘Say No Go’, they had no idea it would touch people of all backgrounds. Same as Bob Marley. Omar just released an incredible album folks. What is going on? The Omar record is the best thing released this year – do you have it? If not, ask yourself why? That’s the issue that I agree with, we don’t support when it counts. Maybe because of that, we deserve all of the polite disregard afforded to us at the moment. We have to back brilliant music, straight away.
What are the new artists doing right and what are they doing wrong?
Artist’s are only doing what they are allowed to do. I can’t say what they are doing wrong, because it doesn’t start with them…
Hip Hop is renowned for the collaboration…who of the new school would you like to work with?
Boring question for me….Zzzzzzzzzz…. collaborations are not the be all and end all of music making. Creation, grind and process are more important than special guests.
*Tears up a plethora of boring questions…ahem* Hip Hop is also renowned for not honouring its foundation creators, do you feel the legends of UK hip hop are respected or even known by the new generations?
The legends are not respected but I don’t blame this on them, they are only doing what they learn from their society. It’s not their job to respect older or younger peeps, it’s their job to make music. It’s our job to comment and fix society, not theirs. If they don’t have an understanding of tradition and culture, that’s our fault, they’re the products of an ever deconstructing society, so I’m not surprised by the outcome. The only thing I would say, is for the younger generation to do more homework – YouTube exists. If the tools to teach a child to behave or have self respect are hidden, removed, exchanged and belittled, how can we be annoyed at the outcome?
All that aside, you’ve had a re-surge of interest in the Ty brand and music with your latest releases circulating well and your EP launch event going down as one of the must have attended events of 2013…How are you finding this new lease of support?
This new appreciation is well deserved and hard happy work, so I am over the moon that people are feeling the latest music.
What’s next for you Mr Ty?
Some acting. Some more music, a new album is being made. More exciting ventures with Tru Thoughts (my label), European adventures, more international collabs are in the making and, the documentary on me.
A Kick Snare And An Idea Part One is out now on Tru Thoughts: http://bit.ly/aksaai_itunes
A Kick Snare And An Idea Part Two is out now on Tru Thoughts: http://smarturl.it/kicksnareandanidea2