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Tyrone Griffith was always destined to become a West Coast star. Born and raised in LA, the singer, producer and multi-instrumentalist fell in love with hip-hop while learning about the genre’s DNA from his father – a session musician whose CV included work with the longstanding funk band Lakeside and the Death Row Records roster. Since forming a tight bond with Compton rapper YG and the hit-making producer DJ Mustard, Ty’s career has remained on an upward trajectory. His solo material is defined his gold-toned singing voice and his sleazy, sexually explicit lyricism, while his gift for writing unforgettable melodies has led him to work on hits such as Kanye West and Paul McCartney’s Only One. After numerous attempts to reach out to him, Ty picked up the phone at 1am to discuss the evolution of his career.

Early Years: Father’s Influence

My dad was a musician, he had instruments all over the house, so I picked them up naturally. He was always on tour really, then he’d be in the studio making music, staying up all night, and keeping me up [laughs]. I eventually started wanting to do it, when I picked up the guitar and the bass, was playing on the keys and figuring out that I could learn to play any song that I heard on the radio, then I knew that it was meant for me to do music. 

Mid-to-late 90s: Embracing hip-hop

Around the house, I’d hear all my dad’s homies, from Earth, Wind, Fire to Rick James, to Parliament / Funkadelic. And then on the radio, you had Ice Cube, Tupac and Snoop Dogg and shit, and that’s what I wanted to listen to! So I’d sneak and get the tapes and shit, my mom found them, ripped them up and made me break them. I’d end up going to buy them again! I met Tupac when dad was working with the guys from the group Digital Underground. Tupac just happened to be there at the crib in Oakland. I remember he’d just woken up, he was still in his drawers [laughs]. He came out, he had a cigarette, he shook my hand and he just kept on pushing.

2009: Hooking up with YG and DJ Mustard

My big homie big B, who was also YG’s manager at the time, he told me ‘Yo I want you to work this cat named YG from Compton. He’s hard, he’s got it poppin’ right now.’ Then like the third song we did was Toot It and Boot It, and with everything I dropped after that, the numbers just kept on rising, and rising, and rising. Mustard at that time, he was just DJing and shit. He’d always come over and we’d shoot dice, just be fucking around. But Mustard is a genius, and he really started from just DJing and not doing any beats, to becoming the biggest producer in the world. I’ve been doing beats forever, so that was crazy right there.

2010 – Present: Coping with success

I’ve had a couple of arguments with certain friends who feel like you owe them something, or that they’re doing bad and I’m doing good so why don’t I just hook them up with something they want. I just have to really look them in the eye, like ‘You really just asked me for a handout? Pussy. Can I record this right now and play it back to you?’ [laughs] So that’s the only problems I’ve run into. But other than that, all my real friends are still here right now. Whoever was gonna be around me whether I got big or not – that’s who I want around me. 

Present: build up to debut album Free TC

The album is dedicated to my little brother TC, who’s locked up for something he didn’t do. It’s basically a body of dope ass songs put together as a conversation with me and him, you get to hear what he thinks about what’s going on and what I think about what’s going on. I’m excited for that shit to drop, I got some crazy production on there, a lot more instruments on there. It’s not just like my mixtapes. It’s not trying to be a party joint. There’s a couple of party songs on there, but it’s more about some real shit.

Free TC is expected to be released later this year