Ty should be massive, but he isn’t. The intelligence and humour of his material whacks you over the head. Sometimes compared to Kanye West (but much less dull, musically), Ty has been touted as a serious British contender whose natural flow and ear for a catchy rhythm produce a dynamite sound.
Is he really that good? Maybe not three years ago when his previous album, Upwards, was nominated for a Mercury Music Prize (you know how they like to have a bit of everything on the list to show how open minded and inclusive the prize is). But now, yes, he’s really realised his potential.
Leeching beats from all over the place, he has the musical variety to get you up on your feet then chill you right down and the sense not to over complicate things unnecessarily. Like Bubba Sparxxx, Ty’s music appears a lot more casually put together than it is, but somehow sucks you into a private world of repeated motifs and exciting linguistic twists.
Also like Sparxxx he has an easy, playful sense of rhyme that never sounds forced, a willingness to use a banal rhyme or image if it’s appropriate, and a killer way with ludicrous overstatement.
The opening track, Don’t Watch That parodies media gossip mongering – “I love fat girls dipped in marzipan” – over a solid, funky riff. This Hear Music cools it right down, mixing in organ samples and choral singing for a foot-tapping, pop feel while Arrested Development’s Speech shares vocal duties.
In the three years since Upwards Ty has been making friends in the States while touring. Thus we get guest spots from the likes of De La Soul, exceedingly sweet on The Idea; Bahamadia and Zion I on the exceptionally grabby single contender Oh!
Basement Jaxx co-conspirator Vula guests on L.O.V.E, another standout that’s startlingly different from the music surrounding it, cool and intricately rhythmic. Ty is very good at juxtaposing different songs to give the album pace and shape. Both Closer, which is probably the closest track to the material on Upward, and L.O.V.E. benefit from being sandwiched between the more open, forceful sounds typical of the album. He’s also good at using his guest stars to their greatest potential without the listener losing the fact that it’s a Ty album, not a hip hop grab bag.
Whether Closer can propel him to stardom in the US is debatable and probably depends on making some killer videos. These catchy and eminently-approachable tunes will turn out to be too clever with too few references to round buttocks and overpriced champagne, to reach a wider audience.