Ty Dolla $ign Talks Joining Taylor Gang & Evolving Past Ratchet Music
Exclusive: Ty Dolla $ign Explains why one of his biggest hits wasn't his favorite, how he joined Wiz Khalifa's Taylor Gang & where he was the day Tupac died.
Hip Hop and R&B have often made for strange bedfellows. For every Teddy Riley-inspired New Jack Swing movement, there’s a facepalm moment when someone like Prince tries to showcase their rhyming skills—or lack thereof. Add in the fact that for decades, with the exception of Clarence Carter and/or Millie Jackson types, most soul singers were too skittish to sing about sexual and emotional relations in frank, explicit terms, and most hardcore Hip Hop fans were just turned off. Given that he’s fine singing, “I bet you can’t do that with my dick in it” to strippers, Ty Dolla $ign clearly doesn’t have that problem.
“I think they’re just saying that because I’m talkin’ real nigga shit but I’m singing it,” Ty says of his candor and being compared to R. Kelly. “So that’s the comparison, and people always want a comparison.”
To hear Ty tell it, the current period he calls “being on his ratchet shit” almost didn’t happen. Fans of his early work may recall collaborations with Sa-Ra Creative Partners that leaned more toward the Neo-Soul side.
“I used to make Dilla sounding shit, and a lot of people felt that,” Ty explained. “I didn’t like ‘Toot It And Boot It.’ And then the people liked it, and I learned I was trippin’.” Clearly, Ty Dolla $ign is a man of the people. And it’s safe to assume the people downloading him taking about getting ratchet in his Benz can also relate to the dichotomy of him liking Ella Fitzgerald and Gospel songstress Kim Burrell. Since the average listener is prone to sinning on Saturday night and repenting for it the next morning, Ty may just have all his bases covered with the type of crossover appeal that brings in ratchets and aspiring saints alike.
Ty Dolla $ign On His Influences & Joining Taylor Gang
HipHopDX: So you recently finished Beach House 2…why a sequel?
Ty Dolla $ign: Why a sequel? Because that shit was hard [laughs].
DX: What expectations are there from the fans just based off the fact that it’s part two of something they were so familiar with?
Ty Dolla $ign: I never thought about that, but it makes sense though. It makes sense. Definitely, it’s just the second mixtape. I just wanted to go with that same vibe. It’s the same vibe of music, but it’s a little better, so that’s why I called it that. I might do House On The Hill 2 one day, and then I’ll go back to the electronic sound. It’s that body of work taken to the next level. When I do Beach House 3—which I will—it’ll be that same sound but on another level.
DX: As someone who plays instruments and sings—a true musician—do you see a lot of that among your peers?
Ty Dolla $ign: No, not really at all. But there are the ones you don’t hear about, and I know them all. There’s a lot for sure. As far as the famous producers and all that, I haven’t met many that are musicians.
DX: So who is your inspiration? Who do you strive to…
Ty Dolla $ign: The old school people. Pops and all his friends, The Isley Brothers, Babyface… fuckin’ all the dope people that have chord changes and actually take their craft serious. Right now, Hit-Boy that’s my boy. We came up around the same time. He’s incredible, and he knows how to play, so I respect him.
DX: He’s pushing to be an emcee on these last few projects.
Ty Dolla $ign: He’s gonna do his shit. He’s going to get better and better ‘cause he takes his shit serious.
DX: What was the motivation behind linking with Taylor Gang?
Ty Dolla $ign: Taylor Gang…with Wiz [Khalifa] being the homie. We really started tweeting back and forth when I put out Beach House 1. He was like, “This shit is hard…” I’m like, “Yo, let’s link and let’s do music.” We just started doing shit; we did hella songs. He was like, “Yo, I want you to be down.” I was like, “Shit, man I’m down. Let’s get this shit poppin’.” So now we’re doing our shit.
DX: You and Wiz are both pretty prolific, and Wiz made his own lane in a sense. What are the conversations like within Taylor Gang—not even with Wiz—or even with Atlantic about remaining an artist?
Ty Dolla $ign: Some people at Atlantic want me to be this way, and luckily my dude, Sean, he’s letting me do my thing and he believes in me. Taylor Gang believes in me too. They tell me, “Do you, man. Whatever you’re doing has been working. Let’s just keep on doing that.” So we’re just gonna build it up.
Why Ty Dolla $ign Is Honored By R. Kelly Comparisons
DX: At your album listening for Beach House 2, it kind of felt like I was listening to R. Kelly’s TP2.com. Is that a fair comparison?
Ty Dolla $ign: They’ve been comparing me to R. Kelly, and I take it as an honor because R. Kelly was incredible to me. He’s a real musician. He’s the same, and he produces too. I’m not gonna say I’m as great. Hopefully I’ll be that great one day. If the people think I am already, I say, “Thank you.”
DX: I just can’t imagine getting compared to someone of that magnitude no matter how great my resume is. Do you ever ask, “Do I deserve this?”
Ty Dolla $ign: I feel like I’ll really deserve it when I sell as many records and then make an “I Believe I Can Fly” [laughs]. I don’t try to sound like him and shit. I feel like I sound like myself. I think they’re just saying that because I’m talkin’ real nigga shit but I’m singing it. So that’s the comparison, and people always want a comparison.
DX: I think that’s interesting. We talked about you living in Brooklyn at one time. In your eyes, what are the major differences between Brooklyn and LA?
Ty Dolla $ign: Out here, people are more worried about flossin’ and bein’ in your Benz and whatever. [People are concerned] with the whole look and shit. Out there, everybody’s fly and more down to earth. I’m not gonna say people out here aren’t down to earth and shit, but it’s just a different vibe. It’s Hollywood here and out there it’s more gutter and shit.
DX: Creatively, do you have a preference?
Ty Dolla $ign: [Laughs] I fuck with LA…c’mon, man. When you’re out in New York—out there, it’s either hot as fuck and you’ll be wet, or you’re like, “It’s time to go. It’s cold.” Fuck that, right now we’d be wet out there.
DX: Creatively, do they evoke a different response? Does your music sound differently depending on where you make it?
Ty Dolla $ign: I actually made a couple songs from the tape out there. It’s not on [Beach House 2], but “She Like It When I” with me and Tee Flii was done like that. I did my part in New York with Terrace Martin out there. So, I don’t know… I wouldn’t say it makes it sound different.
DX: What about something like Kanye West flying that all-star cast out to Hawaii for My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy? It seems like that environment would produce a different kind of music.
Ty Dolla $ign: If you stay for a period of time, I think it would. When I was out there for a year or two, I probably had a different sound then I do right now ‘cause that’s all I’m listening to. When you go to the clubs it’s the same shit. There’s more French Montana and all that shit. They’re more on some ratchet shit.
DX: Yeah, you’re probably overloaded on Problem right now. Tell me about the studio session when you recorded “I’m Irie.”
Ty Dolla $ign: I was at the crib in Hollywood. It was me and my boy Parker—my roommate and shit—was just talkin’ shit goin’ back and forth. Two other homies were in the living room or whatever, and I got on the mic and started getting on a song as a joke. Then I did the whole verse and came up with the hook, and everybody was goin’ crazy, so I took it to Wiz. I played it to him at Serenity right down the street. He was like, “This shit bang.” I said, “Hop on it!” He hopped on it, and it was on from there. We made the video, and it’s gonna come out soon. It was cool cause everybody was excited and shit. I know it’s a new song, but just to see that excitement was cool. It might do somethin’.
DX: I’ve been hearing the tape around the city all weekend. I keep hearing “I’m Irie,” and what’s the other song?
Ty Dolla $ign: Probably “Paranoid,” but everybody else has their different preferences.
DX: The project goes so well with weed that it’s incredible. What’s the ideal environment to play this project?
Ty Dolla $ign: Listen to it in the car, the club, the crib… on the beach house at your apartment, wherever. It’ll put you in the zone at the beach house, even if you’re just listening to it in the hood.
DX: Do you ever get scared about how people will respond to your music?
Ty Dolla $ign: Nah, definitely not. I definitely have homies around the whole time. I’m always asking the room, “What y’all think?” I’ll always know what’s the shit.
DX: When was the last time you made something that the homies weren’t feeling?
Ty Dolla $ign: All the time. I always get, “Yo, you trippin’…you’re going too far.” That’s why I always fuck with the homies. They are not yes-men at all.
How Ty Dolla $ign Embraced The Ratchet Sub-genre
DX: So have you ever gone ahead anyway and put out something they didn’t like?
Ty Dolla $ign: Definitely. I’ve put out shit that I didn’t like. I didn’t like “Toot It And Boot It.” And then the people liked it, and I learned I was trippin’. It taught me that maybe I’m going too far. I used to make Dilla sounding shit, and a lot of people felt that. But when I made “Toot It And Boot It,” it was like, “Okay, maybe I’m trippin’.” So I’m still doing me, and I’m still tryin’ to find that shit. But I still gotta make what I wanna make at the end of the day.
DX: What made you put out “Toot It And Boot It” anyway if you really didn’t like it?
Ty Dolla $ign: Everybody loved it, and YG wanted it. It went, and it changed my life. So I started listening to YG and [DJ] Mustard more.
DX: [Laughs] Word up. So what’s next for you?
Ty Dolla $ign: I’m definitely going on this “Under The Influence Of Music 2” tour with Wiz so I can experience that. I’ve been on a couple tours before and YG went on one. I went on Drake’s tour, and Waka Flocka Flame took me and Joe Moses out. So now, I’m about to go on this one. I’ll come back and go on tour with YG, then come back and do my own tour. I think in October I’m gonna drop another Beach House project just because. Fuck that. I gotta stay in everybody’s ears, and it’s gonna go up another notch too. I’ma go hard.
DX: Did you hear Magna Carta Holy Grail?
Ty Dolla $ign: Yeah, I loved it. I listened to it the day it came out, and I listened to the whole thing. The only one I skipped was the last one. I don’t remember what it was, but the rest of it was immaculate. It definitely made me wanna go to the studio and just work on lyrics more. That made me want to talk about other shit and be more inspiring…grow. That’s the one thing I like about Jay-Z—I’m not gonn lie. I’m from LA, so I was a big Tupac fan at one time. Tupac said, “Fuck, Jay-Z,” so at the time I wasn’t listening to Jay-Z shit. But then recently, I saw his growth and how he got away from this shit and went to that shit. It’s cool to grow up and do your shit. So I fuck with Jay-Z hard… everything he does and his raps. He’s dope. I wanna work with him one day.
DX: He put this album out with Samsung. As an artist that is also selling music, have you thought about that model? Is that another way to think about putting out records?
Ty Dolla $ign: That’s definitely another way to think about it, but it would have to be something like Jay-Z I’m sure. Shit, it’s gonna happen though. Music speaks for itself, and the music will always sell.
DX: Did you listen to Yeezus?
Ty Dolla $ign: Yeah, I listened to that too. The first time I listened to it I was like, “What the fuck?” But then I listened to it in my car, and I got beat in there. So I saw that he went in. The production is crazy. It’s cool.
DX: If you had to list your top three R&B acts…
Ty Dolla $ign: I would say Kim Burrell—she’s a gospel singer though. Ella Fitzgerald, that’s like old school R&B. Then I would say any Isley Brothers…Ron Isley is incredible.
DX: What strikes you about Ella Fitzgerald?
Ty Dolla $ign: The control that she has in her voice, because when you try to sing something of hers, you have to catch yourself because of how hard it is. You’re like, “Oh, shit. Let me do that again.” It’s the same thing with Kim Burrell. You gotta like go in on your craft. I’ll just listen to them all day, try to do their shit and get better and better.
DX: And the Isley Brothers?
Ty Dolla $ign: It’s the same thing. His tone and even the rest of the band—Ernie Isley on the guitar—it shows you it’s not just about getting the string. It’s about how you hold that mothafucka. It takes time, and that’s what a lot of people don’t do these days. They don’t take time with their shit. I’m still learning. I’m not gonna say I’m the best at something. The problem with me is I’ll try to play everything. I’ll say my production is there, but as far as learning and playing each different instrument, I’m getting better and better. I’m learning. The bass guitar is my main shit.
DX: What was the point when you realized, “I can do this?” When does it change from, “I want to do this,” to “I can do this?”
Ty Dolla $ign: When I seen YG go out there and do his shit, because he came from nothing. I always did music and knew I had it, but I said, “Fuck this. I gotta start doin’ this shit.” Then people started fuckin’ with it, and that was dope. So the mentality was, “Let’s get better at this shit.”
DX: When was that?
Ty Dolla $ign: Like ’09. I’ve been knowing YG since like ’08. And we achieve longevity by just putting out quality music and not what’s hot at the time. You gotta make the shit that lasts. You can probably put on Beach House 1 right now, ‘cause it’s not like what you hear everyday. There’s elements of what you hear everyday, because you gotta give them what they know. But you gotta give them that classic guitar, piano, rhodes and that organ…harmonies and shit. That’s the difference.
DX: Where were you when Tupac died?
Ty Dolla $ign: I was somewhere young as a mothafucka…I don’t know. I was probably in LA somewhere. Actually my pops—he was playin’ all the the Death Row Records at the time. So he was close in, and I remember the day before they said [Tupac] was all right, but then the next day he died. It was fucked up, because that was one of my favorite rappers. I was on all his underground shit like Makaveli all the way through part seven. He had that, “Who Do You Believe In?” and all those songs. At the time, my parents were going through a divorce and my grandmother and my aunt died. Everything hit me like, “Damn,” so listening to his shit just helped a nigga. That’s what I want to do—make music that has that effect. Right now I’m on my ratchet shit, but it’s gonna progress.
DX: You talked about the lack of instrumentation earlier. Who do you see that’s actually doing it well?
Ty Dolla $ign: There’s a lot of people…‘Ye does it. I heard it on Jay-Z’s album on the one that Hit-Boy produced on there. They actually gave me the CD with all the old Atlantic records and shit that they have. It’s on there. I heard it, and was like, “Fuck, I was slippin’,” It’s just not that though. He took that and had pianos and bunch of other shit. Hit-Boy does his shit. He has violins on his shit…just adding shit. That shit matters for kids to still learn that shit.