It is safe to say that the state of Texas has solidified itself in hip-hop history, and out of the three major cities, Houston stands tall producing rap legends such as Scarface, UGK, Z-Ro, Chamillionaire, Slim Thug, Fat Pat, Willie D, Lil Keke, DJ Screw (I know he isn’t a rapper), and many more. The city even cultivated its own sound that has changed the landscape of hip-hop forever, arguably producing one of the most influential sounds and rap styles. The same can’t be said for Dallas, its sister city to the North.
Dallas is honestly more known for its sports teams, not for producing rap legends, that’s not to say they haven’t produced any stars though. There is Erykah Badu, The D.O.C, Dirty South Rydaz, Dorrough and more recently Post Malone (even though he doesn’t consider himself a rapper). There is even a new crop of rappers coming out of Dallas that has been making some noise locally such as GUN, The Outfit, TX, Yac The Mack, and C Struggs just to name a few.
One up and coming rapper hailing from the rough neighborhood of Oak Cliff, Dallas that should be more known than he is, but will soon get everything he deserves is 22-year-old Tyler Harris who goes by T.Y.E aka “The Youngest Elite.” Since a very young age music has been ingrained into his DNA, thanks to his father, Rich E Blaze who used to be a producer for the legendary Ohio rap group, Bone Thugs N Harmony. His older brothers rapped and sometimes he would even step in as the recording when needed. After absorbing so much from his father and brothers, T.Y.E would soon start writing his own raps.
By the time he got into high school, the young rapper added a crucial part to his repertoire, classical music. What started as an elective that he chose to in order to get “the hoes”, it became a passion and something that he eventually excelled in. This love for classical music landed him a scholarship to Albiene Christian University. However, his time there was cut short due to being admitted to a mental institution after trying to take his own life in 2015; while there he discovered that he was bi-polar and created one of his standout singles “La La Land.”
Since being diagnosed, T.Y.E has learned to deal with his mental illness day by day, channeling his depression and anxiety into his music, and from that he birthed his incredible debut album 32 which he released in June through POW Recordings. 32 is an amazing display of his talents, effectively combining his lyrical powers with his love for classical music, producing the entire album with his brother. T.Y.E describes the album as “one big anxiety attack”, it being very obvious when listening to the album, full of frantic beat switches that go from calm and soothing, to trunk rattling and booming, aggressive double time flows and hazy and haunting vocals. The album is very personal and finds T.Y.E wearing his mental illness on his sleeve, covering his pursuit of love and happiness while dealing with his depression, anxiety and environmental distractions. ‘32’ is a glimpse into the world through T.Y.E’s eyes and might be one of the best rap projects released this year.
You might not be familiar with T.Y.E now, but I promise you, it will only be a matter of time before he lands on your radar. His music is original and there isn’t anyone out there that sounds like him, lyrically, his ability is up there with the best of them and has a knack for making compelling music that will have you going back for more. By putting his mental health issues out there and speaking about his battle with his personal demons, if nothing else, he is lending a voice for people who are going through the same thing or something similar but can’t find a way to express themselves.
I had the opportunity to speak with T.Y.E about his amazing debut album 32, his influences, dealing with his mental health issues, and much more. Check out the interview below
What was it like growing up in Oak Cliff and how has it influenced your music?
Oak Cliff my environment, real street oriented, it’s the hood in Dallas I got a little street knowledge and doing things a certain way. That’s how it was normal hood sh*t.
Your pops Rich E Blaze used to be a producer and did some work with Bone Thugs and Harmony. How did he influence your rap career? Is he one of the reasons you started rapping?
Yea it’s like a family business for me. I was in the studio with him and my brother my whole life, like a n*gga doesn’t even feel comfortable unless I’m in the studio. He worked with a lot of artists, he worked with Krayzie and Lazy when they did there branch out thing ‘Mo Thugs’, he worked with Diane Warren too. He used to be a hood producer for all the hood n*ggas and sh*t then he turned up and started doing pop music so that’s kind of the different genres I’m into. So that’s his influence on me.
You are multi-talented and along with rapping, you are also a classically trained opera singer. When did you add that to your repertoire and how did you even get into opera in the first place?
More so classical music, it was Jordan commercial I think it was the 22’s or 21’s, and it’s a song on that commercial named “Lacrimosa” by Mozart and that’s when I got into classical music. The Opera thing came because I wanted to get an easy credit in high school. I always used to listen to classical music, just listening to sound track scores off of movies. So it was easy for me to get into opera and get into classicly singing with technique and everything just because of the background and what I actually listen to on a daily basis. In high school and college, I did the Opera thing.
When did you realize you could sing?
In Texas, there’s a competition where if you sing, you can make the TMEA State Choir and go to Austin and you get to sing. I made that, and I didn’t think I could sing bro. I’m in here for the easy credit so I can hoop, for the hoes and the snacks that y’all sell. That’s why I was there, but when I really just started singing, I started taking it serious, and I started realizing the things I can do with my instrument, my voice. I’m like damn, I don’t have to go to class, I get to miss class anytime I want, I don’t have truancy anymore, I like music so why not and I still get to hoop. I made the newspaper for basketball, but I wasn’t there at a game because I was singing for a State competition. So I’m like ok, I’m not ranked in State or in the Country for basketball but I’m ranked in the State and in the Country for singing so fuck it.
You touch on a lot of different topics in your music and utilize numerous flows. Who were some of your influences growing up?
First, Ice Cube. Ice Cube is my favorite rapper, not just for his talent in rapping but his songwriting, his stories. That was like the first rap I ever heard. He had ‘Westside Connection’ and you know there’s 3 of them, WC, Ice Cube and Mack 10 and he was the one that stood out to me. I dug in, I studied him from the songs he wrote for Eazy E, to the songs he did, later on, I just studied Ice Cube big time. Then Eminem’s “My Name Is” is probably one of the first songs I knew by heart. So, Eminem and Ice Cube are my rap influences, but as far as music as a whole, and musicality, Mozart, Danny Elfman, Hans Zimmer, and Diane Warren those are my people.
One of the topics you touch on a lot is dealing with your depression, anxiety and being bi-polar. Is it difficult putting so much of yourself into your music? When did you become more comfortable doing so?
It was at first when I first started doing the rap thing seriously because at the time I was being fake. I was being a fake ass n*gga, I was like ok this is how people do it, they getting the whole gang, and they shoot a video about hood sh*t. I can do hood sh*t, it wasn’t so much fake but it wasn’t me. I got hood sh*t, I got hood stories, I got hood mentality at some points, but for myself.
I went into the mental hospital in 2015 for the first time. I had always had anxiety, I had always had depression but when I went to the mental hospital everybody in the hood really knew what I was going through. That’s when it was like ok I can do this because my already know, and my people accept me for who I am, it just made it more comfortable. So after 2015, right after I came out the mental hospital I made the song “La La Land.” I wrote the song in my head while I was in the mental hospital. I was bored as hell I wanted to get out of there and I wanted to get out of Dallas. DanceDailey is the only person that hit me up when I was in the mental hospital and after that, it was just history.
How do you channel your anxiety, depression and being bipolar creatively? Does it help with the process or does it make it difficult at all?
It gets overwhelming sometimes, but if I can remember those feelings after it’s done it makes the songwriting that much more intimate. I use different drops in the beats to let the audience and me know that the anxiety attack is coming. I’m going to use “La La Land” for example when it first starts off I’m depressed, but I feel comfort in knowing that I’m going to kill myself. Real dark sh*t. I feel I am at peace, with ok, I’m not going to be here anymore, and everybody is going to be happy with me not being here, I’m not going to be in anybody’s way. I don’t want to deal with it, I want to get out of here, and I’m not going to have to suffer any more if I die. In a sense hoping that heaven and hell isn’t real because if I kill myself I’m definitely going to hell, maybe it’s just going to be an entirely of nothingness and I won’t have to suffer any more wishful thinking.
Then those thoughts of Christianity come back to you, heaven and hell, killing yourself, what it’s going to be like. The anxiety comes back to me or maybe I’m enlightened, there’s just so many different elements to that if I come to when the anxiety attack comes. If I come to, maybe I’m supposed to be here or maybe I’m back in hell. Depending on the audience, depending on how they want to take it. Me and my identity crisis, those are the two lanes I see, so creatively that how I imagine that.
You just released your debut album 32 in June. What’s the significance behind that number and why did you name your album that?
75232 is the zip code, relatively speaking my homies YG (Yung Guerillas) it’s a gang up there in Oak Cliff they stopped doing the whole gang thing and wanted to make YG a business. So they were “32.” 25 + 7, the twenty-fifth letter in the alphabet is “Y”, the seventh is “G”, 25 + 7 is “32.” That’s how they came about. The O.G’s of Oak Cliff, my O.G’s, they held me down with that sh*t. So 75232 is the zip code, the last two numbers are “32”
What was your creative process like when making 32?
How my environment influences my psyche. Dealing with hoes, dealing with money, dealing with religion. The religion one is a big thing that goes over a lot of people’s heads on the album. Down the street of Hampton where I’m from, there’s like 18, 19 different churches, in any hood there are more churches than anything. The reason being it’s so much harder in the hood, right, so religion just in the way how it influences your mind when you’re surrounded by so much evil, you go to the temple of Christ and you see how they try to uplift you even though you’re surrounded by nothing but darkness. Down Hampton there are 18 to 20 Churches, all these Churches and nobodies saved.
You seem to talk about love a lot as well on this project and it plays a major role, whether it be previous relationships or just searching for it. Can you tell me more about that?
Love for Christ or any religion, love from women, companionship, love from my family, love from my friends, love from my haters sometimes, even fake love. Love is a big part of living period. A lot of people talk about money, a lot of people talk about hoes, a lot of people talk about my n*ggas, but some of that love is artificial. For me personally, life is a legacy and my legacy will be told by my true loved ones. So if I die today the people that loved me the most will be the people that will continue my legacy or the people that will be at my wake, be at my funeral. That anxiety of feeling like nobody loves you, it f*cks with you. You don’t even have to be diagnosed with bipolar depression, or depression just to have the anxiety of feeling like your going to die alone.
People don’t like to give love a lot of credit becasue it makes you look weak. True happiness from my perspective is love. Money, that’s going to come in go. A lot of people make money for their loved ones, a lot of people make money to feel loved, a lot of people f*ck a lot of b*tches so they feel like b*tches love them. Honestly, if all the love that’s around you is artificial it creates a lot of if, ands, or buts, in your mind and a lot of doubt. So love influences most of my decision making throughout the whole day.
What else do you have planned for 2017?
DanceDailey and I are just working on some more visuals. I’m always in the studio so I have future songs coming out all the time, but Dailey and I are working on new videos for damn near every song on the album. Well just drop them randomly throughout the year.
Is there anything else you want to add?