Southern California’s new hip-hop chap Tyga wants to be king

Cussing. Boasting. Mummy: The sacred triptych of hip-hop. Chuck in some territorial posturing (our coast is better than your coast!), big name guest appearances and a video which jizzes a party-popper of misogyny all over MTV Base, and you’ve got yourself a guaranteed rap banger. It really is as simple as that. Promise.

Reducing any genre down to a set of tropes is an inherently glib exercise, but hip-hop undeniably revels in its own caricature, with artists presenting a fictionalised bloating of their lifestyle that depicts consumerism as a synonym of success. Reflected not just in braggadocio lyricism, the hip-hop aesthetic has permeated throughout all aspects of popular culture to become a defining metric of successive generations. Whilst this may all sound a bit Newsnight Review, the evolution of hip-hop is a fascinating example of music borne from marginalised circumstances coming in time to redefine the broader cultural landscape. Simon Schama will be all over this one day…

Now into its fifth decade, hip-hop shows no sign of middle-aged spread, with new blood perpetually revitalising the genre whilst their forefathers continue to offer support in terms of inspiration, tutorage and collaboration. Undoubtedly one of 2012’s most anticipated new-ish-comers is twenty-two-year-old Tyga; an LA-based rapper signed to Lil Wayne’s Young Money imprint and benefitting from a slew of big name endorsements. Known to the DVLA as Michael Ray Nguyen-Stevenson, Tyga (pronounced Tiger) first piqued attention with single ‘Coconut Juice’ in 2008, wherein he cannibalised Harry Nielson for a smiley hip-pop confection that drafted in cousin Travis McCoy from Gym Class Heroes to create a song which sounded, well, a bit like Gym Class Heroes.

Clearly wishing to move away from bouncy T4-friendly fare, Tyga has hard-boiled his sound into something altogether more mature and idiosyncratic during the intervening years. Speaking to Clash on the eve of the release of his new album ‘Careless World: Rise Of The Last King’, Tyga is refreshingly prosaic about what people can expect from his music. “I’m not going to say it’s a sound that’s new which no-one has heard, but I am doing it in my own way you know?” drawls Tyga in his distinctive Southern California accent. “I like to have fun. I suppose I’d call it car music, you know what I’m saying? Music you could just ride to or listen on headphones and it takes you to another place and lets you forget your situation and what is going on around you.”

Hip-hop has always provided people with the opportunity to live vicariously through the narrative of others and the theme of escapism is something which runs throughout Tyga’s music. But it’s not a non-stop party. Quite the contrary. “I wanted to relate to what was going on in the world, things that people maybe don’t talk about,” he reveals, “but the vision is something I made up in my head - it’s a world within my head. It’s my vision of what is going on and what I see. It’s love and war; all the types of things we do I guess.” Casting himself as the eponymous monarch, Tyga’s approach to the record was simple; literary. “It’s like creating a book. I mean, when you create a theme album like ‘Careless World: Rise Of The Last King’ it has to work like a story book, so you have that narration and people can follow the whole story. Once you get in the creative mood, ideas just pop up and you take them on. That’s the good thing with making music; there are no limits on what you can do.”

Words by Adam Park

This is an excerpt from the current issue of Clash magazine, out 9th February. Find out more about the issue HERE.

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