At this year's NXNE, The FADER's president and publisher Andy Cohn sat down with Ty Dolla $ign for a chat about the music business, and how artists and brands work together. Here are the most important moments from their conversation, which touched on Ty's upbringing and his upcoming album, Free TC.
On not being a rapper:
"I feel like when people look at me, they just see 'rapper.' The dreads, my whole look and shit. But really I sing, I’ve never rapped. Not one verse, or one bar. It’s all melodies to everything I’ve ever done on a track. And, I mean, it doesn’t hurt when they put you in a hip-hop category because I feel like more people look at hip-hop than R&B, so I’m glad to be accepted over there. But I’m really a singer."
On promoting his next album:
"I’m gonna do this series called 'Free My Homie Fridays.' Whether I drop a picture, some type of visuals, a song, and it’s all geared up to my album. It’s called 'Free My Homie Friday' because my brother, the album is called Free TC, right. So I know everybody has a homie that’s locked up or known somebody. My brother is locked up for something that he didn’t do. So it’s dedicated to all of them. What I’m doing with the album is not only bringing awareness to the situation, but also using the money to get my brother a dope-ass lawyer to get him out of this situation."
On working with Kanye West:
"It was magic, bro. That’s all I’m going to say. It was definitely magic. Bro is amazing."
On working with up-and-coming artists:
"If it’s dope, I’m down. I don’t care if you’re fucking Kanye, or if it’s you. If it’s dope, I’m with it. If it’s not, I’m not, straight up. I’ll be like, 'You got something else?' I don’t care if you’re offering me bread, I got 50,000 for you to drop 8 bars. If that shit’s whack I’m not doing it."
"I have my own strain. Ty Dolla $ign with the kush. It’s one of the best strains I’ve ever smoked. Come to L.A., bro. It’s real exclusive. Wiz has his own, the KK, Snoop Dogg has his own. It’s game changing. Definitely helped pay the bills on my way up to where I am right now."
"It’s worth it because I went from literally the back of my grandmother’s house with my daughter, to now having a fucking big ass house and my daughter in another house with her mom. So it’s good. This is what we signed up for. And I’m gonna give it my all."
On his father:
"So, my dad, we got the same name. Ty Griffin. He was in this group Lakeside that was hot in the '70s, some of the '80s, and then in the '90s again because Coolio sampled them on the 'Fantastic Voyage' and the 'All The Way' song. He definitely had a big influence on me just from all his friends that came through—that’s like Rick James, the Isleys—they would come to my house when I was a kid. And seeing all of them just vibing in my dad’s home studio, my dad playing all the instruments... made me pick up the instruments when he went out of town. So I played bass, guitar, drums, keys -- anything with keys in there or strings, I could beat on, I could play and figure it out. The only thing I didn’t learn was like trumpets, saxophones, all that shit. That shit gave me a headache. But, you know, pops definitely improved the hell out of me, that’s for sure."
On being a self-taught musician:
"I knew I wanted to do music from the beginning, like before I can even remember. I have pictures of myself just fucking around with a Casio. And my dad told me this story one time—he said I was like 7, he was doing empty work, like music direct[ing] for Jermaine Jackson. He was putting together his whole show, and he was trying to figure out some part and he was playing it over and over, and couldn’t figure it out... And when he went to the restroom I came in there, and just played this shit. Like by ear, that’s how I learned every instrument, just by ear. Just like that. From the beginning."