From "Rack City" to "Taste," Tyga has been making hits for over a decade - but does he get enough credit?
From silence, the deep synthesized baseline erupts - brewed only by the words stirred in Tyga’s imagination. Volcanically, with the repetition of each stanza a beat builds, cooled by the raspy yet fluent delivery of Michael Ray Stevenson. As recognizable as any song from the 2000s, without "Rack City" there may be no Tyga. Not in the way that we have come to recognize him. The song was an important turning point in a career with unrealized promise, the red carpet that welcomed many more hit records to follow. It helped Tyga unearth his signature style and sound, a cacophony of hedonistic minimalism. Aside from the masterful production and Tyga’s impeccable delivery - it contains the lyric “got your grandma on my d*ck.”
"Rack City" is an architectural throwback to the pre-golden era of rap, fueled by simplistic genius. Everyone from Jeezy to Charles Hamilton hopped on the beat but none were able to truly unlock its brilliance. There’s something to be said about Tyga’s compelling lack of presence, fueled by sheer overconfidence. This formula served as the equation that unlocked Tyga’s recipe for success. It marked a transition for the artist. No longer was he pinballing around on hit tracks as a feature. Now he was dominating a song that seemed sculpted from nothing, all for him.
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Documenting Tyga’s career comes in two separate time periods: BC and AC. Before Careless World & after Careless World, his best all-around album. What makes the album so good as a body of work is that Tyga has the entirety of his rapping ability on display. Not to mention the hunger in his voice. He lyrically holds his own on “King & Queens” which features Nas and Wale, with "Black Crowns" being another notable cut. For an up and comer, this was an exquisite showing of rap propensity. It had depth and levity. The album made fans excited because it looked like Tyga was on a rocket ship to superstardom. Throughout the Well Done series and projects like Hotel California, it seemed as if T-Raww had hit his musical stride. Bass from Tyga singles was shaking walls in strip clubs around America. It all seemed too easy.
Until things started to happen. Speed bumps and maybe the weight of expectations or stardom began to trip up the hit-maker. He split with his fiance and mother of his child, Blac Chyna, in 2014. That same year he claimed Young Money was holding his music hostage. Later he’d release the project independently and on a Breakfast Club interview, he alleged Young Money never paid him. His fourth studio album, 2015's The Gold Album, was dismal, selling only around 2,000 copies in the first week. He had a highly scrutinized relationship with Kylie Jenner which damaged his reputation as she was underaged when the romance reportedly started. Not helping matters was a lawsuit from several women in his “Make it Nasty” music video and reports of him facing eviction for unpaid rent.
His once confident sound grew tired. Between the years of 2016 and 2017 Tyga only had one song chart at all. On his sixth album, 2018's Kyoto, Tyga strayed from his signature style in favor of a conceptual approach. It didn’t exactly resonate with his fans. It felt like a heartbreak album that might’ve been better as an outgoing attachment to Kylie Jenner’s email. It was his only album not to chart.
So, where does this modern iteration of Tyga flourish? His best gift is the smooth, too-cool-for-school presence he brings to the booth. Tyga is one of those artists that can let the production do the heavy lifting. There is a skill in that, adding exactly what needs to be added. His greatest skill may be corralling star-studded casts of super producers and co-collaborators on his songs. His 2019 album, Legendary is an example of this. "Taste" featuring Offset peaked at No. 8 on Billboard, his first Top 10 hit in nearly 10 years.
There is undeniably a uniqueness in his voice that’s perfect for radio. His flow is as effortless as it is unspectacular; don’t expect Tyga to wow you with complex bars or catch you off guard with metaphors or double entendres. Can’t forget the cool ass ad-libs. He’s not going to say anything profound but boy is it fun to bounce to. And that’s okay, there’s a time a place. On Black Thoughts Vol. 1 & 2 he does showcase some of his versatility, though this Tyga we see few and far between. This Tyga diverts from the ultra-simplistic “Rack City” style and focuses more heavily on the writing, variance in delivery and rhyme schemes. Some of the core elements we saw on Careless World years before.
Why doesn’t Tyga get more respect? To be brutally blunt, general cornball behavior and hiccups that gives fuel to TMZ and blog headlines. He’s clowned mostly for his persona outside the studio which, perhaps unjustly, alters how fans feel about his music. No need to go into detail. Some of his wounds have been self-inflicted. No doubt. I do, however, believe the slander he attracts is well overstated. Proof of that comes with the run he’s been on the last year and a half. One of the best comebacks in a while. In the last two years, he’s dropped "SWISH," "Dip," "Girls Have Fun," "Bop," "Haute," and "Goddamn." Lie and say you haven’t bopped to one of these recently.
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So is Tyga over or underrated by the hip-hop community? In my opinion, Tyga may deserve a LITTLE more cache - if only for remaining relevant as long as he has. In relistening to much of his catalog while writing this, I would surmise most of his critics indict him for never again quite generating a body of work as comprehensive as Careless World. There’s weight to that claim; Tyga seems to have left some potential untapped. Regardless, It’s not easy to make yourself stick around the music industry and drop Billboard-worthy bangers in year ten. People have a hard time getting past the headlines and drama. Still, the man has had two top-ten singles and a bevy of other bombs to his name.
One thing Tyga definitely has is commercial and crossover appeal. The 30-year old has ventured outside the gates of hip-hop, blending his sound with other genres to find himself on tracks like “Ayy Macarena," "Mamacita," and "Tony Montana." He recently signed a massive new deal with Columbia Records, a division of Sony. It seems he’s finding ways to reinvent himself and touch an even broader fanbase. Most importantly, it seems like he's back to having fun making music. For a stretch, it sounded like he lost some of that passion and focus. But after a monumental comeback --one that ultimately led him to dub his latest album Legendary-- Tyga has realigned.