It seemed like the YMCMB empire was already blessed enough with its trifecta of rappers-turned-pop culture icons: Lil Wayne, Drake, and Nicki Minaj. Then along comes Tyga, the next undeniable star to emerge from the camp. His current single, "Rack City," just reached No. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100 this week.
We caught up with the 22-year-old Compton native before he grabbed dinner in Miami after a day of shooting videos, recording features, and running around the city with Birdman. After a few false starts, it looks like T-Raw the Ruler is really coming into his own. Whether it's about his upcoming album, Careless World: Rise of the Last King, or the riot he started in San Diego, the kid has a lot to say.
Interview by Ernest Baker (@newbornrodeo)
Tyga: I’m recording. I was shooting a remix video for “Rack City” and I just ended up staying.
Who’s on the remix?
Wale, Fabolous, Jeezy, T.I. and Meek Mill.
What are you recording?
Other songs that aren’t going to go on the album.
The album is finished?
Yeah, it’s all turned in. Pre-orders go up this week.
What’s the release date if it’s not January 24th anymore?
We’re looking at February 7th. Hopefully.
A lot of songs on #BitchImTheShit sound similar to “Rack City.” Is that the sound you’re sticking with for the album?
Nah, it’s a different sound. I made #BitchImTheShit intentionally for those types of fans. The album is more of a story, more of a theme. I’ve got some of the party vibe just to have dynamics on the album, but it’s different.
What story are you telling?
It’s the story about me becoming king in this place I call Careless World. It goes through me being at the bottom trying to get to the top and going through war, love, and stuff like that.
What other hits do you think will come out of that?
The new single, “Faded” featuring Lil Wayne. That’s along the same lines as “Rack City.” I’ve got a few tracks. Every song is video-worthy.
I saw “Rack City” hit the top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 this week.
Yeah, that’s pretty dope. It’s crazy that a song from a mixtape, a song that I thought would just be regional, is worldwide now.
Young Money’s “Bedrock” was a big song, but how does it feel to have a solo hit?
I appreciate the recognition that I’m getting, but I’ve been doing my own thing. I’ve been touring overseas. I’ve been on five tours in the last year with no album out. It’s really just these fans, these kids—through Twitter and the Internet, being able to connect with people. Being able to have your fans follow your every move and feel like they’re really a part of your life. They follow the music now.
But having a massive pop hit has to change things to some degree.
Definitely. There’s more eyeballs watching you, like a hawk. But I’m the same. I don’t want to get caught up in all that. I just want to put out this album and keep painting my picture. That’s it.
Was it frustrating when past singles like “I’m On It” didn’t catch on enough to launch this album with?
Nah, because in my world, I had a lot of underground hits that weren’t getting pushed to that level. I felt like “Lapdance” was a big song, but it just didn’t get a push. So it stayed where it was at. “Rack City” I pushed myself. I was shooting my own videos and paying my own radio guys and stuff like that. Then the label caught on to it. Now to be able to get a major push, it’s good. You’ve just got to stay with your same mentality and always be pushing yourself.
Me and Wayne had a long conversation the other day. He was just telling me about certain strategies, and how to keep it going. Just giving me some advice. But you have to learn on your own.
I know you met Lil Wayne at the VMAs years ago and he ended up getting in touch with you. What’s your relationship with him like now? What about you and Birdman?
I’ve been with them all week. That’s why I come to Miami, because this is their home. Me and Wayne had a long conversation the other day. He was just telling me about certain strategies, and how to keep it going. Just giving me some advice. But you have to learn on your own. It’s not like you need someone to tell you what to do, but the help is always there.
Is there one thing they said that hit you as particularly great advice?
It’s not what they say, but more what they do. Just being able to see how they move and be in the studio every night. Videos. Tours. To see their hustle and take my new artist hunger and add that to it. The one thing about them is that they don’t talk a lot. It’s their actions, really.
What’s your ultimate goal as an artist?
I want to make people feel certain ways when they listen to my music. Whether it’s partying or going through relationship problems or grinding or getting dressed and feeling fly. I want to be who I am and have emotion in my music that affects people.
What do you to say to people who hate on “Rack City” for not being lyrical enough?
If it was lyrical, with big-ass words and shit, do you think half the world could relate to that? No, they can’t. When I’m drunk, I’m not reciting any real difficult shit. I don’t want to hear shit like that when I’m drunk. I want to party. I want to have fun. People have got to understand that there’s music for every type of thing. Hip-hop isn’t “It has to be this topic and this topic only. Struggling, talking about drugs and the streets only.” That’s not hip-hop. That’s not music. Those are just motherfuckers who are stuck in their ways. If you don’t like the song, turn off the TV and turn off the radio and listen to your preference of music.
If ["Rack City"] was lyrical, with big-ass words and sh*t, do you think half the world could relate to that? No, they can’t. When I’m drunk, I’m not reciting any real difficult sh*t. I don’t want to hear sh*t like that when I’m drunk. I want to party. I want to have fun.
Yeah. There’s artists I don’t listen to, but it’s not like, “I hate this song.” I just don’t bother. I don’t listen to them. If you were to ask me what I’m listening to right now, I’d say, Ross’s mixtape, Jeezy’s album, myself, I’m a big fan of Wale and Meek Mill, and that whole new movement, because I can relate, but I’m not listening to every rapper.
You don’t ever want to impress those guys who want that super-lyrical rap?
That’s where my album comes in. I’ve got a song called “Kings And Queens” with me, Wale and Nas. That’s not “Rack City.” The story on that record is the opposite end of what “Rack City” is. That’s a song that will fill that void. The album is more relaxed and more thoughtful and more meaningful music than the party anthems. That’s why I released the #BitchImTheShit mixtape. I wanted to release a mixtape for my fans that are 12 to 24. That are in that whole party and high school environment. But at the end of the day, I still like listening to story-type records, like real hip-hop, but that’s because I’m a musician. The average 22-year-old or high schooler isn’t listening to that type of stuff. They’re not listening to old Nas and Wu-Tang. I like to listen to stuff like that because it gives me ideas. You’ve got to realize that when you get to a certain level, you’re not making music for yourself anymore. You’re making it for the world. That’s one thing I learned being around Wayne.
So, you’ve got Nas and Wale on a song. You’ve got Wayne on “Faded.” I’ve seen Big Sean tweet that he was on a track. I saw something about you and Pharrell being in the studio. Are there any other features on the album?
I’ve got a feature with Chris [Brown]. J. Cole is on there. The rest of them are features that I didn’t list, that I want to be a surprise when you hear the record. It puts the icing on top.
How did your L.A. Clippers anthem “Lob City” come about?
Chris Paul called me like, “Yo, the ‘Lob City’ is crazy.” I had to put it out. I recorded it and I dropped it. He called me that same day, so it was crazy. I did it for L.A. It’s fun. I go to the games and stuff. I’ve always been a Chris Paul fan, and I’m from L.A. I’m also a big Kobe fan, so I’m not Lakers or Clippers, really. I’m more a fan of the players. I like the Clippers new roster. “Lob City” is a regional thing. You go to Miami and you might only hear one Tyga song on the radio. You go to L.A. and you might hear six or seven on the radio. There’s certain things you do for your city.
How important is hometown recognition? You see how much Drake cares about his city.
It means a lot to be able to get that love. It’s much easier now, because there’s a lot of talent out there now, but early on, it was hard to get that support from LA if you weren’t a straight gangster rapper like Snoop or some shit like that. It was dumb, because there’s so many creative artists out there doing way different things that don’t want to talk about that stuff. It’s real important, though. You’ve got to start somewhere and have a homebase. I love doing shows in California and the West Coast, period. To go to other places and get that same love is always shocking to me. I never know what to expect, but the shows are always just as crazy.
Do you think “Rack City” influenced the sound for “The Motto”?
Definitely. “Rack City” opened the whole West Coast, Bay Area sound back up. I think I really influenced a lot of people to get back into that have fun type of feel. I like a lot of the artists that are out, but at the same time, everything doesn’t have to be so serious. When I go to the club, I don’t hear none of that shit. I hear the same records when people are drunk and partying.