Tyler Thomas is "at a good pace and really can't afford to be rushed right now." The Los Angeles-based rapper has been steadily honing his game for years since first rapping with the group BLCKNMLD in high school. Three years ago, he went solo and began cultivating a fan base on Soundcloud through new music and collabs with Vic Mensa and Logic. After opening for acts including Pusha T, Schoolboy Q and Action Bronson, Thomas is fired up and ready to make a name for himself with his Birds I View project, which you can download here.
In his new Black Tongue-directed video for “Lincoln Avenue” he invites us to a porch cookout, grilling old habits that held him back earlier in his career as well as some dank looking chicken. “And I don’t give a fuck about else but us right now/I’ve been working like a slave and I’m feeling like I’m right on the cusp right now,” Thomas spits over a groovy production. It’s an ode for anyone who’s ever been ready to get back in the hustle while also staying true to the hood that made them. You can peep the video above and read our Q&A below:
How would you describe your sound?
I’m from LA, but my family is from the East Coast, and you can hear that influence in the way I rap. My stories are rooted in me experience growing up in Cali though. I always looked up to dudes like DJ Quik and Ice Cube because of the way they incorporated their stories into the music. I wouldn't go so far as comparing myself to those guys, but I want to bring people a little of that through my music.
Would you say that the video for "Lincoln Avenue" is representative of a typical day on Lincoln Avenue?
On my side of Lincoln…hell yeah! That’s a real barbecue at my real crib! But Lincoln Ave is a major road that runs all the way across my city, through a bunch of different neighborhoods. So you can be on Lincoln and be in my hood or you could live in a big ass house with totally different scenery. That’s why I used it as the name of the intro for this project- it’s kind of a metaphor for the story. If you’ve never been to LA, I want to take you on a ride from my block all through the city that shaped this project, the good and bad parts. That’s Lincoln Ave.
How has your upbringing in Los Angeles impacted your music?
Growing up in Los Angeles is everything to me, I’m born and raised here. I can remember being a little kid in the '90s when Death Row was at their height, to a time when it wasn’t the hottest thing to be from the West Coast. The creative energy in LA recently has been crazy, and I’m blessed to be a part of that. No matter how I evolve as a person or an artist, I can’t change that LA raised me. That will always be the point of view I write from.
I love the musical interlude leading up to the track...can you explain its placement in the video?
First of all, thank you, I love it too. But I have to give credit to my homie Andrew on finding that sample. It’s actually a spoken word poem that he showed me, and I just loved the vibe. When I heard it say “We gonna take a trip right now”, I knew I wanted that to start the project. Sonically, Birds I View has a real soulful vibe to it- live instruments, older funk samples, those kind of textures- and that speech just sets the tone for it.
In the track, you mention taking time off to gather yourself and focus on the music. Can you elaborate on why you needed to take a break and what changes you’ve made since?
Just the distractions that come with being a young dude in a crazy city. Girls, weed, whatever, stuff the average kid could probably relate to. But it’s about narrowing the focus and making a commitment to something better. Like, there are so many people out here trying to do what I’m doing, I can’t afford to be on some bullshit. A bird’s eye view is a clearer perspective…you can’t always see the bad decisions you’re making when you’re in the middle of the mess, so I had to take a step back and figure out what I really wanted to do, which is make great music.
What can we look forward to from Birds I View?
You can look forward to a cohesive, album feel, rather than just a collection of songs. I took time making sure this EP has the care and substance put into it where you’re not just going to download it and forget about it…I want it to be something that sticks with you.
I like to think it’s a pretty sonically advanced project for an independent rapper…all praises there due to The Stereotypes, who executive produced the EP. They’re real pros and have me sounding crispy on this whole joint. I have to take a moment to thank them and my big bro Ray Romulus for their hard work that went into Birds I View. I’m definitely proud of this EP and I hope people enjoy it.