When "Toot It and Boot It" came out in 2009, it was rapper YG who scored a Def Jam deal (and a newer video, and a remix with Snoop and 50). But the bassline-driven beat and hooky chorus—catchy and undeniable as they were—were created by a singer/songwriter by the name of Ty Dolla $ign, an artist whose connection to music runs deeper than this one massive hit.

Ty has been in and around music for years. His father was an established, successful musician, and he grew up a multi-instrumentalist. In the past year, Ty's profile as a solo artist has grown considerably, culminating in a playfully pimpish anthem "My Cabana" (now nearing 60,000 views on YouTube) and follow-up mixtape Beach House, which delivers on the promise of the single, blending hip-hop and R&B with a hint of '90s pop-rock melodicism.

Like a less self-serious version of The Weeknd, Ty is one of the most promising artists to work in this particular R. Kelly-style R&B vein since The-Dream broke a few years back.

But who is Ty Dolla $ign?

As told to David Drake (@somanyshrimp)