Ty
Upwards

Upwards comes across as more thoughtful than those who've only come across Turn It Up Little and Get Over It might expect, with slow soulful tracks of introspection and social commentary in mutual complement with bouncing hip hop that you can't help but dance to, grinning like an idiot.

By Demented Toddler

 
Best known for his track Turn It Up A Little on the Nextmen's Amongst The Madness album (which also appeared on the first Wordlab compilation), Ty is amongst the UK's finest hip hop artists. After collaborations with Baloo and Serch, as well as Shortee Blitz (the excellent 'IAAD I am a don'), he released his debut Awkward on Big Dada in 2001, providing a full LP of his delicious lyrical stylings. In 2003, he has again teamed up with the Nextmen on their fantastic Get Over It album, delivering a brilliant performance on the title track, as well as the best rhyme of 2003: 'ding ding! – and I'm about to switch – people all up in my face like I'm John Malkovich'. It's nice to know he doesn't hoard all his good material on his own album; pleasing that his guest spots should be invested with the same commitment and gusto as his solo stuff.

Like Awkward, Upwards comes across as more thoughtful than those who've only come across Turn it up a little and Get over it might expect, with slow soulful tracks of introspection and social commentary in mutual complement with bouncing hip hop that you can't help but dance to, grinning like an idiot. The opening track, Ha ha, deserves the adulation Witness (1 Hope) received, Look 4 Me provides some great squelching bashment bass, and Oh You Want More? gives Dre and Eminem a Great British run for their money in the carnival-hip-hop stakes. The more soul-based tracks may sit uncomfortably with more narrow minded UK-hip-hoppers, and indeed Can't You Feel The Rain may well sail a bit to close to cheesy cliché at times, though you could never fault its musicality.

In its variety and quality, it could be counted alongside Stevie Wonder's Innervisions (and there's a Wonder-ful bassline on Dreams), but this comparison alone doesn't quite do justice to an album which, musically, has a massive frame of reference. For this quality, and for his lyrics, Ty has had an aura of universal wisdom vaguely ascribed to him by various reviewers, but this misses the point of 'the amazing rapping awkward boy'. He does not peddle trite 'universal truths', but honest, imperfect personal observations. Describing a disturbing meeting with an old friend, his surprisingly evocative comment 'you munched pizza that was meant for my lunch break' makes the experience at once his own, and unique, yet at the same time one which can be identified with all the more strongly for this detail; one you believe is real. On Music 2 Fly 2, a panoramic night-time journey over the city (the music is reminiscent of 2 Banks of 4's City Watching), he offers not pompous omniscient views, but an unexpectedly introspective view of himself.

For Ty fans, the progression from Awkward to Upwards ('been humble with my skills now I intend to floss a little') is a pleasing one. He's even more willing to permit silliness and fun which only enhances the creative process and the creations themselves, and makes this intention clear: 'I'm tired of these wall to wall stone face too cool to dance or can't dance in the first place, too cool to smile, too cool to jump, inside your dance I'm the last kind of act you want'. He's grown up enough to appear childish: 'can I get my socks on? ...mummy must have got my building blocks wrong', and populates the record with a lyrical menagerie of 'very big elephants', 'a koala', a 'hiphopapotamus' (to rival Charlie 2na's 'manphibian'), and the Infinite Livez namechecking 'no more Orang-utangs'.

The music too is much better, which is not to say that it wasn't pretty damn good on his first record. The inevitable extra cash must help, but it's the consistency of Ty's vision, with the invaluable help of Drew Horley (in the Rob Playford role) that really makes the difference. Like the few really great rapper/producers out there (you can count them on one hand), his voice is really a part of his tracks rather than one-size-fits-all diatribe laid over the top. It interweaves, working with the rhythm and melody, but with those fantastic lyrics, it's also so much more than just another instrument.

 Ty's Upwards is available on CD and vinyl on Big Dada Records.
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