Ty & Professor Green

Ty is a UK hiphop legend, his second album Upwards was nominated for the Mercury Prize, and he has put out two incredible EPs this year. Kick Snare And An Idea Part One and Part Two explode with beautifully crafted and vital tracks such as Like You Never.

Ty’s long-term musical co-creator is Drew Horley and we were stunned when we visited their studio, to see a collection of amazing and rare vintage synths. They don’t just use samples, but lovingly build the sounds and grooves they need, enlisting jazz supremos and other rappers along the way. Ty has worked with De La Soul, Tony Allen, Estelle and Arrested Development, and more recently with Akala and Durrty Goodz. Ty’s lyrics are famous for being pithy, playful and precise and he’s praised for his ‘lyrical frankness’. Ty is touring Germany and Switzerland soon.

Tru Thoughts / Breakin' Records

Ty and Drew on music and ‘lyrical frankness’

Making the music first

Ty and Drew have been working together for years, bringing a mix of talents to the table. They both produce, and Drew plays amazing keys. Ty says they spend a long time perfecting each track, and their nerve centre is The Lab Recording Studio in London.

What we have is a great process. As an MC, I never come in with lyrics and then make the beat. It’s always about making the music first, hearing what the music says and then fitting the right vibe into the music. I’m pretty minimalist in regards to rapping, I don’t rap over everything. Drew cannot get me to do a third verse on a song if I think two verses is what it needs.

Drew says the crafting is really important.

If we start an idea or Ty will bring in a beat on the (Akai) MPC, we’ll build it together, he won’t put any lyrics on it for ages. He’ll be like, Drew, it’s got to be right, you know, the kick’s not there yet, or this isn’t right, and we’ll just keep working on it and plugging away until it’s at that point where he’s like, OK, now it’s my time to sit in the back and write the lyrics out.

It’s those lyrics that have helped earn Ty an army of fans across the world - they really are very special.

Respecting the rap art form

Ty’s tracks are galvanising, insightful, and incredibly crafted. He thinks that rap lyrics can sometimes be seen as an afterthought, but that’s not the case with his work.

I think what I try and do is respect the art form. I try to put on a cravat, as an MC I put a suit and tie on, as an MC I dress up, I brush up my boots. I put my scarf on a certain way. I’m actually trying to have a particular type of swagger, it’s like, I’m getting married, every day I go to make music and rap. It’s an event, and I try and treat the process of writing with that amount of seriousness.

In this society, we really belittle the process of someone being able to write lyrics and actually be engaging and have a thought process. I try and look on it like I’m trying to capture the hearts of grannies, I’m trying to capture the hearts of kids, wayward people, people that don’t have any interest, I want them to turn round and go oh, did he just say ‘euphoric’? Oh, I didn’t expect that from a rapper, maybe I should listen.

Corporate power & “nonsense rap”

Ty challenges popular assumptions and even rap culture head on in one of his tracks, and thinks about how it affects kids. “Nonsense rap” is a term Ty uses for some of what gets put out by other people.

With Like You Never, that was a critique of the situation from inside and outside, and also it was a grown up critique, so it’s not just an MC ‘I’m better than you, wipe my shoe, hoo hoo hoo,’ it’s not that, it’s more like, OK kids, listening to you, not sure about that. I’ve got godchildren. That song was more about me critiquing the situation for everybody, and there’s a lot of people that don’t listen to rap, don’t understand that it’s been influenced by corporate America.

They don’t understand that, they think oh, people are moaning, but no, corporate America has actually got involved and said, no more conscious rap, only nonsense rap, and now we look at it and everybody’s like oh, too much gangsta rap and I’m like no, no, it’s corporate America created that. Corporate America endorsed that, and that’s what I’m saying in the record, I’m allowing people to understand that the stakes are high.

“It’s a rebel song”

The powerful yet simple video was filmed in San Nicolas, on Aruba, an island in the Caribbean, while Ty was teaching at Art Rules Aruba, and Like You Never has had a great response around the world.

Considering it was just a song that most record companies would tell you it’s too slow or, you know, it’s not danceable enough, the feeling I get when I play that song live and people are just, uh, get into it, I’m like, see, we should never be listening to those people in the first place.


And that’s what Like You Never really is about. It’s a rebel song but it’s a rebel song for everybody. It’s not a song that should be. The only people who should be intimidated by that song are the people that are actively getting up in the morning to actually control and douse the flame of what hip hop music can do. Those people should be worried. Other than that everyone else should be listening and just bobbing their head, doing the monster dance. Yes!