More Than a Feature
“Take you where I'm from, take you to the slums/This ain't happen overnight, no, these diamonds real bright,” raps Ty Dolla $ign on Post Malone’s “Psycho.” His verse on the critically successful tune earned him his first Number One record on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, and propelled him to a new echelon of stardom. His boastful verse on the hit record speaks to more than his celebrity status – it represents his mounting position in the music industry, and all of the years of hard work that went into getting there, while alluding to the work that is yet to come.
Born Tyrone William Griffin Jr., named after his father (who is a member of funk collective Lakeside), Griffin’s exposure to music arose at a young age. He quickly began experimenting and learning to play several instruments throughout his childhood. “[My dad] always had instruments around the house, and of course, he’s inspired me,” Griffin recalls. “The first instruments I played were the drums, but my mom wasn’t f**king with it because it was too loud. So, pops bought me an electric drum set. From there, I went on to learn how to make beats, and once I figured out I couldn’t get the beats and sounds I wanted, I picked up the bass guitar, and it became my main instrument.”
Griffin’s unique sound, blending the soulful elements of R&B with the provocative and raw nature of rap music took some time to perfect and cultivate, especially as he faced challenges while coming into early adulthood – right at home. His mother kicked both his brother and him out of the house, and essentially voiced that it was time to find a real job and leave the fantasy of musical acclaim behind, which, however, forced Griffin to tap into a new source of motivation. “I know some people that would probably break, but for me, it made me go hard. When you have nothing, it makes you step up to the plate,” adds Griffin. “It’s all about consistency. If you sit there and do nothing, then that’s what you’ll get. But if you work hard every day, then you’ll get to where you want to go. It’s simple math.”
His “simple math” has certainly been adding up: Griffin has been credited as a feature artist and/or vocalist on over 30 records in 2018 alone, including Drake’s Scorpion, Beyoncé and JAY-Z’s EVERYTHING IS LOVE, Mariah Carey’s Caution, and Kanye West’s ye – to name a few. “Someone either calls or texts me, and they send the song with an open hook or with an open verse, and I send it right back,” Griffin say of his collaborative process. “It’s just my favorite thing to do, so I love getting annoyed with working with other people.”
“I’ve been focusing on music that’ll change the world. Now, I’m tapping into lyrics. I’m trying to give people something to attach to rather than getting on the mic and freestyling – so much substance,” Griffin elaborates when asked about his new album (at press time, it has yet to have a spring release date). “Mainly, it’s going to be about real life. And I think people will connect with what I have to say this time. It’s probably going to be the best project I drop so far.”
While his transcendent ability amongst artists and genres marks Griffin as idiosyncratic and extremely coveted, these days, he’s focusing on adding more authnticity to his own music. “No smoking – none of that sh*t – I’m just trying to make music that really matters lyrically this time. Some life-changing music,” affirms Griffin.
Writer: Mike Varius
Photographer: Catherine Asanov (@catherineasanov)
Photographer Assistant: DeMauriea LeVias
Stylist: Andrew Philip Nguyen
Men’s Grooming: Sara Tintari (using Baxter of California & skyn ICELAND) & JC Tha Barber & Ty Mosby
Videographer: Trip Digital Radio (@tripdigitalradio)
Editor: Eiko Watanabe
Special thanks to Will Gibbs, M.D. (@wgibbsmd - www.willgibbsmd.com