ty dolla sign explains how his latest collab started with a dm
The rising rapper gets real about ‘Plays,’ a heady bedroom banger dreamed up with Australian producer Ta-Ku for adidas originals’ ‘Songs from Scratch’ series.
Ty Dolla $ign cut his teeth collaborating with YG and DJ Mustard -- forming a trio of young LA natives who brought compelling new takes on their hometown's history of swaggering bounce to speakers around the world. But as the California crew has become bonafide hip-hop hitmakers, their sounds and styles have branched far beyond their SoCal roots. Mustard applied his Midas touch to an EDM-inflected banger featuring Travis Scott. And for his newest project, Ty has teamed up with Australian producer duo HWLS for "Plays."
The heady track arrives as the latest iteration of adidas Originals and Yours Truly's "Songs from Scratch": an original series that brings together two unexpected musical forces to create a new song -- boom, just like that. It's the partnership that's produced Fetty Wap and Baauer's banger "Promises," Chicago emcee Tink and DJ Dahi's "Men," and Shlohmo x Jeremih's "Bo Pee" — the pair's first official collaboration since Shlohmo's massive "Fuck You All the Time" remix that eventually lead to a full-fledged album.
But before the collaborative opportunity even presented itself, Ty had been hip to one half of HWLS -- Perth-based producer Ta-Ku. "I first heard 'Songs to Break Up To' on KCRW. This DJ named Anthony Valadez played it and I was loving it, so I tweeted about it and Ta-Ku hit me up," the enigmatic rapper tells me on the phone hours after the song made its premiere. "We were just talking in the DMs and then he always said it'd be dope to link up; he sent me some beats, but we'd never done anything." It wasn't until Ty's tour with YG brought the pair down under that the stars aligned: "Once I got to Australia, my publicist told me we were working on a project with adidas and the producer's name was Ta-Ku! I was like, 'Oh my god, let's get it!'" They did: "Ta-Ku played me a few beats and that was my favorite one, so I got down and wrote the track in 20 minutes."
"Plays" sees something of a soulful switch up for Ty, whose outstanding debut studio album Free TC was trumpeted with the release of positively hypnotic cut "Blasé" in September. The HWLS flip isn't totally new turf for the rapper -- we've heard those pipes before -- but his introspective, emotional performance is well matched by the duo's cinematic bedroom beat. "I'm a chameleon," Ty assures. "I can get down on anything from a Mustard beat to a Ta-Ku beat to a Diplo beat -- it doesn't really matter as long as I'm digging the vibe."
Those vibes are excitingly diverse; Ty's got his eyes and ears open to a vast creative landscape (after all, this is the rapper who wrote a personal essay about Gerhard Richter's wispy clouds for the fantastic art book Feelings: Soft Art). Tasked to curate the next "Songs from Scratch" partnership, he'd bring together, "Jay-Z -- I'm sure everybody would say that!" but also "Meshell Ndegeocello, a bass player, producer, and artist." The 10-time Grammy nominated neo-soul pioneer has always "been one of my favorites," says Ty. "That's one artist I've never come across that I've wanted to work with."
Speaking of those he has worked with, I'm wondering what to expect from another iconoclastic collaborative project Ty has his hand in: Kanye West's long anticipated album Waves. "Look out for the magic, man!" he laughs of the upcoming Madison Square Garden show. "It's about to be a magic show!"
Text Emily Manning
Photography GL Askew II