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Nigerian-British rapper and spoken word artist Ty was praised for his clever, mature lyrics and mild-mannered flow, as well as his inventive productions, which incorporated influences such as jazz, dub, Latin rhythms, and broken beat. Confident and playful while avoiding the braggadocio or machismo of much commercial hip-hop, his agile, literate rhymes addressed everyday subjects such as relationship problems and self-identity, as well as bigger issues like gun violence and racism. He earned respect from critics (his second album, 2003's Upwards, was nominated for the prestigious Mercury Prize) and peers, and while he never broke through to mainstream success, he was regarded as highly influential within the British rap scene. His discography, spanning five full-lengths and numerous singles and EPs, includes collaborations with De La Soul, Tony Allen, Damon Albarn, and Roots Manuva. Born Benedict Chijioke in London to Nigerian immigrants, Ty began recording during the mid-'90s, and appeared on tracks produced by IG Culture's New Sector Movements and DJ Pogo. He hosted a hip-hop night called Lyrical Lounge and worked with the Ghetto Grammar poetry workshop. Ty released singles with Funky DL and Shortee Blitz by the end of the decade, and his first solo single, "Break the Lock," appeared on Big Dada in 2000. His full-length debut, Awkward, arrived the following year, earning its creator praise for his clear, spirited delivery and positive-minded lyrics. Ty collaborated with legendary Afro-beat drummer Tony Allen on the 2002 single "Every Season," which also featured Damon Albarn (Blur, Gorillaz). Second album Upwards was released in 2003; the vibrant single "Oh U Want More?" became Ty's biggest hit, charting at number 65 in the U.K., and the record was nominated for the Mercury Prize in 2004. Closer, released in 2006, featured collaborations with heroes De La Soul and Arrested Development's Speech. Ty left Big Dada in 2007, subsequently signing with BBE, which issued Special Kind of Fool in 2010. The album featured over a dozen guest vocalists, including Roses Gabor, Corey Mwamba, and Shaun Escoffery. A three-part EP series, Kick Snare and an Idea, appeared on Tru Thoughts in 2013-2014. Ty's fifth album, A Work of Heart, was released by Jazz Re:freshed in 2018; guests included Umar Bin Hassan (the Last Poets), Mpho, and N'fa. In 2019, Ty and two other U.K. rap pioneers, Rodney P and Blak Twang, formed the trio KingDem and released a self-titled EP on Tru Thoughts. Ty was admitted to a London hospital after contracting COVID-19 in April of 2020, and while his condition appeared to be improving, he passed away due to pneumonia on May 7, at the age of 47.
© Paul Simpson & John Bush /TiVo
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