For the first time in his career, Tyga is ready to fully open up. He’s been hesitant to show his vulnerable side in years past, but with the release of the melodic 14-track concept album Kyoto on Friday (Feb. 16), that’s all about to change.
After being targeted by the public eye for his relationships over the past five years with Blac Chyna and Kylie Jenner, the 28-year-old’s artistic reputation has taken a hit, due to the tabloids running rampant with a narrative T-Raww really had no control over. Now, it’s time for the “Rack City” rapper to tell his side.
“I really wanted to step in front of the narrative and create my own story,” Tyga says humbly. “I’m telling my story and it’s authentic — it’s not made up and people are going to be able to put a face to it. The last five years of my life has been a lot of me in the media because of my relationships.”
Billboard caught up with Tyga ahead of his album release to delve into what made him want to finally craft a singing album, also gaining some insight on Kyoto’s controversial cover art, his work with Tory Lanez, Hype Williams dropping the ball on “Gucci Snakes,” starring in Scream, and much more.
When you dropped Bitch I’m The Shit 2 you talked about how that was a new chapter for you, is Kyoto another step in that process?
It’s definitely the first time in my career that I talked about love and even related to that emotion. That’s the one thing in the world that everyone can relate to and Kyoto is the soundtrack to that. I’m telling my story and it’s authentic — it’s not made up and people are going to be able to put a face to it. The last five years of my life has been a lot of me in the media because of my relationships. I can’t even go to the movies with a girl anymore. It’s a gift and a curse. I really wanted to step in front of the narrative and create my own story.
What inspired you to go in a different creative direction and open up?
I just think it was time. With my son getting older and what’s going on in the world, a lot of the music that really inspired me from the late ’90s and early 2000s — that whole generation of music. I just feel like this is what the world needs.
Were you apprehensive to putting some of these tracks out? I read you had “Temperature” already crafted last summer, so what was the time period of recording this album?
We started working on this project a year ago. We didn’t record any of it in Asia, but we definitely got influences for lines and concepts while we were out there and brought it back to Los Angeles to create [the album].
What about the Asian culture makes you gravitate toward it?
It’s just really ageless. You’ll see people out there fifty or sixty-years-old that are friends of mine and they’re just the freshest dudes. Their culture out there is very peaceful, but they’re very detailed. They just live life and they create.
There’s just something about Japan that is a very creative place and gives off this energy so that you want to just shop and look at art. You feel very free, people are very kind out there. Even if I’m walking the streets out there taking pictures all day it’s not the same as the [United States]. It’s not aggressive. There’s people that really appreciate what you do.
Would you say you teased the singing movement with “Mercedes Baby” off of the Bugatti Raww project?
That was an idea we had and we kind of just put it out. I didn’t think it would’ve worked well with the Kyoto album, because it’s a set story and everything. I was just messing around and putting it out. “1 of 1” was the first song I did that was more melodic. That’s when I was really nervous to be vulnerable — that’s why I did one song. After six months I noticed it was my most viewed and streamed video of the last few years. When I would do it live people would sing it live and it was a whole other feeling.
What subjects do you plan on addressing with the album?
All matters of the heart. From love to your own personal experiences, while growing and learning from your mistakes.
What inspired you to name a track after Ja Rule and Ashanti?
At one point in time everyone wanted to be like them. Ja Rule was thugged out but he was singing to the girls. He was doing it from a street standpoint. Girls loved Ashanti and I think it’s that whole Bonnie and Clyde thing. I’m big on a lot of early 2000s music. That’s the golden era of hip-hop music for me — late ’90s, early 2000s.
I feel like that era really set the trend and opened doors. It’s later in the album story so I’m basically convincing the new girl I’m with that I’m down for you. The video is going to be crazy and I’m putting Ashanti in the video, it’s going to be super 2000s. Ninjas on the bikes.
How was working in the studio with Tory Lanez on “Faithful”?
It was cool. He’s a very good writer and he’s talented. He’s got so many different songs. There was so many different songs he played for me. Tory was like, “Yo man, you want this song or this song?” He had so much shit. We could f–k around and do a whole project together. I had one in particular that I wanted to bring to him. I don’t like wasting my features. I always try to put people on what I would want or fans would want to hear them on. I thought Tory Lanez was perfect for “Faithful.”
Same goes for Gucci Mane?
Do you have plans to drop merchandise and go out on tour soon?
We’re working on that now. Everything is within the concept of the album — even the tour and stage visuals. I start a small European run next week and then were going to Australia after that. I want to get all these videos out, because they’re telling a real story. I want to make sure I get them done.
How involved are you with the treatments for your videos?
We do everything from scratch. While we’re recording the song, we already got the visuals in mind. We’re probably going to do six or seven more videos off this album.
What was the inspiration behind the album’s cover art? There’s been some controversy recently?
Hajime Sorayama is a big Japanese designer. I knew about him from the Robots, because I had the toys. I have some Marakami paintings and Kaws stuff and they’re all very similar to me in style. I thought it would be dope to work with a Japanese designer. This was an illustration he already made, I think back in the ’80s and we just modified it and made it our own. It’s art. Give it five years people are going to come around.
The position she’s in is the prime of beauty. When everything is stripped down it’s sexy and then when you see the stripes on her you see my influence and essence. It’s a lot of things to tie in. It’s really a sexy woman and the tail is her ability to pleasure herself and she don’t need no man. The sun is rising behind her. It tells the whole story. Her tail being robotic teases the futuristic sound of the album.
KYOTO has been a real journey mentally & spiritually. you’ve helped capture the essence with a beautiful & truthful piece. We live in a society where the most impactful information is visual. This is the primal beauty of the woman. The motivation of man. So, thank you Hajime, for lending ur God given gift to help bring Kyoto 2 life, visually. —- Legend #hajimesorayama
Who handled the production on the project?
A lot of the project is CrakWav, which is my brother AE and Bedrock. A lot of people don’t know I started my career in the Bay area. Even the DJ Mustard sound — all of that stems from the Bay. Those fun beats, the tempos and those 808-snare type of beats. A lot of new kids as well. There’s not well known producers on [KYOTO]. CashMoney AP is blowing up, he did two tracks.
Why isn’t “Gucci Snakes” with Desiigner on any streaming services? That should be a huge record.
“Gucci Snakes” is crazy. They dropped the ball on that shit. You know who dropped the ball? Hype Williams, my guy. I love Hype Williams too. It was an expensive video, when the track dropped the video was supposed to come out right after. It ended up taking five months to come out. This was before motherf—–s were on Gucci. We knew Gucci was about to blow up.
I was looking at the patterns and detail and knew this shit was about to go. Before “Gucci Gang” and all of that. It wasn’t executed right, you have to think “Panda” was super hot at the time and it would’ve been perfect. People f–k with that song too.
What did you think about starring in the Scream reboot coming up next month on MTV?
The main character (R.J. Cyler) is a football star and I’m his older brother (Jamal) — it’s kind of one of the main roles in the whole show. I play the older brother that wants to see him keep his head on straight, because I’m kind of the f–k up of the family. This ghost-face just starts killing people and the whole city just starts going crazy and doesn’t know who is who.
I’m excited because it’s my first real role. It took two months to shoot. I feel like with this people are going to get to see me as an actor and really get to know my character. There was some crazy shit. It was very cold in Atlanta, we were on set at like 5 AM until late, because they have to get these shots. That shit was cold.
You really have to block out everything. I’m excited, though, because I like scary movies in general and I think people are going to like it. It’s like a black scary movie series, all the other ones have been with white college kids and it’s kind of expected. This one’s different. Mary J. Blige is in it, the original Candyman and Big Boi is in it. It premieres in March and it’s definitely going to be tight.
How did you develop such a high taste-level over the course of your life?
As a kid, Paid In Full was my favorite movie. Growing up we all had mood boards without realizing it until now. I was cutting out pictures in magazines and putting up cars and houses. We were creating mood boards when we were 8-years-old. I was putting artists on my wall. At that time you’re like a fan and love these people, but looking at it now, it was definitely a mood board for the future. I had the flyest people in rap on there. I had Dipset, Lil Wayne, Fabolous, and Nas. Hip-hop had the biggest influence on my life.
With this week being the 10-year anniversary of Lil Wayne’s “A Milli,” Bangladesh informed me you and a bunch of the other Young Money artists were going to hop on the track’s remix. Can you recall what that studio session was like?
Yeah, that was the first time I had got to the studio with Lil Wayne. He flew me down to Atlanta. I was talking to him on text for like seven months until I actually got to hang out with him. [Wayne] was recording “A Milli” in the studio actually when I got there. I can remember just sitting there and I was so star struck. I didn’t want to ask for water or go to the bathroom I didn’t even want to move.
You don’t understand, there’s still nobody to this day that made me starstruck like Lil Wayne. He was a real superstar. You can’t fake it. [Wayne] was doing “A Milli” and he had left. I was like, “I wonder if he’s going to ask me to rap on it?”
I started listening to the beat and had started writing lyrics, because you got to be ready. [Wayne] goes, “I’m about to do a remix to this song.” It’s crazy, [Wayne] was already thinking about doing a remix and “A Milli” wasn’t even out yet. [Wayne] was like, “I want to put all the young artists on it.” It was me, Jibbs, Hurricane Chris, Cory Gunz, Lil Mama, all of the youth. He was on to something back then. I did a verse to it that night.
What other plans do you have for 2018?
I’m excited to get this new sound and show this new artist in me. It’s a clean slate. I’m excited to do the shows and for people to see the videos we have coming. I’ve really just been focusing on Kyoto, but I’ve definitely been working so I got features coming too.
Purchase Kyoto on iTunes here.