Tyga has remained one of the more prolific rappers of the past decade ever since jumpstarting his career with 2008’s No Introduction, and the California native is well aware of it too. His latest album, the unabashedly titled Legendary (released earlier this month), embodies all of the elements that has kept fans loyal since day one.
As the rapper gears up to turn 30 in November, he believes he has a lot more to give. “I just know like there’s so much untapped potential,” he proclaims while crunching on an apple on a sunny afternoon in the Billboard offices. “I’m doing [music to] the best of my ability. But if I get in the studio with a Pharrell [Williams] or Calvin Harris or PartyNextDoor, you might might just untap different things.”
Below, Tyga speaks to Billboard about his favorite tracks on Legendary, his ideal strip club experience and why he doesn’t consider himself a legend just yet.
Your music often serves as a summertime soundtrack — “Haute” with J Balvin and Chris Brown is my favorite track off this new album because it embodies that feeling.
I’ve always been a fan of J Balvin. One of my boys linked us and I told him, “Yo man, I love everything that you’re doing.” And it was vice versa — we’re fans of each other. I actually sent him two songs and one was more of a Spanish kind of vibe that I didn’t put on my album. It wasn’t as uptempo. He was like, “No, I want to get on [‘Haute’]. I want to be in the club.” He sounded really good because he didn’t sing on it, he was rapping.
I also like these little skits and comedy samples you added throughout the album. The Dave Chappelle comedy sketch on “Shit I Like” is definitely a highlight.
Well, us men are very simple creatures, you know what I mean? We just like what we like and that’s it. We’re way less needy — not saying that women are needy — but that’s what the song is about. I can wear the same pants and t-shirt for a week straight. The sketch just summed it all up, you know? Anybody you hear on this album is who I look to as a legend in their field — Kanye [West], Dave Chappelle and Eddie Murphy.
There’s so many dope quotes from Coming to America, but why did you choose to go with “The royal penis is clean” sample on “Legendary”?
That’s always a nice little cherry on top. [laughs] It’s definitely one of my favorite movies, for sure. Like, you become so legendary where [maids] go to the extent of making sure your penis is clean. That’s some legendary shit!
Are you at that level?
Yeah, I’m past it. For sure. [laughs]
I wanted to get into your friendship with Chris Brown, since he’s featured twice on this album. What makes your music relationship so special?
I think it’s always better when you make music with somebody that you know and is a person you have history with. We’ve been friends for almost 10 years now, and we’ve been making music for that long. So it was very nostalgic. It was important to get him on the album because we haven’t done anything big since “Ayo” [in 2015]. But “February Love” [from this album] is just funny, because I feel like Chris likes making party records with me and I like making R&B records with him.
You both also appeared on Marshmello’s “Light It Up” single in April, which was met with controversy when Chvrches criticized the collaboration.
Well, people who aren’t in the culture of hip-hop or rap only look at it as one way. It’s all the same. I think they were more mad that Marshmello put out a new song right after they did one with him. But he’s a producer and a DJ, so he’s putting out new records with people every week. You get what I’m saying? But you don’t hear us complaining. [Our song] was a little different from his genre and probably his fan base, which was cool though. And people like it, you know?
What other songs on the album were fun to record for you?
I like “Vibrate” with Swae Lee a lot, and “Made Me” with Bazzi. With “Vibrate,” you could just listen to it over and over. And Swae Lee adds fire to anything he touches. It was different for me too because I played around with the flow on it. “Made Me” is the last song that closes the album and [captures] everything I’ve been through. It’s almost like giving myself credit.
Do you think you don’t get enough credit?
I mean, I think as an artist you always feel like you want more praise. We love great feedback and praise from the fans. Ultimately it all helps inspire us, and it helps our ego as far as creating that world in the studio. It makes you believe in yourself more and be vocal about it.
I think you’ve figured out the formula of what works. You’re like the king of strip club music.
And my music isn’t even trap, which is weird because strip club culture is really only big in in the South. But when you go to Australia and Asia, it’s different. But these people love [the music]. I think it’s just the way it makes you want to dance, you know what I’m saying? It takes you outside of whatever problem that you’re dealing with. You just want to have a good time with your friends.
Do you have any favorite strip clubs?
I mean, the strip clubs in Atlanta are pretty crazy. We got a few cool ones in L.A., but I don’t think they compare to the clubs in Atlanta or Houston. I went to one in Paris and you’d think like, “What? Paris?” But it was actually really fun. The girls are pretty and it was just a cool vibe — which I didn’t expect.
One of my favorite new collaborations of yours is “Blessed” with Shenseea. People weren’t really feeling 2016’s Caribbean-inspired “1 of 1,” but I think you redeemed yourself with “Blessed.”
I was singing on “1 of 1,” and people want you to do what you do best. They wanted me to make club records like “Rack City.” But the song still went gold. I think London streamed it the most, but you know Jamaican culture is heavy in London and Canada. The Shenseea record is just perfect, because she lives in Jamaica and has some really good records. I’m a big Vybz Kartel fan and [“Blessed” producer] Russian produced his early stuff. So for me to work with him and his artist was a blessing. I think people really fuck with the record. The West Coast tempo that I like goes hand-in-hand with Latin and island music. There’s a certain way you move to them, you know?
This may be difficult, but name your favorite collaborations that you’ve ever done.
“Go Loko” [with YG] is definitely one of my favorites because we got to have fun with that record. [Chris Brown’s 2011 single] “Deuces” is always going to be a classic. The record that me and Nicki [Minaj] did, “Dip,” was fun too, because I was in the studio with her. I went to her house, we sat there and she wrote the record. Being there while she was recording reminded me of old Young Money days when we all used to be in the studio together.
Are you ever weary of burning yourself out by staying so prolific?
I think, if it sounds good, you gotta go with it. Everything is about timing. Sometimes music [trends] will be slow and more melodic, or go more island-sounding. You just gotta navigate within it. Like right now, Latin and K-pop is really huge, but hip-hop will still always be number one with me ’cause it’s so cultural — it’s what makes music cool. We’re the trendsetters. So whatever we do, people always will want to be a part of it.
In a Billboard interview last fall, you said, “I haven’t even reached what I know I’m capable of yet.” What more do you have left to show the world?
Actually working with and creating with different producers. I just know like there’s so much untapped potential. I’m doing [music to] the best of my ability. But if I get in the studio with a Pharrell [Williams] or Calvin Harris or PartyNextDoor, you might might just untap different things. Everybody hears different frequencies, different sounds. And it’s also getting back to being in the studio with the person if you can.
You’re turning 30 in November, which is a big milestone. What lessons have you learned that you want to bring in this new decade?
Oh man. It’s all about preserving yourself. But also being persistent because consistency is key. And you can’t be impatient. When it’s your time, it’s your time. And if it’s not, that’s fine. I think there’s times where you get frustrated. You’d be like, “Man, I want this hit out” or “I should have been on that song.” But it’s all trials and tribulations. You just learn from it and apply in the future when it is your time.
Is there anything else that you would want to work on to add to your legacy?
There’s definitely still room for improvement. … I think turning 30 is like a coming-of-age. That’s who you want to be. You’re just secure with yourself, and more patient. It’s almost confirmed like this is who you’re going to be. Your decision is final. When you’re younger, you just feel like you got all the time in the world. Especially for a rapper. I mean, Lil Wayne was ahead of his time, but [being 30 is] when people just 1000 percent believe you. If you look at like some of the best rappers out — Pusha T, Rick Ross, Wayne, Drake Eminem, Jay-Z, Kanye [West] — there’s just something about your thirties that’s just the real deal. Your background is solidified.