I hate dating. I don’t understand it. The small talk; the fact that I’m probably going to be having a bad hair day; the possible expectation that I should be putting out because some dude offered to drop 15 dollars on me in Chipotle. I also hate stuffy upper class white establishments because I am poor and brown and feel immediately overwhelmed by panic and anxiety as soon as I enter any such spaces. So when Noisey asked me to go on a first date at a prestigious London hotel and have afternoon tea, I naturally started hyperventilating. Only this time, because I was going on a date with LA’s very own Mickey Blue Eyes aka Tyrone William Griffin Jr. aka Ty Dolla $ign, I was hyperventilating with sheer joy.
Arguably the most famous man to turn his name into a symbol since Prince, Ty has been slow burning to the top of the game for a hot minute. He first appeared on mainstream rap radars following the success of his DJ Mustard produced single “Paranoid,” a song about the worry we all face about being caught in the club with your main and your sidepiece at the same damn time. This was followed up with last summer’s club banger “Or Nah,” the US’s dirtier answer to 2010’s UK funky anthem “Are You Gonna Bang Doe.” Having already worked with Wiz Khalifa, The Weeknd, YG, and Chris Brown before even dropping an album, Free TC, which is out now
When I arrive at our fancy chosen location ready to trap him before he gets too famous to date a lowly pleb, the resident pianist is playing classical renditions of smooth R&B jams including “I Believe I Can Fly.” Ty shows up on a swegway.
So what do I call you? Ty or Ty Dolla Sign?
Mr. Dolla Sign.
You're from LA right? Do you prefer it there or in London?
My city! I'm sure you prefer your city as well.
I don’t know, I’ve always dreamed about moving to LA.
What do you think of British food?
I like Nando’s.
I think I’m the only British person who doesn't rate Nando’s. Every time I go the chicken is dry.
I don’t know what you ordered…
If I come to LA I'd want to go to In-n-Out because I’ve never been before. I'm a really low maintenance date to be honest, I'm not really sure why we're here.
Well I'm kinda high maintenance ya feel me? I'm boojy.
What’s your ideal dating experience?
I'm not really into dating right now. I don’t have time to go hang out and date. I’m more on getting the album perfect, and if I’m not doing music then I’m kicking it with my daughter, so she's my ideal date right now.
How old is she?
Ten. We'd go do some shit that she'd like to do. There's this place called Sky High—just imagine a big warehouse with trampolines everywhere from the walls to the floor, you can jump in a big foam pit, do flips, play basketball, and actually dunk. Right next door there's a place called Glow Zone and it's all glow in the dark. You can climb on ropes, climb on the wall, laser tag, go-kart…
How big is this place?
It’s huge, like two big warehouses.
Can you go in an adult only capacity?
Yeah they have an adult only night but I haven't been.
So when you were on the dating scene, what's your ideal date?
Some cool food and probably go on to the movies, you know, basic shit that everybody does when they date. Maybe go home and have some fun and drinks.
This is like my nightmare idea of a date.
What’s your ideal date?
I don't really like dating, I'm more on the Netflix and chill wave. This is a bit…
Really intense! I also have a thing about sitting opposite people; whenever I go anywhere with a guy they have to sit at a 90 degree angle to make it less awkward.
I'm the same way. This is like a job interview.
Right! Dating in general is too intense for me, I'm not with it.
Smoke some weed, sit on the couch, watch some TV?
What's your favourite alcoholic drink?
Right now I've been on whiskeys and scotches because I wore out Patron and Hennessy and rum…
By worn out do you mean had too many wild nights and then threw up the next morning and don't want to taste them anymore?
Ever again. But I got some Jameson’s in my backpack right now.
Whiskey's good for the throat right?
Maybe not. I drank half a bottle yesterday when I was trying to go to sleep and when I woke up I was like fuck!
Is that why you're wearing sunglasses in here?
Maybe. Maybe they just go with my outfit.
So are you dating anyone at the moment?
That's my business.
Well we're on a date so it's kind of my business too, I wanna see how far this can go.
I'm taking that as a yes.
That's really upsetting. I'm just gonna drown my sorrows in this Dom Perignon.
What's your favourite drink?
Beer? I don't like it.
What? Okay I'm changing my answer to Dom Perignon.
I don't like sodas or acids.
I don't like clear spirits.
Gin is good though. It takes you all the way. Last time I was here I did a show at XOYO and afterwards there were like 12 girls lined up at my hotel room and I didn't let not one of them in because I was just so gone off the gin.
How did they find your hotel room?
I think they just followed us after.
That's kind of creepy. I know you're not focused on dating right now, but theoretically does it make it quite hard to date if you've got girls following you to your hotel room?
Probably. It'll probably make someone quite mad or insecure.
Was your song "Paranoid" based on a real life situation? Did you have two bitches on the club who knew about each other?
Actually I had three but I was being modest. I came with one and it was the wrong thing to do because I was in LA, and there are many girls in LA that have had a taste of the Dolla. It was me, Wiz, Taylor Gang all chilling and this other girl that I was talking to at the time taps me from behind and I gave her a hug and she gave me a little kiss on the cheek and walked away. She kept it real cool. I looked at the girl next to me and she wasn’t even tripping she was like turnt up! Then five minutes later the same thing happened with this other girl, she grabbed my face and tried to kiss me on my mouth and I'd never even kissed her on the mouth before. But anyway, I curved it—she caught the cheek then she walked to the same table that the other one that just came up was at and I was like woah, I didn’t even know they knew each other!
The sidechick table.
Do you prefer tall girls or short girls?
[Starts singing Rae Sremmurd’s “No Type”] You know they say—the more tall the more deep, you feel me?
I have never heard that.
Yeah the skinnier girls and the taller ones have the deeper…the thick ones, they can't take it.
I’m learning a lot on this date.
You’re skinny which means you might be able to handle something.
When were these rules decided?
I don’t know, it’s just experience, and some of the older homies told me the same thing and I decided I agree.
I don't know if I’ve drunk enough champagne to go any further down this conversational route. What do you think of One Direction splitting up?
Who? That's like the little boy band right? I don't listen to boy bands.
What do you think of Zayn Malik? He was the "ethnic hottie" and then he left so 1D were just four wet white boys who no one cared about anymore and now they've broken up. Zayn is tipped to work with The Weeknd and Drake now—he's hot news, you should work with him too.
He's like the hottest guy in the world.
That's not what I heard. I heard it was the Dolla $ign. Better check your stats.
Tyler the Creator hollered at him wanting to work with him too.
I like him, he's dope. I haven't got a chance to work with him yet.
I think he canceled all his tours.
It makes people want you more when you do that. I just canceled some today as well. I didn't feel like doing it today. I don't feel good.
What about your fans?
If there were gonna be fans there it would be different, I'd do it even if I was sick. It was just a little private thing on camera with some random people that I’ve never played with.
So what are you gonna do instead with the rest of your day?
I’m gonna chill, my homie Wizkid just got into town and we're gonna link up and shoot this video. I’ve been doing songs in my hotel room since I got here so we gonna shoot the video for one of them. It’s gonna be a movie.
Where are you gonna shoot it?
I’m not sure, I’m waiting on Wizkid—this is his song I just hopped on it.
Do you need any extras? I'm free tonight.
Yeah, come through.
Where are you staying? Actually maybe you don't want to tell me that, I might turn up at your hotel room later.
At a private location that I can tell you after the recording stops. You can come through and we can smoke some weed.
Is the weed better here or in LA?
Definitely better in LA. I think California has the best weed, period.
How do you smoke your weed?
Just papers or a bong.
No tobacco right?
I know, spliffs. I was in Brussels at a show and I was like yo, somebody pass me a joint from the crowd. I picked it up and hit it real hard and then all the tobacco came through, that shit hurt.
What is this, bread?
I’m gonna say this bit is caviar.
Oh hell nah.
Have you ever tried caviar before?
Are you gonna try it?
First dates are for new experiences, you should definitely try the caviar.
I can't do it.
Are you vegan?
No I just don't eat bread.
No I just don't eat bread because I love bread. Burgers are my favourite food but I can't do it, they just make me huge. When I first came out in the “Paranoid” video I was way bigger.
I love burgers. Beer and burgers.
How are you so small, do you go to the gym?
I hate the gym. I'm actually really lazy.
Yeah, we probably wouldn't work.
Why, do you like going on gym dates?
Not gym dates but I just don't like being lazy. I'm a really hard working so a lazy person around me would just throw me off. I'm up early and back to work every day.
Damn, maybe we're really incompatible.
Yeah that sucks. Maybe we could work for a couple days, or a week or a month.
Short term, before you get fat from all the In-N-Out.
You're a bad influence.
I've been told.
Have you ever tried any drugs apart from weed? I just tried some LSD when I was at this mad boat party in Cancun.
I don’t like boat parties because I can't swim. I'm actually really scared of water.
You're like a black person. Why can't you swim?
I nearly drowned when I was 3 and I've always been scared since.
How do you even remember that?
It's my earliest memory - there was a Jungle Book mural on the wall of the swimming pool and I just remember Baloo slowly getting further and further away as I sank deeper into the water. Then my dad saved me.
Shout out to pops man, if it wasn't for him we wouldn't be here.
Do you see yourself as more of a singer or a rapper?
What do you see me as?
I guess you could say that. I guess because it's like rap lyrics people classify me as a rapper but I've actually never rapped - I’ve always sung, there's always been a melody behind it. When I think of rap I think of 2-Pac, Lupe, Kendrick - that's rap. Drake is a hybrid, but I've never rapped, you can't point out one song where I’ve rapped.
Why do you think people see you as a rapper?
Because of how I look. Another black dude with dreads, he's a rapper.
How long have you had your dreads?
Since 2005. I was probably the first nigga in LA with dreads. Now everybody has them.
What do you think of white people with dreads?
They're cool. I don't like people with fake dreads though.
Like dread weave?
Yeah you can get them! I don't respect that - it took me time to get them. You gotta put in the work. That's boof.
Boof? Is that LA slang?
Yeah South Central LA, it means wack. You gotta come through if you’re ever in LA.
I'm Iranian, so if I ever came to LA I'd have to go to Beverly Hills.
Wait, for real? Persian?
People never say Iranian in LA, they all say Persian.
I think it's their way of distancing themselves from the terrorist narrative around Iranians these days. Beverly Hills is the Persian spot though.
Yeah they're in Beverly Hills, Westwood, over by UCLA… They be at the house, you feel me? Yeah man, I like Persian girls.
Do I look Persian?
I didn't see it at first but now I see it. I thought maybe you were Spanish. Do all Iranian girls have curly hair?
Quite a few, it's peak having curly hair in England though because it's always raining so it gets huge.
Maybe you should get a weave.
Or a wig, because then I could change my look up all the time. That would be one of my ideal superpowers, like Mystique from X-Men. If you could have a superpower what would it be?
To teleport. Or to be able to make a couple clones so I could do all the things I need to do. One guy with my daughter all the time, one guy constantly in the studio making music, and another guy to go perform.
You should really try this caviar.
Damn you're so pushy!
I'm an Iranian feeder, I do it to all the men I date.
That's why so many people in America are so fat, because their moms make them finish everything on their plate.
Did you lose weight after you moved out of your mom’s house?
At first I just kept going to McDonalds because I loved McDonalds and my mom never let me go to McDonalds.
I love McDonalds. I've got a cheeseburger tattoo.
I should probably copy you.
What's your favourite area in London?
I haven't explored London enough to see like where all the people live, I've only been here to work. I have time tomorrow if you're down?
Um, I think I'm hanging out with my boyfriend…
Your boyfriend?! You been trying to get with me this whole time and now you got a boyfriend. That's still cool, I'm not even trippin'.
He's definitely trippin'.
Oh he is? I'll just act like I'm an Uber driver and drop you off after. I just saw this shit on Instagram (he shows me a meme: "when you drop her off at her boyfriend's house after you fuck pretending you're the Uber driver").
Have you ever cheated?
Do you regret it?
Yeah, cheated and then got caught and then still did it.
Did she pretend to be your Uber driver and then your girlfriend was like 'Uber drivers don’t have Lamborghinis'.
Haha nah this was before Uber. Have you been to Nobu? You have to go tonight, take your boyfriend to Nobu.
I don't think my boyfriend can afford to go to Nobu, but it's my birthday soon so maybe I'll drop a hint.
When's your birthday?
I'm April 18.
So that makes you an Aries. I’m a Libra.
I think you’re the first Libra I’ve ever met…
And with a couple more sips of vanilla tea, his publicist whisks my wheat free bae away and on to his next appointment for the day, but not before a romantic dance.