When asked how he'd describe Oak Cliff to someone who'd never set foot in his leafy enclave, T.Y.E. answers flatly "It's a hood neighborhood in Dallas." When asked where in the 'Cliff he'd take this theoretical doe-eyed (read: white) outsider, he lists Big T Bazaar, Rudy's Chicken, and Danieldale Park. All three—the overflowing swap meet, the drive-through chicken joint, and the verdant park—feature prominently in his video for "32," which Noisey is premiering, from his debut album of the same name.
On 32, T.Y.E.'s bipolarity is played to maximal effect: self- and generalized loathing contend with his too-human yearning for love and acceptance; instrumentals change as suddenly—and violently—as his moods; operatic singing boils into gnashing rap. If, at first glance, 32 seems trite, that's understandable–mental illness is regularly commodified as entertaining wackiness, and expressions of vulnerability are treated as an artistic ends rather than a mean. But, in Oak Cliff, depression is weakness. Sharks don't see a bleeding seal as a creature in need of veterinary attention, they see it as prey. The 32 lifestyle's edicts–monastic in their simplicity–account for this: "On guard at all times; protect yourself at all times. Real niggas recognize real niggas. It's all respect unless you got some hoe in ya' blood, unless you got somewhat of a fuck nigga reputation."
Because of his candor, T.Y.E.'s place in the Dallas rap canon—a more aggressive, unrelenting sound than that of their opiated Houston brethren—is one of partial removal. "My music is different what people in Dallas fuck with, honestly…If I start talking about real hood shit, then niggas can get down with it…I try to talk more about the psychological aspects of living in this environment that people don't like to admit to. I like to talk about depression, the trauma, and the effect that the environment has on you."
Compared to his album's wildest, most depressive flailings, "32" is conservative, or as conservative as a tribute to a crew of goons can be. (In South Dallas gang parlance, "32" is both shorthand for Oak Cliff's zip code, 75232, and the Yung Guerillas gang, often abbreviated as "YG." "Y" is the twenty-fifth letter in the alphabet, "G" is the seventh. 25 + 7 = 32.) "32" is, in T.Y.E.'s own words, his album's stolid gangster rap cut–no vacillation, no conscience. If the primary qualities of "32" are disrespecting those of hoeish phenotype and immutable self-preservation, then the secondary characteristics are emptying clips, fucking your bitch, and hanging with felons.
In gangster rap, these are fairly mundane qualities—oh, the affordable housing we could build from spent hollow-tip casings and empty banana clips—but there's sub-sub-regional specificity to "32," with T.Y.E. rapping "I'm from Red Bird and Hampton, 232/My side of [Route] 67." On that side of 67, about four miles from the intersection of Red Bird and Hampton, is Danieldale Park. The unassuming park (aside from the open-air concrete pavilion, it appears architecturally and topographically boring) is one of T.Y.E.'s three Oak Cliff must-see's. It's where he and director DanceDailey filmed the "32" video, and where the Y.G.'s host an annual picnic in honor of mononymous and deceased members Donte and Chris.
When I ask about Donte and Chris, whose faces and names Yung Guerilla O.G.'s have tattooed, T.Y.E. instead offers a benediction for the Oak Cliff dead and incarcerated: "Long live them–they would've been O.G.'s in the game if they hadn't died. Rest in Peace L.D. Rest in Peace Donte and Chris. Rest in Peace Clyde. Rest in Peace Sherm. Rest in Peace–man, it's a lot of 'em. And free all them niggas, too."
Then he adds, "There's a lot of people I wanna say 'free' and 'rest in peace' too, but some of 'em some fuck niggas. I gotta watch what I say now, 'cuz niggas I was cool with probably murked somebody's cousin that likes my music, and I don't wanna step on any toes."
Torii MacAdams is a writer based in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter.