Ty Money hails from Harvey, Illinois, a suburb on Chicago's South Side. He's been recording for years, weaving subtly artful narratives about life in his far-flung, poverty-stricken city. He first caught my attention on 2012's "Ready to Ride," a pensive tale crafted with winding, impassioned lines about life behind bars. The song's meandering tempo and tense atmosphere, punctuated with eerie cackling throughout, stood apart in a genre that, by 2012, was continually ratcheting up in intensity. "Yes or No," a single from this year's Cinco de Money 3 and the first feature for recently freed Chicago rap legend Bump J, is a continuation of this unique sound. It's also become a local hit, an ominous street record that whose success speaks well for Bump's longevity. "Yes or No" is also proof that Ty's best work moves at its own speed. Despite his skillful wordplay and earnest emotional content, his music seems uninterested in control or catharsis; instead, he probes his circumstances in search of understanding, as if reaching out in a darkened room in hopes of finding a surface, to gain some traction. His music's tendency toward slow, spacious drift could reflect a prisoner's powerlessness or the lonely topography under the orange glow of sodium lamps on Sibley boulevard. What Ty best captures is not the street cliché of feeling trapped but rather the feeling of being ineffectual, as if given too much time to think with no outlet for the effort. Bump J, meanwhile, is a Chicago legend. Before the drill scene existed, Bump was Chicago's street rap hope; his music was in McDonald's commercials, he had multiple Kanye beats, and he signed a million-dollar deal first with Lyor Cohen, then with Atlantic Records. Bump's bluntly clever rap style epitomized Chicago swagger, the threat of violence concealed beneath the surface of every bar. At the time, Bump and the Goon Squad seemed to run Chicago. "Everybody in my hood played him," Ty told me. "I was about 13, 14. Playing that shit every day." Ty's favorite Bump song was "Catch Em, Rob Em" off the Chicagorilla mixtape. Bump's career was derailed in 2009 when he was sent to prison for a 2007 bank robbery. In the interim, Chicago's hip-hop scene captured the genre's zeitgeist and became one of the most diverse rap ecosystems in the country, its street sides included. Numerous artists in Chicago have garnered attention over the past decade since Bump went away; that the returning rapper chose to first collaborate with Ty Money, whose profile doesn't yet extend too far past the city limits, says something. "He was just like, 'man, I wanna get behind you. I'm with whatever you with. You fuckin' these niggas up, ain't nobody fucking with you.'" Bump had reached out to Ty before even leaving prison. "His big brother Shake called me," Ty says. "He was like, 'Bump's gonna get out. He's gon' slide on you first.'" Ty's Cinco De Money mixtape series, released May 5 every year since 2015, has a hard conceptual deadline, which Bump—who'd just been released—almost didn't make. "Real shit, my first thought [when I heard the song] was, 'fuck how it sound, hurry up and mix it so we can put the mixtape out before 12 AM and it's May 6," Ty laughs. He got Bump's verse at 10 PM May 5, just in time to drop the tape.
Cinco De Money 3 is out now, and Ty will be touring this fall, starting with a show August 25 headlining ILL Fest. Watch the video for "Yes or No," directed by AZae Production, at the top of the page.
David Drake is a writer based in Chicago. Follow him on Twitter.