Ty$ is standing on the sidewalk. He holds a skateboard in one hand, a bottle of water in the other. Sporting a white snapback hat, his long dreads dangle around his head like octopus tentacles. I notice my reflection in his black sunglasses. TGOD is sprawled across his navy blue hooded sweatshirt. But the part of his outfit that pops the most are his black shorts; they're covered in pinned on gold dollar signs—at least fifty of 'em.
He's earned the look. The LA artist's most recent mixtape, Beach House 2, is one of the summer's best records. Gathering approvals from the rap Internet all the way up to the New York Times, the collection of slippery R&B feels like 2013's answer to TP-2.com. Chatting in the VICE offices for about 45 minutes, Ty Dolla speaks confidently, joking around as he offers advice on relationships, talks his favorite artists, and teases his next mixtape—which hopefully arrives this fall.
Noisey: The genre in which you operate uses aggressive lyrics paired with smooth sounding music.
Ty$: It allows me to sing about the same stuff that a rapper would rap about, and get away with it. I think if it was a rap beat, then it wouldn’t be so cool. Or if I was rapping over those slow beats without melodies, then it wouldn’t be acceptable. Girls allow me to sing the stuff I’m singing to them because it's smooth.
So if you were rapping you don’t think it would be as cool?
It wouldn’t be as cool.
How do you define what is cool?
You know, just whatever is pleasant, whatever sounds good to people, you know? Not violating in that way.
The lyrical content is pretty intense. What if, like, your grandma heard this stuff?
I don’t think they’ll be listening to that any time soon, but I’m sure my moms heard it. But she knows what's up, man. She’s been my age before.
How old are you?
I’m old enough, man.
Talk to me a little bit about having two girls in the club and how they know about each other and how you make that work and if you have any advice on how to balance that.
You just gotta move quick, and you just gotta chill and hopefully no fight pops off and no bullshit.
Have you ever had multiple "girlfriends"?
Yeah, of course, sometimes maybe three or four.
I mean, I’m using "girlfriend" here very loosely. What's the most you've had?
The only thing about me is that I don’t lie to people or try to hurt people someone on purpose, so I’m not telling two or three girls that they’re my girlfriend and that I love them.
It’s just more—
It’s just more fucking.
Okay. Well, talk to me about growing up in a musical household. Your dad was in a funk band. What influence did that have on you?
Yeah, my dad was in Lakeside and one of my uncles played with The Isleys and all their friends did music and I met all the old '70s and '80s dudes. I’m cool with Teddy Riley, one of the greats. It was cool, definitely a lot of knowledge got picked up from them, wisdom, or whatever you wanna call it—you know, this music shit. I know how to play all instruments, anything but brass basically, and I’m sure if I bought a horn I could figure that out.
How many instruments can you play?
Everyone one of them except any that has to do with lips. Horns, I don’t know how to do that, but anything with the figures or beating on some shit—I do that.
Do you have a favorite instrument?
Bass, probably because it was the easiest to learn because it's like one note at a time.
How is growing up with all of that reflected in your music?
It definitely gives me an advantage over other artists and producers. It's just a cool sound, man, you know what I mean?
Seems like, since Kanye's 808s & Heartbreak, there's been an emergence in "dark electronic R&B," if we can call it that, with you, the Weeknd, Drake, etc.
I understand what you’re saying, comparing me to those because they’re dark. The chords aren’t happy; they're eerie fucking live shit, so I’m happy that other people can understand my music. When I did Hou$e on A Hill, I had a house song on there—I had the house keyboards on there mixed with the 808s and pianos and guitars. But on [Beach House 2], I zoned into one sound so that’s cool.
What’s it like working with Kevin Gates?
Kevin Gates is awesome man. He’s cool; he’s talented; he’s got hella lyrics—good lyrics. He’s got a lot of stories. He’s really quick. Other people get you to think they’ll be better, but they just take forever. He’ll just go in, knock the verse out, and then its all good.
As an artist, is there anything about which you feel misunderstood?
No, because everyone can have their own opinion and feel what they want to feel. The people that I meet like it, the females like it, so it's cool man. I feel like I’m only going to grow. I’m not gonna stay the same forever, you know?
What do you want to grow into?
Being a man, you know what I'm saying?
How do you define being a man?
Just like fucking growing up. Just like Jay Z. He went from fucking "Big Pimpin'" and doing all that crazy shit to being married and buying everything and being the shit. I wanna take that path and give people an example to follow, that’s what I want, because he’s like a dope example. There’s been a lot of people that came up with him that aren’t good examples.
Yeah, his transition has been amazing. Would you, what do you think of Magna Carta?
I think it's crazy—I love it. There’s one that I’ll skip by. The last one, but I’ll probably like it late.
It's funny to think about where Jay Z was in 1996 compared to Justin Timberlake, and now Justin Timberlake is opening up a Jay Z record.
I don’t know, for me it’s different, because I used to fuck with Justin, so I know him from all levels. Justin is a cool dude, man. I used to be signed to him and Will.i.am. together. He’s super cool, hip-hop head dude, listens to like dope shit, freestyles, and plays all the instruments. He's a good rapper.
Where do you see yourself as an artist fitting in the scene?
I’m gonna tap into everything. Being that I’m a producer, I want to produce house music, rock music, rap music, and then get my features on, too. I’m just like fuck it, kill everybody off.
Do you have a favorite type of music you like to produce?
I like when I make something and the whole room explodes and everybody is going crazy. My favorite kind of shit to listen to is J Dilla, like some hip hop shit. It’s the sounds. You can kind of hear it in my music too, the melodies and the grittiness and the grunginess. He did Donuts from the hospital bed, you know what I'm saying?
What does that choppiness allow you to illustrate musically?
I get tired of fucking sounding like everyone else and I feel like everyone’s on their laptop and using VSTs. I wanna come up with a whole new sound, and sometimes it's not new—it's an old sound, but it just reminds you of old shit. It gives you that feeling of switching it around, like a puzzle or some shit. You take other people's shit and put it together and now you have a new piece of art. It's like the artist Mr. Brainwash, but in music
Are you a perfectionist?
Definitely a perfectionist, but some songs can be quick, some songs take longer. “Toot It And Boot It,” for instance, I did that beat in five minutes and then the hook was another five to ten minutes and it was over—and that’s been my biggest hit so far.
Are there any artists that you want to collab with that you haven’t yet?
Definitely, John Mayer. He’s the best artist here right now as far as playing and lyrics.
I love John Mayer, that makes me feel great that Ty$ is endorsing John Mayer. What is it about John Mayer? Have you met him?
I haven’t met him yet, but I buy his albums, and I listen to his music, just his skill over other people because he can play the guitar for real and he can really sing and harmonize and his lyrics are really good. He takes time with his shit; you can tell he’s not playing with his music
What do you think about the LA rap scene and how do you fit in?
It’s amazing man. People compare me to Nate Dogg and R. Kelly all the time. The Nate Dogg one, it's just, like wow. He was the biggest dude in LA when I was growing up.
Does that make you feel pressure?
No, I’m just like thanks man. I’m just trying to top that.
Are you aware of the LA sound and do you use its influence to your advantage?
It's definitely happened. The whole ratchet sound, that's our sound. It went from LA to 2 Chainz, to fucking everybody. Even Drake.
How do you define ratchet sound? Do you like that label?
Yeah, it's cool. Its fun. Ratchet means fun, so turn it up, party. There’s Bloods and Crips in LA and everyone is just chillin’ and partying—not murdering fucking bitches.
How long have you skated?
Since I can remember, fucking falling and breaking shit
Would you consider yourself a good skater?
I mean, I’m good, but everyone falls. I’m not like hopping and sliding down poles, and all kind of crazy shit. I do have a career—I need to do my shit I’m not trying to fuck myself up too bad.
Do you have any more relationship advice?
Just wear a condom, man. Even with oral sex sometimes, you might need to put a rubber on, you cant trust these hoes, man.
Tell me about your tour.
I’ve had an orgy already on the bus. Just like a couple girls came through and she was giving head she was like, I want more. So I had another homie come through and we went HAM.
You have six more shows. Six more orgies?
Hopefully man it all depends on the girls and what they want to do, no pressure
What are you doing post tour?
I’m doing another tour with YG and recording more songs, I’ve got a lot of feature things coming out, where I’m doing the hook and the beat on people, so just look for it.
Do you think you’ll have any more mixtapes coming out soon?
I’m gonna put out Whoop 2! and that’s going to be me and Joe Moses.
I may due the beginning of fall. It's not definite. I don’t wanna give a date until I have all the mixes and videos. It’s coming soon.
Eric Sundermann will probably get made of for saying he likes John Mayer. He's on Twitter — @ericsundy