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Ty - Upwards

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Artist: Ty

Album: Upwards

Label: Big Dada

Review date: Aug. 15, 2004

UK hip hop talent Ty is not just another import flavor-of-the month. A first generation Londoner, Ty's Nigerian heritage has always informed his work, often times manifesting itself in a detached outsider's perspective. Shuffled through foster care while his parents worked all day and sometimes all night, Ty developed a heedful scrutiny that has served him as a musician. It is this observational skill that fuels each track on his new Big Dada album, Upwards.

The stuttering, joyous bounce of the album owes much to Afro-Beat legend Tony Allen (Fela Kuti) on drums and producer Drew. On the track “Wait a Minute,“ a relaxed shuffle meets heavy polyrhythmic crunk, a progressive, yet unforced backdrop for Ty’s rhymes regarding boy-girl troubles.

In contrast to the recent release by Cee-lo, which shares a similarly ambitious scope, Upwards never stumbles or overextends. From a lyrical perspective, the vibe of the record is somewhat old school; Ty’s manifestos are chock full of amiable, in your face braggadocio. “Oh you Want More” drops pop culture references on par with Del tha Funkee Homosapien, over diced up carnival organ and a huge kick drum pulse.

In other spots, Upwards affects a deep soul groove, even amidst skittering beats and nods to chill club production. It’s not all easy listening - Ty’s lyrics deal with unfair class systems, economic disadvantage, and the desire to find positivity in the midst of racial alienation. “I might have a dream, don’t mean I’m Luther-King,” intones Ty on the track “Look for Me.” While humility was necessary in that comparison, Ty needn’t shy away from his political savvy. It’s a powerful element of Upwards, especially when he’s slashing through cultural hypocrisies.

Upwards sparkles with its dazzling mix of African influences – from gorgeous polyrhythmic female chant singing to the assured strut Allen. There is also a compellingly European flavor in its classy refinement. The album’s political message comes smuggled inside a sleek and smooth set of maneuvers. Ty should be commended for bringing all of these influences under the umbrella of hip hop, and breathing new life and spirit into tired trends.

By Casey Rae-Hunter

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