Ty

Upwards

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Compared to fellow British rappers Roots Manuva and Dizzee Rascal, Ty's introduction into the recording ranks, his 2001 debut Awkward, came with a small impact. That low profile suited the mild-mannered rapper, whose lyrics, delivery, and production embodied traits -- thoughtfulness, modesty, introspection -- rarely celebrated in rap music, whether commercial or independent. A Ty track can celebrate his lyrical skills (of which he has plenty), reminisce over his shy-kid childhood as a Nigerian immigrant in London, or intelligently discuss a range of social concerns. That he spits lyrics that give pause while maintaining his groove and floating cutting-edge productions are extra feats, ones that made Awkward a left-field success for British rap. His second album, Upwards, is a contender for many 2003 end-of-the-year lists (although its American release came five months later). While not the unadulterated success that Ty truly deserves, Upwards is steadily interesting, it grows more bewitching with each listen (traits common to a mature artist), and it's occasionally brilliant. Early on, the single "Wait a Minute" has an interesting topic (lack of communication in romance) but a broken-beat hook that quickly wears out its welcome. Ty relaxes soon afterwards, knocking the excellent lopsided rhythm on "I Want 2" out of the park with an appropriately unbalanced flow and some of the best rhymes of his young career. "Oh You Want More?" is an uproariously confident track for such a modest rapper as Ty, but he deserves to drop the line, "So take lessons from the boss/ Been humble with the skills, now I intend to floss a little." Ty switches tone quickly, though, dissecting on "Rain" the type of situation -- a nightclub shooting -- that's often glossed over by rappers, and expanding it to include an earnest, intelligent complaint about the prevalence of guns. Stylistically, Upwards is just as compelling. Drew Horley, Ty's added production partner, helps give the productions an additional breadth and bite that didn't exist on the first album, like the carnival flair of "Oh You Want More" (that illustrates Ty isn't so serious with his games of the dozens) or the stuttered grooves of the album (and scene) highlight, "Groovement, Pt. 1." Critics often compare hip-hop artists to all-timers like De La Soul or A Tribe Called Quest, but Ty deserves the comparison; he's a distinctive voice who never lets his social concerns diminish the vitality and warmth of his recordings.

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