Ty Dolla $ign may be known for catchy songs about the exploits of late-night partying and women, but he’s more than just Mr. Toot It and Boot It. Sure, he’s got the requisite tattoos, sports sandy brown locks and collaborates with Chris Brown and Trey Songz. But Ty$ (as he’s casually known) is also a multi-instrumentalist with an eye on musical domination.
After all, composition and the adrenaline rush that comes from a packed concert venue is in his DNA.
His father, Tyrone Griffin—whose name Ty$ shares—was a member of Lakeside, the ’70s funk band best known for the song “Fantastic Voyage” (sampled in Coolio’s 1994 hit with the same title). He played keyboards and sang backup, ultimately inspiring Ty$ to break into the business.
Having “Pops” by his side, even having him on stage playing horns, gives Ty$ the guidance he needs to navigate the rough ’n’ tumble industry. It’s even making Ty$ a better father to his 9-year-old daughter, Jailynn. The Los Angeles rapper/singer/producer chats with EBONY.com about newfound stardom and why fatherhood is the most important gig in his life
EBONY: How is your first headline tour going?
Ty Dolla $ign: It’s going amazing. I thought I would bring crowds to the show, but I didn’t expect it to be like this. I’m like selling out most of the shows. It’s crazy. I didn’t know if everybody had heard my Beach House EP or all of my songs. I was thinking it was more of a “Paranoid” frenzy. But they know all of the songs word for word. It’s crazy that the people are paying attention.
EBONY: How did you first discover your love of music?
TD$: When I was a little kid, I always tried to play the keys or beat on the drums with the drumsticks. I always loved music as far back as I can remember. Then I learned how to play all the instruments at a young age. Keys, bass guitar, drums, everything except horns. I went from playing the bass in churches to making beats, then playing the keys for other people. And then bam! I became an artist myself.
EBONY: What was it like growing up as the son of a famous musician?
TD$: My dad was in the band Lakeside, and I started traveling with them everywhere. I got to meet so many remarkable stars of that time, like Rick James, the Ivan Brothers, and Earth, Wind and Fire. I got to meet all them and go to shows when I was young. I looked up to those people and tried to develop similar tunes when my daddy played on their albums. I got to see so much and it just inspired me. That’s when I knew that’s what I wanted to do, I just didn’t know how. My dad knew how I felt and he helped put me in the right places. Now that I’m in, I brought him back.
EBONY: What advice did he pass along to you about the music industry and perfecting your craft?
TD$: To really study my craft. He put me on to all the old school stuff like Louis Johnson when I was young. He loved the group the Brothers Johnson and Louis played the bass on [Michael Jackson albums] Thriller and Off the Wall. He was the one who taught me how to play bass. My dad put me with all the greatest people. It definitely helped me now, because I know so much more about music and composition. It’s cool. I love Pops. I’m super thankful for everything he’s done to help my career.
EBONY: Your musical background and knowledge of instruments makes you unique in the rap game. Few rappers really know the foundations of music.
TD$: That’s true. But I’m really into it. I’ve got all of the old school vinyls from the ’70s even further back like the jazz music in the ’40s, ’50s, ’60s. Then I’ve got all the ’80s stuff underground, hip-hop when hip-hop really first started. The ’90s stuff. All of the good stuff, because I’m really into music and it helps me create new songs now.
EBONY: What is it like to have your dad on tour with you?
TD$: The main thing Pops tells me is just try to perform the record. I can get a little into the music sometimes and go off on tangent, but he tells me to perform the record the fans came to see and that they heard.
EBONY: Is he cramping your backstage swag?
TD$: I just do my own thing when it comes to that. Pops has tried to give me all the best advice, but I’m definitely turning up; I’m not going to lie. I’m thoroughly enjoying everything I can.
EBONY: Anything off limits?
TD$: Of course. Stay protected. Don’t do any hard drugs, all of that stuff.
EBONY: Ha! That’s great. How has your relationship with your dad influenced who you are as a father to your daughter, Jailynn?
TD$: I’m definitely the super-cool dad. Her mom is a teacher and we do a great job. The only thing I could be better at is to be around more. Other than that, I’m a great dad. I come to the soccer games and teach her stuff, go over her homework with her every night; we stay on the phone. I try to be as good as a dad as I can be. She’s definitely happy.