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August 2014
August 2014
In this issue:
Kimbra, Will Wood, Robert Scott, The Nukes, Louie Knuxx, Shihad, Beach Pigs, Libeau, Seth Frightening, The Nomad, Lizzie Marvelly, Jordan Reyne, Myele Manzanza
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Feature: Tyree - It's Now or Never

Author: Andrew hughes

Some have touted him as a very marketable commodity, others choose to attack his music for its lack of depth, pointing out the similarities to American styling and image-based marketing. It seems everyone has an opinion on him, his music, his crew, his boss and their label Move The Crowd Records. In the few weeks before Tyree's debut 'Now Or Never' officially dropped, 'Ya boy Ty' was swamped with media commitments, which naturally doubled post September 11 when the album was released.

Meeting up at Woodcut Studio just a few days before the release, I found Tyree Tautogia to be a mild mannered, grounded, energetic and charismatic character. He has high expectations for himself and his Smashproof comrades Young Sid and Deach (Sid also has an album slated to drop in early '07). The crew have gained the backing of Universal's trans-Tasman offices, and the boys are labelmates to veteran DJ/producer Juse, and Breakin Wreckwordz affiliate Ethical. Tyree also secured a supporting spot for Jay-Z's three date Australian tour at the tail end of September. Things are looking real sweet for the 21 year old.

"One thing about that album is I was making hit singles," Tyree explains of the early recording stages. "I wasn't really thinking about an album, so when you listen to it you sort of get that feel. I must have listened to my album like a million times, so I've lost that feeling, the feeling that got me to choose that beat. The first single was a different style [to what people are used to].  Maybe I expected it to do a bit better, so I'm a bit nervous now because of that."

In anticipation of his debut offering, Tyree has worked with various artists to help his buzz gain momentum. One is Chamillionaire whose track Riding Dirty has received an absurd amount of airplay in the last few months. Tyree managed to snap up the local remix, which reached the number one spot in early September and, he says, has gained him positive feedback in Australia and Hawaii.  Another was the first single for DJ Sirvere's Major Flavours 1 Australian release 'Turn It Up', where he featured alongside Smashproof and MC MZRE. Subsequently Sirvere has taken Tyree on tour in Australia several times. Tyree's first single Ladies and Gentlemen peaked at #21 in early August, managing to stay inside the Top 40 until late September when the second, I Need A Girl, had gained steady rotation.

The personality of 'Now Or Never' is one of a cocky, tough-talking scrapper, full of bravado and ready to set the party off. The album plays out like a frame-by-frame look at a young leader who has overcome adversity to express his take on personal achievements. Joints of energetic magnitude like the banger We Here and the over-distorted guitar on Dangerous help set the tone and align the product to a 'get rich or die trying' model. Tyree's rhyme flow is not yet technically brilliant, but still striking. His presence on the mic is stunning, especially when complementing hooks where his harmonies and backing vocals are flawless.

"Basically I just get the main (theme), and when I lay it down I play with it. I'll try a different tone, something real weird, those are the things that come out good man. Sometimes I'll just start with the verse, but lately I've been writing verses with no angle. Usually I'd start with the hook then write verses about the hook, ya know? But it's all spontaneous bro. Whatever you're feeling on the beat. That feeling, when you get that feeling, boom, that's it, as soon as you hear the beat bro."

The planned September 11 release date made an obvious choice - except that the same month also held releases from local emcees PNC and Cyphanetik. Was this a smart move on MTC's part? In many ways it brought about a face-off between underground and commercial fields on all levels (marketing especially), testing the waters for hip hop releases in this country. Although there were no seismic rumbles from either artist, the CD sales domino effect further added to the lazy response being felt from hip hop consumers here. 'We need another Stand Up!,' as one told me.  'Now or Never' sadly failed to achieve Top 40 status and has proceeded with its subterranean drift for three long weeks since I wrote this.

With label head Kirk Harding based in New York, where in a few short years he has worked his way into the exalted position of Senior Vice President of Universal/Motown International, MTC can provide opportunities for their artists that other labels and acts might only dream about. Late last year Tyree and crew flew off to New York to record a portion of the album at Cochise's home studio in Brooklyn. Cochise also mixed the album which was mastered at the famous (Beastie Boys, Chamillionaire, Busta Rhymes) Sterling Sound studios. Through Harding, Tyree hooked up with professional rappers such as the untameable T-Dot rep Kardinal Official, Black Rob of Bad Boy Records fame, and Ruff Ryder member Flashy.

"Black Rob's [hit] single was [called] Whao, so it was only right to get him on my Whao track. There's two dudes in F.B.I. (French Beats International), and they said that he came in and was vibing to it. And it wasn't just him, even Kardinal Official was telling me he was vibing to Ladies and Gentlemen, fully in a zone. Sometimes you get writer's block but they were just flowing hard, and that's a good sign for my music, that they're getting the vibe. I didn't get to personally work with Black Rob, but Kardinal was cool man."

'Now Or Never' adopts a radio station (WMTC) theme throughout its numerous intermissions with dialogue extracted from Walter Hill's classic cult flick The Warriors. In one the female DJ expresses, "Understanding what it means to keep it real is a great deal more complicated in reality. Be careful young warrior, for when you can't see the angles no more, trouble can soon follow."

I had this in mind as I heard several diss/ warning tracks, released by established and respected local emcees,  likely aimed at Tyree. The shots being popped have been understandable and in fact welcomed by MTC. But those who see him as a two-dimensional marketing machine overlook the struggle Tyree went through to arrive at this point.

"Before I was with MTC I was making my own demos at Papatoetoe High School studio. Back in high school I was a singer 'cos I couldn't get marks on rapping, so I used to make demo's where I'd sing the hooks and rap the verses. I was making my own beats, using a keyboard with an 8-track, cheap-ass styles bro. In exams I would just think of beats, ya know, and make whole songs in my head. But I wouldn't want to forget them, so I'd just constantly be going over it. 'Fuck exams!', ya know? I put all of my eggs in one basket and came out better for it."

MTC Records had naturally expected at least Top 30 success and sales of 2000-plus copies of  'Now Or Never'. The album has considerably more promotion yet to come, but to date the first 1500 copies shipped are being slow to sell through. The kind of name artists used for some the beats can charge more than US$100,000 per track, so it's reasonable to assume that better success in other territories will become a priority.
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