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Tyga’s smash hit “Taste,” featuring the never-missing, feature prodigy Offset, just received platinum status from the Recording Institute of America (RIAA). The sexy summer jam came out on May 16 and, by July 10, twenty-nine days after the Summer Solstice marked the beginning of the year’s hottest season, it was gold. With this being the spell that Tyga rules over with an iron fist, it took only two weeks from there, to July 24, to make it to platinum. “SWISH” was released a few hours after the announcement to christen the accomplishment, sounding near identical to “Taste.” The ubiquitous energy it spews can be found in the accompanying video, similar to the visual for “Taste”: sun-drenched locales, scantily-clad women, and poolside water views. The Tyga Trinity.
Iggy Azalea recently enlisted Tyga for her lead single for her upcoming sophomore album Survive The Summer. Since Tyga is summer’s favorite rapper, this makes sense. (Also because the song’s the kind of surface-level twerk anthem that would be remiss without a feature from a rapper with the ability to make her butt-bouncing rhymes a little more Los Angeles nightclub-friendly with his miry dance-leaden quips.) Judging by the hot sexual tension in the video, rumors began to swirl that they were dating. But she proved them to be just friends; she borrowed some of his hit-making summer abilities for her own.
There’s been an ongoing conversation about the watering down of hip-hop’s socio-political message. What served as a middle finger to the establishment during its Golden Age has largely turned into a get-rich-quick scheme for those looking for a quick dollar. The lack of depth is largely apparent; conscious rappers in the vein of Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole are in the minority. Rap nowadays focuses on the turn-up and the ways to do it. Nas’ Hip Hop is Dead was a whole album based on this belief, and that released in 2006. Since then, the genre’s degradation has only become increasingly easier to see and hear.
Tyga’s been in the rap game since 2008 and, while he often gets criticized for matters related to his dating life, in recent years, he’s escaped ridicule for his abilities. People have been slow to catch on, but he’s finally coming into his own as an artist because he doesn’t rap about anything more than surface-level. He’s been given a pass by the community unknowingly and he’s made the best of it this year. He’s carved his own niche as one of the summer’s most important rappers and cultivated an image of the ultimate playboy. It’s not unknowingly either — he knows exactly what he’s doing. But his urbane aesthetic has come on the heels of failures that have pushed him in his way over the years.
“Coconut Juice,” the first single from his debut album No Introduction, established Tyga to the rap scene as a guileless Bow Wow-reject addicted to being the life of the party. The song peaked at No. 94 on the Billboard Hot 100, but it fared better than follow-up singles “Diamond Life” and “AIM.” His carefree debut album fared much better critically than his follow-up Careless World: Rise of the Last King, of which Andrew Nosnitsky of Spin noted, “Tyga wallows in the sort of joyless, affected seriousness that he hinted at on his Black Thoughts mixtape series.” His next album, Hotel California, was written off as meaningless filler that copied bits of all channels of hip-hop circa 2012–2013, and The Gold Album: 18th Dynasty returned to the glum mood that made Careless World a slug; critic Meaghan Garvey of Pitchfork said, “The prevailing mood is one of vague bitterness.”
Both BitchImTheShit 2 and Kyoto are two blips on his radar that, even by his own depressing standards, I’m sure he’d be quick to forget. With the former being comprised of the kind of trap raps that he lacks the mettle to craft wholeheartedly, and the latter being an introspective kick that literally no one has ever wanted to get from Tyga, their critical and commercial failures—BitchImTheShit2 peaked at No. 139 on the Billboard 200 and Kyoto‘s album sales seem to have been scrubbed from the internet—make them largely forgettable in the scheme of his career.
Kyoto, however, did feature the sybaritic smash that is “Temperature,” making light use of dancehall conventions for a decidedly light romp in international waters. The song sounded damn good, even if it lacked true understanding of what makes the music popular. The accompanying visual showcased the luxe scenery and roué manner that has become his trademark. But there’s always a lesson to be learned in a failure, and if “Taste” and “SWISH” are any indicators, it seems that Tyga has finally learned his.
His upcoming album, so far, seems to capitalize on the strengths that he’s gained through his career; a mastery of laid-back, party rap, a philanderer disposition, and an ear for tantalizing productions that draw out the dancing vibe. “Taste” is the kind of summer song that’ll spark any gathering or karaoke competition with its smooth, summery bliss. “Swish” is similarly sexy, the twerk-off vibe being tailor-made to liven up any establishment. Tyga’s playing chess, not checkers; he’s frequenting his style because, historically, that’s what ‘s worked for him. From “Rack City” to “Faded,” “Temperature” to now “Taste,” this hyper-robust, sybarite modus operandi is the image that works for him. When he delves into pensive territory, there’s never been a hint of success. He channels this blithe aspect in his videos, with both “Taste” and “Swish” being nearly identical : one, gargantuan, beach-side party. “Taste” sits at 172 million views in two months, nearly triple that of his most popular hit until now, “Rack City,” with the latter being out for six years.
But if his interview with Billboard is any indicator, Tyga’s looking to get more personal with his music; moreso than at any time in his 10-year career so far. When artists “get personal,” they tend to go for the morose to delve into the worst parts of their lives. It’s the stuff that tabloids can’t find because of their secretive existence that they believe the public should be aware of. Drake revealed the existence of his son on the soulful, sanguine track “March 14” on his recently released album Scorpion. Chance The Rapper let the world know on an equally soulful cut, “I Might Need Security,” that he bought the Chicagoist newspaper. Because these artists are typically secretive with their lives, their spills are respected.
The thing about Tyga though is that his life is mired with the stuff of tabloid fantasy. Because he typically ends up in high-profile relationships and gets caught up with the law, gossip blogs have been made the public experts in all things Tyga-related. Being sued for unpaid rent. His store being vandalized in Los Angeles. Public social media standoffs with past girlfriends. We know damn near everything about him anyway. So, going an introspective route isn’t going to work because it won’t draw sympathy — just further ridicule.
Hopefully, he realizes just how much power he has in the realm of rap. There’s the conscious rap of old, the trap rap of today, and the new-age rap of tomorrow. No one’s making the asinine party records that have become Tyga’s shtick. These are nothing new on his résumé, but “Taste” and “SWISH” feel refined in their approaches. The fact that they sound so alike may hint at a uniform theme for the album, something that he’s yet to attempt. If he strips the notion that fans want more deep, mindful raps in line with what comprised Kyoto, then he may be able to continue the success that the first two singles of his new album are having. If he decides to talk about something else other than the mindless subject matter he frequents, he’ll risk yet another lackluster project. Tyga’s on the precipice of a new decade in his career when he turns 30, so figuring out just who he will be is important. Hopefully he makes the right choice.
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