TiRon is definitely one of the doper acts to emerge out of the new west coast scene as of late. He’s made a name for himself with his initial mixtape Handshakes & Pounds and done tracks with Blu, Pacific Division, and Tunji (of Inverse). What makes him so distinct is his honest and often humorous look at life. He recently dropped his second mixtape, Ketchup which has been met with pretty positive reactions across the board. I got the chance to ask him not to long ago some questions about his music, what has influenced him, what he’s been working on and some others as well.
Interview after the jump
LP: How has the response been to Handshakes and Pounds?
T: “Response was pretty cool, I pretty much put it out to gauge how people felt about my stuff. The second wont be out ’til next year, but the first one I just wanted to see where I was at. So I put it out and got a response and it was cool.”
LP: Seems like a lot of the blogs were feeling it.
T: “It actually opened up a lot of doors, once I put that out a lot of people reached out and wanted me to be on their mixtape and featured on this song and that song.”
LP: How do you try differentiate yourself from all the talent in LA lately, people like Blu, Inverse, U-N-I? Do you feel like you have to work extra hard to make a name for yourself?
T: “I feel like we all do to a certain extent, we all have to work hard you know? Its so many new dudes comin out, and especially in LA everybody is looking over here right now for some new shit. It just so happens we’re all at the forefront of this. But I dont feel like theres any competition, they’re all my peers and I respect their music just as much as I’m sure they respect mine. If anything its inspiring to work with a lot of these dudes. We have a lot of different sounds that mesh well together, I mean besides from the fact that we all do rap. Everyone has their label (be it), hipster rapper or underground rapper or whatever, I think because the hip hop scene out here is so mixed up; a lot of the artists that fit in either of one those “genres” can all get down on some shit together. I got songs with Thurzday, Tunji(Inverse), Pac Div, thats how I stand out, by working with everybody.”
LP: It seems like a lot of LA rappers are getting together and collaborating a lot more.
T: “We have to. We are the “forgotten coast” is what I like to say. A lot of people really forgot about us over here. Even after Death Row was killin em back in the day there was always a scene here. But this scene got slept on mainly because we slept on our own scene. If you really want people to pay attention to what you’re doing, you gotta pay attention what you doing, what you got crackin’. Over here a lot cats started payin attention to each other, so it was like nigga fuck what everyone else is doing, fuck that, and trying to get attached to a scene that ain’t in our backyard. So we just turned around and started looking at what we was doing and everyone started lookin at what we was doing.”
LP: You’ve been doing more shows lately, how’s that experience been for you?
T: “Its been pretty cool actually, its been a big learning experience especially when some of your peers rock really dope live, espcially Inverse they put on a really really dope show. We already know about Pacific Division and U-N-I as far as shows go. Its been real cool to sit back and learn and soak up a lot of game from a lot of these dudes. But also to experiment and do different things myself. Performing now is real cool, I can’t even explain it…its almost like back in the day I fought for attention, but now I can just go up there and do music and do me.”
LP: Have you been doing live shows for awhile now or are you still getting used to everything?
T: “I didnt really rock too many shows this year, last year I did a whole lot of shows. This year I was more focused on getting material out. I was trying to get my name out and get my work up so come ’09 I got a bunch of songs I can do with various people. You never know what show I might come out at because I have so many collabs with so many different artists so I can just pop out and any show and I’ll be relevant at every show. I’ve had a couple feature spots, guest appearances and things like that but for the most part I was just working hard, grinding and making music.”
LP: How long have you been rapping exactly?
T: “You remember Compuserve Prodigy? I’ve been recording since the days when the internet was first starting to get popping, or at least for me anyway. I really started recording my own music around that time, because the microphone came with the computer and everything. You could even use the voice recorder on the pc, the generic one back in the day I used to use that shit. And then obviously I got older and got to the studios but I had been writing music since I was 9 or 10 years old.”
LP: What are you influences when writing?
T: “I have way too many influences, music is my influence. [And] I dont want to sound deep by saying some stuff like that but I’m really just inspired by a whole of shit and people and experiences. Its not just music that inspires me as well, its just life shit doing what I’m living life and doing things and seeing different things. When I came out to California I felt so fortunate to have done so because [Kankakee] where I’m from, its really not an open window to learn a lot of the things you can learn simply because LA and Cali is more of a melting pot.
Whereas as [in] Kankakee, you wouldn’t find too many different culures of people hanging out. Motherfuckers ain’t really going to go eat Indian food in Chicago or any-, I mean some people do but for the most part, for the majority if you come out here you will find so many different types of cultures clicking because niggas went to school together and you grew up with all different types of people. So I’m influenced by everything, its Cali.”
LP: So would you say Cali has more of an influence on you doing your music than Kankakee?
T: “Its not more of an influence, its just different. If I stayed I probably would have picked up different influences. Its different everywhere, instead of one type of style out there that I would have mastered I came out here and got ten different styles. And that goes for just listening to music.
When I first got out here I was in second grade, I remember one of my first white friends ever. He turned around and gave me a Tears For Fears tape like, “wanna be best friends?” And I started listening to Tears For Fears and I’m like what the hell this is his favorite music but he said I’m his best friend so fuck it I’m going to learn something from him. He opened up the door to Tears For Fears and Faith No More and I was like alright.”
LP: Would you say you have a signature sound or how would you describe your sound?
T: I dont give a fuck about people labeling my shit. No disrespect to the question or anything but I dont really worry about how my music is categorized. When I make music I’m not like, “I want it to be on some introspective hip hop shit”. I really just make music, most times I really dont care because I’m gonna do what I do regardless. A lot of motherfuckers could be disappointed that I’m not doing some of the shit they might want to hear from me. They hear Handshakes and Pounds so they’re like “oh he’s this type of emcee”, but then “Throwing My Money” comes on and you’re like, “awww I dont really care about this”. So I’m just gonna do what I do.
LP: Cant really put you into a box, you’re switching up your style on every track on Handshakes and Pounds.
T: “Once you do that you put Cali in a box. Truth of the matter is, everybody that lives in Cali ain’t really from Cali . So you can’t put us in a box simply because we’re from everywhere. Back in the day when DeathRow was doin it, everybody was like LA is gangsta rap, down south [is] club music, east coast [is] gutter subway, street shit. Whereas now you might be able to hear some club shit down south but don’t forget about Lil Wayne and Andre 3000 because they can rap circles around 90% of everybody the game. And then you come out here and its like okay, we do have The Game and Snoop and all that but dont forget that Blu who will rap circles around your head and dont forget about Pac D who will hold down a live show. I really dont want to be put in a box this time around because they’re just gona box a whole lot of people around here out.”
LP: On the track “La La”, you were going in on “fake thug rappers” a bit, as well people who are too worried about their image. Was there a certain mindstate you were in on that track or were you just airing things out?
T: ” Around that time, while I was kinda figuring myself out musically, there were a lot of people figuring out their shit musically. And it was around the time where a lot of people were “selling coke” and “had guns” and were”selling KIs” and they got “coke on the boat”. At one point it just got so overwhelming that when I heard them(?), I’m like wait, I’m not hearing these dudes right now, I cant hear them right now. So that’s why I wrote the “I ain’t hearin you dudes uh uh, so I plug my ears up and go la la” because I just ignored a lot of motherfuckers and sure enough that shit ain’t really fashionable no more.”
LP: Definitely seems to be going out of popularity, more relatable stuff is popping up these days.
T: “Yea because kids don’t give a fuck about all that coke sellin shit, because hip hop is supposed to be the voice of the community that ain’t heard. Hip Hop is the voice of the underground, thats what it is. I mean aside from being fashionable and all that other shit its all about doing different shit. When it[coke/crack rap] first started popping, it was glamourous so a lot of people were really paying attention to it. But once everyone started doing it, the public was like, “You know what I know a whole lot about selling coke know. So we want to hear some different shit.”
“Just look at the game, think about all the people that were really really relevant five years ago and then take those same five people and look a them now. You see what happens when you oversaturate something and you do something to death, you ain’t got nowhere to fit in. And when you do try to change up, niggas will be like “Well you branded yourself as the coke/crack rap dude for so long that I cant see you doing anything else.” So its a lot of cats that just killed their career just because they branded that shit so well. So thats where I was at with that song[La La] I just ignored a whole lot of people and just started paying attention to my city.”
LP: On “Slap Bracelets”, you take it back to your childhood experiences of the late 80s and early 90s. Is there anything from that time period musically that you miss?
T: “I miss being able to listen to whatever the fuck I want to listen to without—do you realize how much corny shit you to listened to as a kid? Like for real, no bullshit I used to listen to “Ninja Rap” by Vanilla Ice. I remember back when I was in the school talent show and I kicked my partner in the head. You know that dance where you’re supposed to kick over someones head and they duck? I kicked him in the head, to Ninja Rap, in front of the whole school. Its shit like that, experiences like that about childhood I miss. But for the most part musically I would say being able to listen to whatever you want because you listened to a lot of corny shit. Whereas now what you listen to makes up a lot of your image.
So thats why you have people that try to rap over “different” shit and everybody wants to be on some electro shit. Just to seem way more out the box, everybody wants to seem next level–everbody wants to call themselves a fucking alien. For real I’m like that shit is like the same as back in the day when niggas wanted to call themselves gangsta. That whole, everybody trying to be next level type shit seems like such a fad when back in the day you would be next level and not even know it. I mean, Vanilla Ice, that’s some next level shit. Like when you really break it down. A whole lot of niggas just listening to corny ass shit, thats what I miss about it. The innocence of music, just being able to listen something and be in love with music in general. ”
LP: What new projects are you currently working on, if anything?
T: “I got Ketchup coming out in like January of 09, so next month. That will be crazy, me and Pac Div did a very crazy record produced by Cook Classic. The same dude that did “Sydney”, we just all got together and did a record. I know its going on Church League Champions and it will definitely be on Ketchup. Its going to be a very crazy mixtape, a lot of features, just catching everbody up. I dont know why I ran with the theme Ketchup but I was like fuck it, I can just put out the material that I released this year, aside from some new shit that I’m going to give out and just keep grinding and pushing records.
LP: The VIMBY video showcased your skills in the kitchen, do you have a favorite meal to cook?
T: “Shit what is my favorite thing? Me and Ayomari, we do spaghetti sometimes and invite motherfuckers over. Shit I dont know. Hot dogs? Chilli dogs with onions? Burgers? I dont know, everything. Classic Peanut butter and jelly sandwich.”
LP: What are you listening to right now that you’re feeling?
T: “I like that Colin Munroe, that Colin Munroe mixtape is pretty fucking crazy. I like Drake, a lot of the shit that Drake has been coming with. Pac Div, Blu, a lot of the shit thats been coming out, U-N-I, myself. Black Milk is fucking crazy, Jay Electronica. He got a record called Exhibit A(Transformations), Just Blaze did the beat, that shit is crazy. 1500 or Nothing, theres a bunch of music out there really. I’m not gonna say music’s better than its ever been but we gettin real good as of recently—or maybe music’s always been this good its just been tucked away for so long. I’ll be honest I was sleeping on Lil Wayne for like the longest [time], I dont think I was sleeping on Lil Wayne I think I was just a hater. I was just a hater ass nigga. I was a hater on Lupe too, I’ll put that out there, I was a Lupe hater just because I didnt get it. Thats why I say try not to hate on niggas because there’s always that one song that makes you know why they’re incredible or why everyone thinks they are incredible.
Even Soulja Boy, a lot of people hate on Soulja Boy and all that but if you really look at what they do a lot of these, motherfuckers are pretty incredible. They’re talented at marketing themselves well and coming with dope hooks, like at the end of the day if a lot of people are looking at this particular dude its not just because of hype. Hype does play into it but you cant have a career like Lil Wayne strictly based on hype, there has to be talent that goes with it. So I remember when I first heard “Theme Music to Driveby To”, that and “Dear Fall” Tunji played me Dear Fall a long time ago, when I heard that shit and the heard he didn’t write it down that shit bugged me out so much I turned into an instant Lupe fan. Same thing with Lil Wayne, he had this record, I don’t even think it ever came out, I think its called “Do It Again” he had this crazy rhyme scheme when he was on that shit I was like, “Okay Lil Wayne is dope”. All these motherfuckers I’m hating on is actually really incredible. If I had any advice to anybody who’s out there listening to music: If anything don’t be hype on yourself and dont be hyped on whatever you like. Because you could be hyped on that so much to point where you hate on anything thats the opposite of that.”
LP: What do you do when you arent making music?
T: “I’m thinking about ways to make music and I’m eating a whole lot and watching illegal movies. Thats about it.
LP: Where do you see yourself one year from now with your music?
T: A year from now? I can see my whole life but I’ll just give you a year since thats what you asked for. A year from now I see myself doing what I do now, but way bigger and better. Thats it. I mean if you know me you know the type of shit I do, so picture me doing it better. So if I’m eating a fly ass meal, picture me eating that same meal maybe a little flyer but in a different land a year from now. Thats how you have to see it. Or I could be in the same city just in a different house or with different clothes on with a different mentality, I dont know. Making music, thats where I see myself a year from now.
LP: Anything you would like to add?
T: Ketchup is coming 2009. Shout out to Pac Div, Church League mixtape coming out. If you dont already have it go download every mixtape that you’ve ever heard that I might be on because that shit is probably great. Whether it be the 2dopeboyz Cadillac mixtape, The Exactly Your New Favorite mixtape, theres a lot of shit I’m on. Look out for VIMBY’s mixtape [The New Classics] I’m going to be on that mixtape. Thats it just pay attention to me.