On the heels of some notable singles and music videos, T.Y.E has released his debut album, 32: A sharp and visceral 10-track testimonial about the 22 year-old’s battle with mental health and self-discovery. With clever wordplay, often abrasive and graphic, he is able to freely enjoy unfiltered angst and introspection throughout 32. Sonically, the album explores an array of stylistic nuances: orchestral strings, powerful synths, blaring bass, choppy sampling and boom bap percussion. His music both embodies and invites listeners on the emotional roller-coaster he’s on. Not to mention, he sings opera.
Taking the more untraveled road in comparison to his peers, T.Y.E. has been entirely candid about his challenges with mental health, as well as the callous racism he experienced first hand while attending Abilene Christian University on an opera scholarship. None of this, however, has beat him down and he’s remained afloat and stronger than ever.
T.Y.E’s music is rooted deeply in hip-hop, and many novice listeners might believe that he falls victim to the rapper trope – one full of negative connotations and narrowed-mindedness. To the contrary, his influences span far beyond hip-hop and his main inspirations are not even in his genre. His everyday playlists consist mostly of movie scores. He rattles off the names of legendary composers like Hans Zimmer and Danny Elfman with ease, all the while paying tribute to a few favorites Ice Cube, The Beach Boys, and Kendrick Lamar.
Over the phone, T.Y.E is calm, relatable and skilled at cutting through small-talk to get to the truth. Though open about most aspects of his life, he grazes over any personal details. In his own words, he “doesn’t let a lot of people in”. To understand Tye Harris as a person, one must understand T.Y.E as an artist and his music. Take a listen to his latest project 32 here and read our #justnowdiscovering feature on the up-and-comer below.
So let’s jump right into it. I was looking around the internet and for the life of me, I couldn’t find what T.Y.E stands for. Could you tell us about your name?
T.Y.E: Well at first my mom and my whole family just called me Tye. They spelled it T-Y-E. But then I turned it into The Young Enlightened. It was me and my homies — we had a clique in high school and everybody used to call it T.Y.E. for The Youngest Elite. Then it just turned into me taking it as my rap name.
Was making hip-hop involved or was it just a group of you and your friends?
It was like a little clique, you know, me and my n*ggas basically chillin’. We were on the basketball team and shit. But the whole time I was in high school I was rappin’ too. So it just kind of stuck with me.
Moving on to the release of your debut 32, are there certain themes and topics you decided to explore or goals you’re wishing to achieve?
Just all that I was going through. I’ve been making music so it’s not like I was just trying to put a bunch of shit together. I didn’t know I was going to get the whole POW thing [Passion Of the Weiss record deal] so when I was making music I was trying to tell a story about what I was being introduced to as far as my mental health goes. I had just gotten out of the mental hospital and one of the things that my CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) doctor told me was to find an outlet. I already had an outlet, so I used music in order to document some of my emotions and my thought process.
As I made songs and jotted down everything that was going on in my head, I would go to my Bible and look deep inside myself and see all the anxiety and depression I had, and why I said this or that line. I would think, why am I always talking about fuckin’ a girl in my verses? Why am I always talking about how it makes me so angry? It made sense that the whole album would be about my thought process and how I go about living with this mental health shit. My CBT doctor would tell me to look at my notes and see how it made me feel. My notes, he said, would diagnose me and not just the CAT scans, which had also diagnosed me as bipolar manic. As I looked at my verses I saw how much of a roller-coaster I am. *laughs*
I realized how high I go up and then how low I come down — that’s being manic. That’s exactly what the album’s about.
That carries me into my next question about your delivery, as well as the different themes you explore in your music. Where do you get your approach and inspiration from?
I really don’t know, honestly. This is just my perspective and where I come from and the way I see things. I’m not trying to say I’m special or some shit like that. But at the same time I can only give credit to my environment and where I come from and the unique things that I’ve seen in my life that have constructed my perspective.
In a recent interview, you mentioned how at first you wanted to conceal your battle with mental health but you found that through expressing yourself, it was going to naturally come out. How has your relationship with mental health influenced your life?
I get a lot of support. A lot of people are very considerate of my well-being and concerned about my mind and mental health. That’s the positive side. People can also understand where I’m coming from now.
In past articles that I’ve read about you, you delve really deep into your upbringing.
Yeah, it’s just where I come from.
I’m a firm believer that we’re all products of our environment to a certain extent.
I was watching The Departed the other day and Jack Nicholson said that shit. He said something like, “I don’t want to be a product of my environment, I want my environment to be a product of me.” I just thought that was some cold ass shit.
Who’s in your headphones right now?
Well before you called I was listening to Mozart. I listen to a lot of soundtrack music from movies. Not soundtrack songs but actual film scores. I listen to Hans Zimmer, I listen to a lot of Danny Elfman. Shit, I’m a Beach Boys guy myself. I fuck with Brian Wilson, my n*ggas birthday’s coming up here soon. As far as hip-hop is concerned, my favorite rapper is Ice Cube. Kendrick Lamar too of course, but as far as every day music that I listen to, I’m most likely going to listen to Hans Zimmer’s movie scores.
Lastly, which songs can you recommend to new listeners who are just now discovering your music?
“La La Land”. That was a pretty big one. “Unusual”, “Eternity”, which are all on the album.