A common thread between the traditional and digital media landscape of the 50 years of Hip-Hop's evolution on an international scale is the age-old debate of identity. From how writing rhymes, perfecting your off the dome freestyle capability and battling the block to claim your spot as an emcee to the contested contextual definition of what constitutes emceeing today, the current texture of Hip-Hop is pushing beyond the framework of purist identity in favour of fluid artistry.
While the integrity of lyricism, narrative song construction, the craftsmanship of a vicious 16 (bars) catchy hook and enthralling bridge, thumping 808s or airy boombap kicks is often challenged by the formless approach to making music incorporating sounds that are argued to not have a place in the Hip-Hop sphere as these sounds usually have their own cultural nuance which can be invasive to the movement of Hip-Hop. Ultimately, unless we are producing the cohesive albums and EPs we get from today's liberal rappers and songwriters, who are we to create unwritten laws about one’s artistic licence and how they use it?
Tyler Linkman, a Universal Signee, managed by South Africa’s most coveted independent record label and management entity [STAY LOW] continues his foray of unlimited creative expression with the release of his latest single “Nowhere.” The Liam beats production features sensual bass guitar by Dean, and additional intimate guitar and saxophone melodies by Jordan arts tied together by an ensemble of female background vocals working in tandem to revive the spirit of uptown 80s funk.
Nostalgic, Crystal and reflective of Tyler’s outlook echoing his previous body of work "Garden Flavours" still continues his whimsical penmanship with a grounded foray in knowledge of self (one of the cornerstone elements of Hip-Hop discourse) and welcoming his budding audience into his multifaceted craftsmanship. I had the pleasure of conversing with Tyler about “Nowhere”, his previous body of work, the influence of label head Vaughn Thiel on his artist development, his philosophy on going somewhere slowly, his love for live instrumentation and more for ColorBloc Magazine
ColorBloc Magazine: Your new release showcases your versatility as a musician and your willingness to explore different sounds and styles. How important is it for you to continue evolving and pushing boundaries in your music, and what do you hope to achieve with this new release?
Tyler Linkman: Showcasing versatility as a musician. I listen and draw inspiration from different types of music outside of hip-hop ranging from jazz, the blues, funk & soul among others. So that's why I feel like I always have to reinvent myself. When I make new music, I love challenging myself, and what ignited a refreshing excitement in the creative process of “Nowhere” was dousing live instrumentation into a record.
I got my friend Dean to play the bass guitar on the song, then I got Jordan Arts to play guitar and saxophone for the song, finishing off with a sweet sonic ribbon of soothing female background singers. It's very important for me to always push myself and evolve as a musician, because I feel like every song I make, or every EP I make encapsulates my essence and narrates vivid perspectives of instrumental moments in time in my development as a person detailing what I go through.
The more I learn to appreciate music, and the more music I listen to, I always love to incorporate that with what I do. What I hope to achieve with this release is basically just, you know, showing people that I'm not just boxed into a certain type of genre within hip hop, and that, you know, there's so much more that I can offer in terms of, you know, making music.
ColorBloc Magazine: Are there specific musical influences that informed the sound and style of your new release, and how do you integrate those influences into your own unique artistic vision?
Tyler Linkman: My musical influences for this new style and sound stems from people like Wyclef Jean, Thundercat, Kaytranada, John Forté, Goldlink and Mac DeMarco. Oftentimes I find it easy to just rap/sing over a sampled beat or original composition that you buy from a producer but the songwriting process in a band setting forces you to think and write outside of your comfort formulae.
That’s why these creatives I mentioned are so important to me because they incorporate a live vibe into their sonic tapestry in their sampling or how they interpolate live instrumentation with real instruments in the studio drove me to do the same for my current journey with reinvention.
I just love the way bass sounds on a song, especially if it’s an actual bass guitar and it's bass heavy. Going against the digital mode arch of sampling we replayed every single instrument from “Nights Over Egypt” by legendary 80s funk band The Jones Girls giving our sample direction a whole new feel. I was inspired to make music that can be played live because I feel like it's important to have people consume your music in a different way.
"Nowhere" Cover Art By @jadeayla. Image: Supplied
ColorBloc Magazine: What was your favourite memory or experience during the creative process of this new release?
Tyler Linkman: My favourite memory I had with this release during the creative process was basically having been in a beautiful studio. The Universal Studios is breathtaking and being in there with the engineer and having Jordan onstage and my friend, Dean, and the background singers like just having all these creative musicians who can truly speak through the instruments they use. Being in the driver's seat of creative direction and fostering the spirit of collaboration was absolute fun. The synergy and free-flowing vibe of the session made the writing process effortless
ColorBloc Magazine: Since signing to [STAY LOW] how instrumental has label Exec Vaughn Thiel as a creative director and sounding board in addition to the artist camp impacted your artist development overall?
Tyler Linkman: Vaughn and Shooterkhumz have been exceptional towards my artist development, they challenge me to get out of my comfort zone and kill the voice in my head that enables me to overthink my music. With my artist development they have shown me the multifaceted aspects to being an artist from the thought design of artistry, how it is packaged and delivered, the business (a critical pain point for Vaughn) behind the music and most importantly trusting myself especially when it comes to my creative process because again, I tend to overthink when I’m trying to figure out what a beat wants from me during the listening sessions when I’m working in studio.
Vaughn has taught me a lot about myself as a musician and positioned me to have a curator and producer mindset with how both his and Shooter’s overarching input shaped the distinctive alternative sound of "Garden Flavours". Vaughn and Shooter taught me to detach myself from the music and listen to it as if it's someone else's and that basically helps me to understand the way I make music better and how I can improve making my music. I’m super appreciative of the homies.
ColorBloc Magazine: Your previous release "Garden Flavors" had a distinctive alternative sound. How does this new release reflect your evolution as a musician on the lyricism and soundscape dynamics?
Tyler Linkman: When I created "Garden Flavours", I was experiencing an existential limbo of sorts, levitating from one day to the next and I made a sound that reflected my dreamlike state of being. With “Nowhere” there is a part of this whimsical arch from “Garden Flavours” with a twist of me being grounded in who I am.
The more rooted in my knowledge of self I became the more confident and inspired I was to show people that there is a multifaceted facet aspect to my artistry outside of what I started to be known for, the melodic rapper. “Nowhere” reflects my evolution as a musician and the direction I wanted to take in terms of Dynamics and lyricism simply put is one of a mature “life of the party” groove.
ColorBloc Magazine: Your previous work had a psychedelic hip-hop sound, while this new release has a jazz club aesthetic. What inspired this change in sonic trajectory, and how did you approach incorporating new elements into your music?
Tyler Linkman: The essence of my previous work having a psychedelic Hip-Hop sound is rooted in my love for spontaneity, certain productions will bring out different moods and expression mediums, some allow for the spirit of rap, others call for some smooth serenades.
So to answer your question I wanted to extend my reach, plant new seeds in the garden of sound I’ve made for myself and let new flowers grow while letting my evolving fanbase get to know me a little better.
Those who have heard and loved "Garden Flavours" already know I love psychedelic hip-hop. but that's not all there is to me or what I have to offer, I’m an advocate for Groovy, Jazzy, 90s nostalgic hip-hop and I want to explore the time capsules of our past and present to create a new, yet familiar future, that's what fundamentally drives my formless trajectory.
ColorBloc Magazine: “Nowhere” introduced an envelope-pushing pocket of experimentation we haven’t experienced from you before. What is the most valuable takeaway from the creative process of this record?
Tyler Linkman: This goes back to the conversation about artist development. Vaughn always says:
“Don't make music for other people make music for you, then release it, because if you like it, it's real to you, it sounds good to you, there’s proper emotion in there or whatever, other people are never inevitably going to like it too. Music is all about relating. You know, the reason people love music is because they relate to it. So if you're honest with yourself in your lyrics, and you put that out there, for sure other people are gonna like it too.”
Given how I enjoyed the process so much I want to continue this formless approach to making music and my growing audience can definitely expect more experimental layers to my music. I want every song or EP to have a different vibe and a different lyrical narrative reflecting the highs and lows of my life in and outside of music.
ColorBloc Magazine: Which philosophy do you abide by, “Going Nowhere Fast” or “Going somewhere slowly”. What motivates said outlook on life?
Tyler Linkman: Definitely going somewhere slowly, because I think the journey is one of the most beautiful things on earth. I feel we have forgotten the power of pacing ourselves in our respective life journeys and the lessons we get from mistakes we learn along the way not only makes victory of reaching our goals sweeter, they also prepare us to not take our blessings for granted. It’s actually scary how many of us like to live so quickly we forget to absorb and be still in where we are.
This is another thing that inspires “Nowhere” me acknowledging that I’m not all the way there yet, that I’m just getting started but these small wins I get along the way are just as important to celebrate than the coveted markers of mainstream success. The time for awards, brand deals and chart topping singles are in progress but I don’t need to wait until I have that success attached to my name before I start being grounded in living my best life.
A bridge I hope I get to cross successfully is keeping my humanity when I reach my definition of success because oftentimes when we start defining our happiness by what we achieve our craftsmanship and passions dwindle into nothing. My ultimate goal in life is to always feel as dope as the bass in this new song, to keep the night young as people dance to this ego booster you know!
ColorBloc Magazine: Finally, what do you hope your fans and listeners take away from this new release, and what can they expect from you in the future?
Tyler Linkman: I just want them to enjoy them and I want to make people feel good. I want people to relate, like, listen to the lyrics and feel like they're not alone. Then in the future, you can expect way more music really, really dope music on the way. This is only like my third year making music so I can't wait to see how it's gonna be in a few years, I'm so excited to try new things. You can expect some more collabs, a lot of music videos, and a lot more Tyler Linkman and that's that
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