Memphis Music Feature: Tyke T
Ed. Note: Tyke T is an independent Memphis hip hop artist who hit Billboard charts earlier this year with his sophomore EP The Prelude, which was released on his own label. He’s performing tonight (Friday, Nov. 24) at the Poetry v. Hip Hop show at Azul Tequila Bar. Get out and support local artists – advanced tickets are $10-$15 – but go up to $20 at the door tonight.
Cat Evans talks with Tyke T about his motivations, music, and goals in this interview.
I had the chance recently to sit down for coffee with local artist and independent music label owner Tyke T. I expected to see the man I’ve seen on stage multiple times, wearing a Tyke T branded hat and a t-shirt with the word “Driven” across the chest.
Instead, he walked in wearing a buttoned-up cardigan that I’m pretty sure my Grandpa used to have hanging in his closet. Tyke T looked like a regular guy who’d just gotten off work. After cracking a few jokes about his Grandpa wear, we started talking about Tyke’s music and his label. I was quickly reminded that this artist is far from a regular guy.
Here’s our Q&A.
Cat: Who is Tyke T?
Tyke T: As an artist, the first thing I want you to know is that Tyke T is driven. I started without any resources, no connections, no understanding of the music industry at all besides a dream. And the fact that I’ve gotten to this place today is absolutely amazing.
Cat: Where are you today?
Tyke T: I’m a label owner, a Billboard-charting artist, a first round Grammy ballot artist for Best Rap album, Best Rap/Sung performance, and Best New Artist. That’s a blessing. It’s absolutely crazy to me, because when I started back in 2011 when I first got to Memphis, not knowin’ anybody, nobody believed that I would be able to do music. Nobody. I don’t know why they didn’t believe it, they just didn’t. To be here at this very moment…it’s a blessing. Every day’s exciting, for real.
Cat: What are your goals now?
Tyke T: I want making music – and my label Driven By Music Entertainment – to be my primary source of income. I’m like everybody else: I got a 9 to 5 job, and the label is my hustle. It’s somethin’ I’m fightin’ for every day. I think musically, I wanna be respected as your top musician. I think I’m the best rapper in the world, that’s just how I feel, but I understand how subjective that is. The music – as important as it is – is not the number one thing in this music industry. My hustle, my grind, my drive is. It doesn’t matter how good I rap, it doesn’t matter how good I sing…if I’m not out here letting people know I do this.
Cat: What made you want to become an artist?
Tyke T: My brother. He’s my biggest inspiration. I remember growing up, he brought in so much music throughout the years. It’s funny how life foreshadows. I remember when he brought the Playa Fly CD 20 years ago. I felt like God was foreshadowing where I would be today, because I had to learn the blueprint of Memphis hip-hop back then in order to make it in the city now. You can’t be an artist in Memphis and not know “Nobody Needs Nobody.”
Cat: Speaking of your base, how is your relationship with Memphis? How do you feel about Memphis, the music scene here, the artists?
Tyke T: I love Memphis. I owe Memphis everything, ’cause Memphis gave me a chance. I was doing every open mic night or show I could do, and though every event, I was able to build relationships with the artists and promoters. I really love Memphis, and I think the music scene is amazing. The city is full of talent. We all know it. There’s talent everywhere. Seriously. There’s somebody singing right now that should be on tour with Chris Brown. There’s a hunger in this city I’ve never seen before in my life. I owe everything about my artistry to Memphis because Memphis gave me opportunities. For example, FedExForum, K97, 901Fest… they all gave me opportunities. So yea, I love Memphis.
Cat: Who are your musical influences?
Tyke T: *laughs* Everybody. My mom put me on to the R&B side like Boyz II Men, Bobby Brown and Jodeci. My brother put me on to the Rap side with No Limit Soldiers, Hot Boyz, Pastor Troy, Ball & G and Gotti. When I grew up, I started listening to Outkast, Jay Z, 50 Cent, Drake, Kanye, Jeezy and Gucci. When I was young, I’d go to the skate center and what did they play? Backstreet Boys and N’Sync. My cousin put me on to BET, TRL, Donnell Jones and Beyonce.
My Grandma played gospel music all the time, artists like Kirk Franklin. So all of these influences are in me. So when you hear it in my music, you hear all of it. It’s just who I am. I wish I could only give you one side of me, ’cause it’d be easier. You could just put me in a box. I have all of these [influences], and you’re going to hear them. I can’t hide it. I wish I could but I can’t. I don’t have the ability to.
Cat: Tell me about Driven By Music Entertainment
Tyke T: That’s my label. That’s my heart, it means everything to me. I’m gonna be my own publisher, pitching my own records to TV, movies, and video games. Is it going to take longer? Hell yea. Is it going to be harder? Hell yea. But it’ll be more beneficial than me giving a publishing company fifty percent. In addition to in-house publishing, I want to do in-house producing. Eventually, I want Driven to be a roster of everything, i.e., comedians, athletes, artists, not just for music. Music is one thing, but you can be driven by anything. Before we can diversify, we have to get the music side done right first.
Driven By Music Ent. is a place where artists can grow. We want to give them all of the tools to be successful. We’re gonna make sure that they own their music, understand the music business, and be equipped with the tools and information so they can be sustainable on their own.
Cat: What are 5 Things about Tyke T that people don’t know?
1. I’m a huge Mama’s boy. That’s my heart. She’s amazing. She’s everything.
2. You probably wouldn’t know that I know all the words to Genie in a Bottle. That record’s fire.
3. My favorite movie for awhile was Big Daddy.
4. I don’t like cheese.
5. I’m gonna get killed for this, but I don’t really care about College Dropout. Sorry. I just don’t.
And after the interview, he sent me this:
“You don’t have to be signed to a label to go to Billboard. You don’t have to be signed to a label to get your songs on TV. You don’t have to be signed to a label to be on the first round Grammy ballot. You don’t have to have a big base to push 30 songs in 30 days. You don’t have to have any of that. You just gotta have the DRIVE to wanna f***** do it.”
There y’all have it, folks. Tyke T. aka the most “driven” person I’ve ever met.
Cat Evans was born in California, raised in Memphis, and now lives in midtown. She’s a photographer, writer, organizer for DreamFest Weekend, founder of CLE Events, and a Reiki Master. Find her work at Focus Magazine, I Love Memphis, her online portfolio, and Instagram.