Ty Chijioke has surpassed the simple moniker of UK rapper to achieve the tag of critically acclaimed musician. Whilst some may claim to belong to that same category, when comparing their catalog of albums to TY’s eclectic, live orchestrated projects, mass differences are evident. This is because TY is a special kind of emcee – an artist who pushes the boundaries as to how far his idiosyncratic view on Hip Hop will take him.
But things have changed four years after the release of his last album Closer. Not only in terms of the current musical output but in the fact that the artist had been diagnosed with diabetes. But TY has always been one to overcome any obstacle and Special Kind of Fool brings forth an artist on his forth album, ready to once again raise the bar for good music.
Anyone who has followed TY from his first album in 2001 would know that musical creativity and messages would be his top priority, which is abundantly clear from track one. The dreamy and distorted opening ‘Don’t Cry’ paints a dystopian look on the harshness of life and provides a rather bleak chorus hammering home a post millennium society filled with much pain for such a short time period.
But in equal measure, TY’s message is not one of despair but of hope, and more importantly, an upheaval from accepting mediocrity as standard. The following track, ‘Wait’ takes a more optimistic approach, with jazz saxophonist Soweto Kinch providing some extra invigorating flavour to TY’s eloquent verses. ‘S.K.O.F’ superbly blends heavy beats, jazz percussions and gospel vocals to create a unique backdrop to TY’s mix of street poetry and spoken word, which works in sync instead of one aspect drowning out the other.
On more than one occasion do we get to see the magnitude of all of these merits in full working order. Firstly on the sublime ‘Heart is Breaking’ which finally brings a much anticipated collabo with UK affiliate Sway and promising vocal sensation Roses Gabor. TY lets loose on both the deteriorating musical standards as well as the unforgiving circumstances which many people face in order to survive.
Probably the greatest example of his genius comes on the released track ‘Emotions’, which really does rely on such feelings. Riding high on a firing Hip Hop instrumental, TY digs down deep to muster up hard hitting lyrics,
“Somebody better up with some fresher ideas/
’cuz together, we’re dying through collective diahorrea/
Somebody douse the flame/
It’s like we’re screaming fire but the truck never came/
This music used to bring the joy and the pain …”
His final verse stands as a definite quotable for anyone who has lost hope in the current output of material.
There is an undoubted sense of care and precision which has gone into each track and what is most enlightening is that the tracks are allowed room to breathe for up to five minutes at best. This allows TY to not only inspire us with his witty tales, but allows the numerous guests and musicians on the album to shine thoroughly. From the vibrant jazz produced ‘Happiness’ with Vula on vocals to the haunting goodbyes sung by Anthony Mills on ‘I’m Leaving’, every collaborator featured on this artist gets their moment to shine and fans of his older material should be aware that guests rather enhance a TY project rather than clutter it.
TY’s fourth album superbly highlights one man’s passion and love for the music and culture which it was birthed from. TY’s wordplay has enhanced, his messages are direct and sharp as ever and production is crisp. This all transcends into, without a doubt, one of the most ingenious albums of the last few years. Emotive, eclectic, humorous, but most of all honest, Special Kind of Fool is the truest reflection of an artist fighting to preserve a culture which has sadly become a parody of itself.
Special Kind Of Fool is out on April 19th, 2010 (BBE Records).