Ty, Nigerian-British acclaimed, Mercury-nominated rapper, dies of covid19 at 47. The Nigerian-British legendary musician died on May 7 from complications after contracting the deadly covid19 coronavirus.
According to his friend, Diane Laidlaw who set up a fundraising page in April, he had been “put in a medically induced coma to temporarily help his body receive the appropriate treatment. However, Ty’s condition had been improving but last week while on a normal ward he had contracted pneumonia which worsened his recovery and ultimately Ty’s body couldn’t fight back anymore,”
Born, Ben Chijioke in London in 1972, to a Nigerian Igbo family, he grew up with his sister in a traditional Nigerian strict home where he was expected to take to a ‘respectable professional career path’ – which mainly would be a Doctor, Lawyer or Engineer. However, TY fell in love with music and decided to pursue a career as an MC. Having got a job as a sound engineer, he was able to save up some money and started recording in the mid-90s, appearing on tracks produced by IG Culture’s New Sector Movement and DJ Pogo, as well as hosting a hip-hop night called Lyrical Lounge. In 1995, he co-founded Ghetto Grammar, a pioneer in hip hop education in the UK.
An Igbo youth community leader, Chigbo Ibe tells me, “Although he wasn’t mainstream, mainly because UK Hip Hop was never fully embraced by the UK masses, especially when he came into the scene. Ty was however known across the UK Black Community, gradually grew his reputation as one of the pioneers of UK Hip Hop music and most influential in the UK music scene.”
Ty was a bridge between generations, fields and creed. He had given numerous lectures at various events, Black Cultural Archives (before they moved to their latest venue). He was also known to many members of ICSN who used to attend back in the early 2000s, had also been a panellist at the Igbo Conference a few years ago.”
“He spoke of his experience of living with a white family when he was little ( apparently it was quite common in the 70s for some immigrant families to send their children to live with white adopted families for a few years whilst they adjusted to UK life). A story that was also captured in his appearance on a Channel 4 News show in 2019, where it was stated that he spent most of his young age in a foster home. He also spoke on how he entered into the UK music industry, what it was like as a Nigerian man growing up in a time when it was not popular to be African.”
Ty released his debut album, ‘Awkward’ in 2001, and Upwards in 2003, a mixture of Afro-funk, Jamaican dub, Latin shuffles and dextrous wordplay. It was well received and exposed him to much more mainstream platforms. Reaching No.35 in the UK Independent album charts. The album showcased his laidback, humorous, storytelling style, as is captured in ‘Rain’ as he talks about the difficulties associated with gun crimes as well as can been felt in his ‘Wait A Minute’ talking relationships.
TY went on to record three further solo albums with the most recent being ‘A Work of Heart released in 2018 and collaborated with dozens of artists from afro-beat drummer Tony Allen to Soweto Kinch and US hip-hop outfit Arrested Development.
His second album, Upwards, was nominated for the Mercury Prize in 2014 alongside Amy Winehouse, The Streets and winners Franz Ferdinand – who eventually won the prize.
His death has been a true shocker and he has been mourned by many both celebrities, from the community and all who knew him have described him with nothing but great and positive words.
Idris Elba described Ty as a “UK hip hop pioneer”. Taking to Instagram, the actor wrote: “I’m broken by this man. I remember when we did a tune somewhere in S.london back in the day, that was when I was doing 1st season of Luther and we talked about the Wire a lot. Prayers to your family.”
Actor Noel Clarke said on Twitter: “Except a few, most people wouldn’t know but this guy was my Friend. Today COVID took him. Stay home. This thing is not a joke.”
Ghostpoet added: “Rest in peace Ty. Rapper, poet, activist and one of the finest talents the United Kingdom has ever produced. Your music will live forever.”
Radio DJ Gilles Peterson said: “I’m so sad about the news that @tymusic passed away today. He was a huge part in the development of Hip Hop and spoken word in this country. An original no-nonsense voice was always sharp, always witty. Today’s generation of rappers owe him a lot – a true gate opener.”
Rapper Ghetts wrote on Instagram: “RIP TY. This one’s deep I had a lot of respect for Ty, one of the first from the older generation to embrace me and show me, love. Fly high TY.
DJ Charlie Sloth called him “a friend, a role model and a true foundation to UK rap”.
Roots Manuva merely wrote: “Rest my Brother. You did good”.
Posdnuous, from US rap trio De La Soul, who appeared on Ty’s third album, Closer, in 2006 also wrote, “This brother here was truly a good person. Sad to see you ascend from this realm so soon,”
His sister, Maria Chijioke, said: “Before he passed we actually spoke to him on the phone and that gives me great comfort that the last thing he heard, from his family, his little sister, from his mother, is that he was loved and he went knowing that he was loved.”