TYGA IS JUST 31 YEARS OLD yet he’s lived a long life as a recording artist. He burst on the scene way back in 2008 with “Coconut Juice,” backed by Fall Out Boy’s Pete Wentz and co-signed by Travie McCoy and Lil Wayne, real family and soon-to-be family. He was positioned to be an MTV darling, when the channel was still in search of its next set of heartthrobs. Following TRL’s demise, the company was looking to wrap their arms around anyone with dimples. With its mix of alt-influenced hook, LA aggression in his rhymes and blue skies outlook in the video, “Coconut Juice” seemed like it was a blueprint for his stardom. By the next year, the blog era ushered in the next wave of superstars from the hip-hop world, and Drake, Kid Cudi and Wiz Khalifa had next. Tyga was on the outside looking in.
As luck would have it, Tyga joined the same team as Drake and became a Young Money member. His sound got upgraded too courtesy of DJ Mustard. The novelty of debut wore off as “Rack City” from his Careless World: Rise of the Last King LP broke in a real way and powered Tyga into the conversation. He was also aided by a collaboration mixtape with Chris Brown, Fan of a Fan, which had helped to resurrect both of their careers, Brown’s from scandal and Tyga’s from irrelevance.
He rode the success of “Rack City,” that mixtape and the Young Money compilation momentum to legit stardom.
Then it fizzled…sort of. (But not really.)
The burden to be next up in the Young Money camp fell too heavily on Tyga.
2013’s Hotel California went gold and featured a lineup of heavy hitters, including Future, Rick Ross, The Game and Jadakiss, among the usual suspects.
But that project and his next, 2015’s The Gold Album, produced by Kanye West and at a remove from Young Money, failed to keep Tyga in the musical zeitgeist, which he had seamless fit in. He then began feuding with Drake and his dating life was in headlines more than his music. From my view, as Drake and Nicki Minaj took off into superstardom, the burden to be next up in the Young Money camp fell too heavily on Tyga. A formula emerged as the system around him rallied to attain the success Aubrey and Onika managed. That Tyga didn’t, unfairly contextualized his achievements and likely stalled the rollout of other YM acts behind him.
Underneath all of this, a different story was occurring. Tyga went through a few management changes and the music industry and mixtape game were reconciling the means of distribution from a bifurcated state to a streamlined pathway. Everything an artist made would soon be available on DSPs, blurring the lines of what was a mixtape and what was a proper album. Artists would no longer have dueling discographies that could cannibalize one another.
That’s the thing about a recipe, though, we all know the ingredients.
Because in 2015, Tyga’s mixtape was everything his 2015 album wasn’t. “Glitter” and “Ice Cream Man” were bangers and each racked up video views that his earlier major labor efforts achieved. To the masses, though, it seemed like Tyga was being counted out.
Even in 2017, ahead of his recognized comeback, he scored big numbers with “1 of 1” from Bitch I’m the Shit 2.
By the time Legendary arrived in 2019, Tyga proved he could stand on his own and the pump was primed as consumption traversed from TV to computers and mobile.
I don’t have to tell you that “Taste” took off. Or that “Swish” and “Dip” followed. Tyga was back, even if the idea of his absence could be disputed. And it should.
Since then he’s had a slew of hot guest appearances and non-album singles (because what’s an album in 2021?) such as “Ayy Macarena,” “Splash” and “Mrs. Bubblegum.”
Those three singles, of course, lean heavily on familiar samples: “Macarena,” “We Want Some Pussy” and “Laffy Taffy,” respectively. And a meme in the comments of Tyga’s videos has emerged that goes something like this, Director: How many girls? Tyga: Girls. That’s the thing about a recipe, though, we all know the ingredients.
What makes Tyga’s play more recipe than formula is that it’s wholly his own. When he was out of the limelight, he fine tuned his sound, forged what success is for him, and he’s doubled down on it. A formula is more of a matter of being slapdash or an attempt to mimic what others are doing in hopes that it could work for you too. Tyga’s moves, on the other hand, are his own distinct brand.
It’s taken him a long time to reach this point, but beyond being Legendary, he’s now automatic, a hitmaker who can be counted on to deliver a party jam every time out.
Success never tasted so sweet.