The L.A. native has been riding a wave of success, including Rihanna’s hit “FourFiveSeconds,” which he co-wrote with Kanye West and Paul McCartney. For his 2015 debut album, Free TC, he enlisted genre titans such as R. Kelly and Kendrick Lamar. Ty’s outstanding musicality is surely a factor in his popularity among peers; the son of a funk session musician, he learned to play drums, guitar, bass and piano as a child. Here, the 31-year-old—who featured on Fifth Harmony’s recent top 10 single, “Work from Home”—lists five songs that inspired him on the road to success.
Catch Ty Dolla $ign at the Fresh Island Festival on 12-14 July.
Slum Village - “Fall in Love“ (from the album Fantastic Vol. 2)
“The first time I heard this Detroit hip-hop trio was on a local radio station, and it made me want to check out the rest of their music. Then I found out that the producer, J Dilla, had also worked on a lot of my favorite songs. Ever since, I’ve been his biggest fan—I have every track he ever put out [Dilla died in 2006 at age 32]. His beats are incredible. They’re not perfectly on grid, which gives them this unique swing and bounce.”
Jaco Pastorius - “Portrait of Tracy“ (from the Album Jaco Pastorius)
“He’s the best bass guitarist who ever lived, just for the fact that he came up with this bass solo piece. The sound is truly incredible; you can’t really tell what instrument you’re hearing. Pastorius uses natural harmonics where he barely touches the strings with his left hand, so he gets these high-pitched noises and crazy chords. It’s very hard to play; for eight years playing the bass I could not figure it out.”
Parliament - “Mothership Connection (Star Child)“ (from Mothership Connection)
“Growing up in Los Angeles and being a fan of the West Coast sound all my life, this song is sort of my bible. Parliament started the style in the ’70s with their spaced-out funk anthems, and every Californian hip-hop icon, from DJ Quik to Dr. Dre to youngsters like DJ Mustard, has been hugely inspired by them. Also, Parliament’s frontman, George Clinton, is one of the greatest bandleaders of all time.”
Prince - “Diamonds & Pearls“
“Most people love Prince’s hits from the ’80s, but to me, this ballad from 1991 is one of the most beautiful songs ever written. Admittedly, some of the drum elements sound a little dated today, but the vocals are amazing. Also, Prince’s guitar playing on the track—man, it made me start playing the guitar myself when I was young. I listened to it hundreds of times until I had it down.”
The Doors - “People Are Strange“
“I only properly realized Jim Morrison’s genius a few years ago when I watched Oliver Stone’s film about the Doors while I was high on mushrooms. The next day I bought all of the band’s albums. This song is my favorite. Morrison was a sensational poet and performer. He was drunk all the time and had sex with all the girls. He was a pure rock star and I admire him a lot for his ‘I don’t give a f*ck’ attitude.”