Ty James: Born Supremacy

For Ty James, soul just runs in the blood. Like many other children who’ve lost their fathers, Ty has certainly grieved. But unlike many others, the aspiring rapper mourned with the world when her father Rick James passed away in August 2004. Though being the daughter of a legendary funk rocker comes with all the packaging of comfort and fame, it also has its prices—unwanted attention, blind expectations. Even more intriguing is the fact that Ty never met her father until the age of 13. But the father and daughter grew progressively closer, and his legacy may very well live through his namesake.

Since the early 90’s, Ty has been immersed in the music and Rap industry in the strangest of ways. Perhaps in 2005, her most vivid dreams will finally come true. Ty took time out while cruising the streets of L.A. to speak with AllHipHop.com about her aspirations, her tentatively titled album Addicted to the Game, and her unforgettable father.

AllHipHop.com: I think people will find it interesting that you used to hear your father’s songs on the radio before you ever met him, right?

Ty James: Absolutely. Well, as you can imagine, it wasn’t the easiest thing to deal with. It wasn’t the best feeling in the world, you know what I mean. Basically, my mom raised us pretty much all over L.A. and [made] us aware who our dad was. But he didn’t really have the time and energy to dedicate to a family because he was chasing a career, so that’s something that I’ve always understood. I don’t know how, but it’s a hard situation. It really is.

AllHipHop.com: You’ve lived all over Los Angeles as a child. Why were you guys moving around so much, because of financial problems?

Ty James: Yeah, pretty much financial problems, and [my mom] was chasing a dream as well. Both of my parents are artists, so as far as being grounded and stable, it wasn’t really happening like that.

AllHipHop.com: So did you think that your father had abandoned you guys, were you resentful toward him?

Ty James: No, it wasn’t at all abandonment. It was more so him wanting to do one thing, which was music. And my mom is very religious, so around the same time he was chasing his dream, she had became saved and involved in the church heavily. So that’s kind of how it ended up. And then with him being on the road all the time, it was—I don’t think it had anything to do with him not loving his children because obviously I found that out later on in life, but I’m just really supportive of anybody who’s chasing a dream. God is to judge them, and not us.

AllHipHop.com: So when you finally reunited with Rick, what feelings arose?

Ty James: [My brother and I] were excited. The lawyer and private investigator knocked on the door in South Central and our lives pretty much just changed instantly. A week or so [later], we were on the flight on the plane to go meet our dad. He was around me a lot in my younger ages, like one to five, six [years old], something like that. But, of course, I don’t remember it, so it’s two sides to both stories. My mom takes a lot of the blame and then he takes some of the blame. Back to what I was saying, it was exciting, of course. It was a lot of mixed emotions; it was curiosity. Never can I say that there was a moment of, like, stardom. I was curious to know who my father was, not who Rick James was.

AllHipHop.com: When you heard of his death, where were you at the time?

Ty James: I was leaving home on the freeway, actually. I was about three exits from his place, strangely, but I wasn’t going to his house. My cousin called me from New York, and he says—he gets on the phone, like, “Ty, what is this I hear. Uncle Rick is in the hospital and he didn’t make it.” And I was like, “That’s bulls**t. I just talked to him, that’s a rumor, that’s bulls**t.” He was like, “Nah, I’m serious, you need to see what’s going on. Just call, just do me a favor and call.” And I was like, “Okay, I’ll call but I already know.”

And as soon as I went to click over, my phone just started ringing crazy, off the hook. So meanwhile now, I’m pretty much close to his exit because I told you, it was like three or four exits away. By the time I got there, it was probably two hours later because I just kept driving on the freeway, like I just passed it up and kept driving. I can’t even explain it, it was really weird. And I snapped back into myself ‘cause I was like, “Oh my God, I gotta get over there.” But I just wanted to drive until I couldn’t drive anymore. So once I got there, my dad was still there, and I went in the room and sat with him for awhile, laid on the bed and everything hit. I surprised myself because I’ve always been real freaked out with stuff like that. But when it’s a part of you, it’s totally different.

AllHipHop.com: So did you actually speak to him at that time, before he died?

Ty James: No, he had passed already. And I was just there.

AllHipHop.com: But you actually got a chance to record with him before he passed, right?

Ty James: Well, we have some things in the studio, but it’s not a complete song, I’ll be able to use it. I’m really happy, though, because he was supportive. And, you know, it makes you feel better, like you almost got the okay. And it really didn’t happen where I know he embraced everything that I was doing until a few months before he passed, so that’s a very good feeling.

AllHipHop.com: And what was the experience like recording with him and finally getting a chance to work with him creatively?

Ty James: Well, of course I was pretty much at all the sessions that took place recently, like when we went in with Kanye [West] and his artist on J [Records], that was fun. We got to all do some stuff creatively on that. That was the most recent thing, actually, before he passed. But, he’s just a role model. Like, everybody in the studio is quiet and just paying attention to him because they know that he has something that they can learn from.

AllHipHop.com: You mentioned in an interview that you used to try to get away from the fact that he was your father. Is that because you didn’t want people to prejudge you or put any expectations on you?

Ty James: Exactly, exactly. And then a lot of it, as I got older, it was just the lifestyle overall. Like, you really have to be mature to handle this industry because it’s dirty. It really is, and that’s why I think that I hadn’t got involved from a musical standpoint [for] a long time. I was around in the era with Eazy E. And I was actually a part of one of his groups [Hoes Wit Attitude or H.W.A.] and that was pretty devastating as well. [It was like], my god, it’s nothing good, it’s nothing positive happening, yet it’s fame and it’s fortune and you achieve a dream, but at the same time, is it worth it? So, then by me having my girls [daughters], they’re my priority. It makes it rough. You have to really be well-grounded. I know I have a lot to do.

AllHipHop.com: So why even try this Rap thing at this point in your life? You don’t need money, so what’s driving you?

Ty James: Honestly, I ask myself that a lot of times. But something just keeps drawing and drawing and drawing me there. I love being on the mic. I love performing. So it has it’s ups and downs, and I’m not saying that I’m gonna do or die with this music because at this point in my life, business is more important, being a great mom, those things are more important.

AllHipHop.com: You mentioned this Eazy E group H.W.A that you were in. Can you talk about that and how you got into it?

Ty James: My cousin, her name is Kim. She was actually the leader of the group, if that’s what you wanna say. I can’t remember the other girl’s name, but I was the third member, not an original member. One of the girls, I guess she had got pregnant and moved out of the country, and they asked me to replace her. And that’s pretty much when I discovered that I had a love for the mic.

AllHipHop.com: Can you talk about the status of the album, like what label it’s coming out on?

Ty James: Actually, while we’re finishing up, we’re still shopping [for a label]. We haven’t really shopped that much because I wanted to be closer to being done, so we’re shopping as it stands. I’m not sure if we’re gonna go major [or] independent. That decision is really not gonna be made by me. Really, the best deal that comes across, I’m ready to work it. I’ll work it independent. I’m just ready to work. [Laughs]

AllHipHop.com: How old are your daughters?

Ty James: Jasmine is the 15-year-old and Charisma is my five-year-old.

AllHipHop.com: What have you told them or are going to tell them about their grandfather [Rick]?

Ty James: Both of my girls have a really close relationship with their grandfather, and really I don’t have to tell them anything. Jasmine, my 15-year-old, she totally understands, she grew up around him. My five-year-old, I’ll explain to her and I’ll have a lot of things to show her, so I want her to form her own opinion. He’s a loving man, and she knows that. He gave her nothing but love, and he just—he’s incredible and that’s all I can say.

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