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Photo by Bunny Bread and Jason Cabellero

Ty, the Artist Behind the Lyrics

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At 16:00 on Wednesday 21 October, Ragtime to Grime – Bring it Home Tour will be performing a special pop-up performance at Ty’s Memorial Mural in London. The performance will be available on Facebook Live, via the Greenwich Dance page. Click here for the live stream. If you wish to attend the performance, adhering to NHS Tier 2 measures, you can find the performance location by clicking here.

Ty, born in 1972 as Benedict Chijikoe, was one of the UK’s most acclaimed hip-hop stars. Born in London into an Igbo family from Nigeria, he spent the majority of his youth in the care of private foster parents, living in Essex. Feeling a sense of “abandonment” [The Guardian, 7 May 2020], Ty used these early years to focus on work and study.

At the age of only 23, he co-founded an education programme in the UK, Ghetto Grammar. This hip-hop based education programme (HHBE), allowed for the use of hip-hop, and especially rap songs and lyrics, as curricular resources in education. This implementation into the curriculum was aimed to promote cultural relevance to non-white children, affirmation of urban identities, and deeper learning through connection with something relevant to ancient cultures.

It was only 6 years after this that Ty released his debut album Awkward in 2001, on the Big Dada imprint. Reviews stated that the album showcased a tangibly British take on the US boom-bap style of hip-hop. Witty tracks like The Tale, showed off his talent for storytelling, and earning him a cult audience.

His second album, Upwards, released in 2003, was a brighter and slightly more commercial album. It earned him a nomination alongside the likes of Amy Winehouse and The Streets for the Mercury Music Prize the following year. The album reached No. 35 in the UK Independent album charts.

After releasing his third album, Closer, in 2006, where he collaborated with other greats such as De La Soul, Speech and Zion I, Ty left the Big Dada label in 2007.

He recorded and released two more albums, his fourth in 2010 under the label Barely Breaking Even, before releasing his final album, A Work of Heart, in 2018. The latter was a marked change from his early works as it was released under the contemporary jazz label Jazz re:freshed.

In 2019 he formed a UK hip-hop supergroup called Kingdem with rappers Blak Twang and Rodney P, who performed an acclaimed freestyle on DJ Charlie Sloth’s Fire in the Booth series. Sloth called him “a friend, a role model and a true foundation to UK rap”.

On 7 May 2020, Chijioke died in hospital aged 47, due to pneumonia, contracted while being treated for Covid-19.

To learn more about the Igbo people of Nigeria, click here.

To start learning more ahout Ty and his incredible contribution to music: click here.