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Tyrow James with Natalie

Tyrow James is the Dark Prince

Vancouver Rapper Tyrow James has tempered neither the darkeness of his music nor his language.

By Scott Wood

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Tyrow James faces the world with attitude. He doesn't pull his punches. He doesn't soften his words or make radio friendly tracks. He just does his thing.

Tyrow has actually been on my radio show/podcast before and that episode has the unique distinction as being the most complained about episode of the interview show ever. ( To be fair, the controversy was really only about Tyrow’s copious swearing. (Tyrow claims that he just swears a lot when he gets nervous.) My show is on several campus community radio stations and you might not believe it, but campus radio stations still need to worry about swearing on air.

The complaints really got me thinking… I created this show to help indie artists reach wider audiences, but most indie rappers don’t bother to make radio-friendly tracks for campus radio—even if they can reign in their nervous cussing—so I wonder if struggling hip hop performers even see community radio stations as a resource that could help them get new music into new listeners’ ears.

Hello folks, Scott Wood here! I'm the host of the interview show, which is a syndicated radio program you can find on several campus community radio stations across Canada. Each month I profile one of the “hidden talents” in my local Vancouver scene. Basically, I am going to give the campus community radio readers the chance to get to know some of Vancouver's most interesting, up-and-coming talents.

This month, I chat up local rapper Tyrow James. I call Tyrow James the dark prince of Surrey rap. (For those of you who don’t know the Vancouver area, Surrey is a Vancouver suburb, which is sometimes unjustly singled out for its high crime rate. Here’s an example of Surrey’s ongoing reputation-crisis from the Vancouver Province.

When Tyrow told me he has released his latest record, Daydream Reality, I thought it would be a great chance to ask these questions—as well as find out what else is going on in Tyrow’s twisted head. As usual, Tyrow is a funny guy to chat with.

Scott Wood: Tyrow, thanks for chatting with me again. Our last audio chat carries the distinction of being my **most** complained about radio broadcast. Congrats! The complaints were about the copious swearing. I thought I'd ask for your reaction.

Tyrow James: That's hilarious; I remember when you told me that, my initial reaction was confusion. I didn't even notice any swearing last time. I thought I was a nice guest—a guest that any talk show host would foam at the mouth to have on their show.  If it caused Winnie Cooper (the blog the show is podcast on) any grief, I do apologize though. I do support!

Scott Wood: My show exists to help promote talented indie acts. I find that most indie and underground rappers ignore campus and community radio as a venue for their work. How do you see radio as a resource?

Tyrow James: Where can I find these radio stations? I'll bombard them with Tyrow Rad songs. My radio game has been slacking. I've been too busy working on the everything-else game. But yeah, radio is great, I'd love to have my tracks blasting over the airwaves and corrupting some poor girl into thinking I am her reason for living. Any media outlet is a great resource, but as far as the radio goes, I haven't been a listener for many years, so I'm not sure how relevant it even is anymore, as a place to try and find new music. That's where YouTube took over.

Radio-friendly versions of Rap songs? - damn, that's on some mid-90's shit. Remember the radio version of "Nuthin' But a G-Thang"? Just terrible word replacements. It's like watching Scarface on fucking TBS.

Scott Wood: So few indie rappers bother making radio-friendly mixes of their tracks (no swearing), why do you think this is?

Tyrow James: Radio-friendly versions of Rap songs—damn, that's on some mid-90's shit.  Remember the radio version of "Nuthin' But a G-Thang"? Just terrible word replacements. It's like watching Scarface on fucking TBS. I, for one, would lose a piece of my dignity, if I did something like that, because if I wanted to make a song for the radio, I'd make a song for the radio in the first place—and not swear or have non-radio-friendly content. It is possible to make a song that's real and still rad, and get it on the radio. It only takes a bit of creativity and some rappers are on lazy street.

Scott Wood: What's your favorite swear word and why? (Can you describe it without using it?)

Tyrow James: My favorite swear word is FUCK! Describing why? It's a great connector word. It can be messed around with and fit into the category of words including "like, and, umm, okay, hmmm, etc." Those little buzz words that connect thoughts together! I dunno, just a great word.

Scott Wood: In your music, Tyrow James seems inevitably drawn to ghetto femme fatales of the highest order, what would happen if he fell for the proverbial "good girl?"

Tyrow James: Fuck yea, I love femme fatales. On some film noir-type shit. Mental problems, bad attitudes, hardcore drug habits...I don't find out until later! It's a terrible surprise! No wonder I have such great stories to tell. At first when you meet, so much of nice. A few days later, so much of regret. Tricks! But life lessons get learned! I've dated a 'good girl' before, in 2006. She was a babe! Euro girl with crazy motivation to succeed in life, and from what I've heard, she's on her way to doing so. There were too many clashes between her lifestyle choices and my radtastic lifestyle choices, so it was never meant to be. No hard feelings though!

Scott Wood: One cool thing about you is that you make so many videos for all your tracks **yourself**. When you create visuals for your tracks, does this affect your writing and vice versa and if so how?

But yeah, radio is great, I'd love to have my tracks blasting over the airwaves and corrupting some poor girl into thinking I am her reason for living.

Tyrow James: Thanks! I take pride in the fact that I shoot all my videos [these days]. It does affect my song writing, because once I get going on a track, I start thinking of video ideas. It's an important reason why I incorporate women into my lyrics, so I have an excuse to hang out with hot chicks on video shoots. Seriously, I have so many attractive female friends, like, most score 12 out of 10 when all dolled-up and looking gangbusters. They know it too, and they hustle me for booze, money and drugs! But I can't stay away, because I'm a sucka! :D So the video and song thing are a huge factor in my music.

Scott Wood: You embrace the darker side of hip hop (images/sounds/words). "Darker" hip hop has fallen out of favor in recent years... what draws you to this sound?

Tyrow James: It goes back to me growing up on music from the 1990s and early 2000s, where it was all aggression-driven and ass-kicking songs/artists that didn't put up with shit. I'm quite a positive person, but all my life I've been really attracted to the darker side of things, but at the same time, trying to find the humour or the bright side in them. People have told me I'm too personal, or too 'real' in my music, but hey, I write about what I know, see and live around. As far as darker Rap falling out over the years, that's just the circle of music. In a few more years, it will be popular again. Right now it's all about political correctness and bright colours.

Scott Wood: Rap-rock seems like the only 90s music genre that hasn't been revived yet. It seems like this genre is still the go-to genre to hate on after Nickelback. What's your take on this? (Granted you are moving away from this genre a bit.)

Tyrow James: Rap-Rock was cool in those days, for sure. I've done a couple of tracks that sound more Punk-Rap then anything, and I still have a few more Metal-Rap songs yet to be unleashed, but that's not something I could do for every single song. It would get boring and redundant after, and I'd look like an idiot or something. That style did inspire me a lot though, in my writing, character, everything. Radtastic, indeed.

Scott Wood: In your tracks "Something Hipster This Way Comes" and "HxC Iz Bznz" you use the word "faggot." Given hip hop now lives in a post-Macklemore "Same Love" (a mainstream rapper disavowing homophobia in the hip hop industry), post-Frank Ocean (a Grammy-winning openly bi-sexual hip hop vocalist supported by hip hop royalty Jay-Z and Beyonce) world... What are your thoughts on using this word?

Tyrow James: It's deteriorated into a petty insult now, like the word 'loser' or 'goof'. I used it in those songs because I needed something more solid and ear-catching than calling someone a 'jerk' or a 'moron'. I dunno, everyone I know has used that word in that context my whole life. I see nothing wrong with what I've done, but then again, I'm a terrible person. Macklemore?  That's the guy with the annoying “Thrift Shop” song, right? Yikes. Bleck.

I love femme fatales. On some film noir-type shit. Mental problems, bad attitudes, hardcore drug habits...I don't find out until later! No wonder I have such great stories to tell.

Scott Wood: You have sent me a link to one of your videos. Can you introduce this vid?

Tyrow James: This video is my song "HxC Iz Srs Bznz" featuring the lovely Erica McLachlin, better known as Hello Time Travel. It's off my latest album, Daydream Reality, and is my personal choice for best music video I've created, thus far. I shot this project in September, October and November 2012 on three different days with Erica in North Vancouver, downtown Vancouver and Cloverdale. My friend Carlie Rad did some additional filming in the graveyard scenes. That suit I'm wearing was rented from an old costume shop in Cloverdale, and it was from the 1930's and still in mint condition. I thought it was fucking rad. The song is gangbusters and Erica has an amazing voice. I literally met her in the Spring of 2012 on a bus going to Surrey Central at 10am, and we started talking about music and videos. She is from Ontario and is doing an internship out here. She's extremely intelligent and helped me grab some great spots for filming in North Van for the video! I could go on-and-on but just watch the damn video… :P

Find more about Tyrow James online.

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