At just 21 years old, Michael Stevenson, better known by his stage name Tyga, already has a background that would make most wannabe rappers green with envy. Raised in Compton, California, Tyga started out as just another kid from the hood trying to make it big. It was his sheer hunger, undeniable work ethic and a certain musician cousin that eventually brought him to the attention of Young Money’s boss, Lil Wayne. Now signed to Weezy’s label, the half-Vietnamese, half-Jamaican rapper is set to release his second album later this year. Flavour pops over to his south London hotel during his recent stay in London to find out more about the baby-faced guy behind the tattoos.
How are you doing and what brings you to the UK?
I’m very well, thank you. I’m over here touring the UK and performing some of my songs.
So for those who don’t know, tell us about your musical journey.
I started out in music when I was 12 years old, but it wasn’t until I was 17 that I started getting recognition. I got signed to an independent label through this rock band called Fall Out Boy… I was doing a lot of rap/ rock music at the time and I started growing out of it as I got older. I left that label and made a bunch of mixtapes. I dropped nine mixtapes in one year and really began working on my craft and figuring out what I wanted to do with music. I linked up with Wayne and we exchanged info and have been good friends since.
What’s being signed to one of the world’s biggest urban labels like?
It’s good, because when you’ve got other people around you who are young and successful, you can talk like a family, not artist to artist. The only person I’m really close to that’s not part of Young Money is Chris (Brown). He is the only other artist I feel is a real friend I can talk to.
What’s your relationship with Lil Wayne like?
I definitely see him as a mentor because I still respect him as a boss. Certain things you talk about, certain things you don’t talk about, and certain things you just have to figure out on your own.
You dropped your first album, No Introduction, in 2008, and your follow-up, Careless World is due out later this year. What can we expect from it?
You can expect a lot. It will basically explain who I am. I look at this as my real first album, since I really figured out what I really want to do with music.
Apart from your Young Money camp members, who else have you collaborated with on the album?
I’ve got a track with Marsha Ambrosius, I got J Cole on there, of course Chris Brown is on there, and Pharell did a lot of production on there.
You have already worked with some of music’s biggest names, but who would you still love to work with?
I really want to do a record with Kid Cudi. I also like Bruno Mars’ music – even though he is commercial, he has got a lot of soul to his music.
If there is such a thing as a typical day, what does it consist of?
I wake up, go to the gym for a little bit, chill and listen to music, then go to the studio at midday and stay there until about 4 or 5am, and then do it all over again the next day.
Your female fans are just dying to know what is your ideal type of lady…
[Smiles as he looks up to think] I’m only 21 so I haven’t seen all the types of women yet, so I can’t really answer that question until I’m like 30. I’m still young, so I would be attracted to somebody young with a beautiful face, beautiful body, and maybe good conversation. I’m also attracted to good morals.
What else have you got going on in addition to the music?
I’ve also got my clothing line, Last Kings, which I’m wearing right now.
Anything for us ladies?
We’ve got a lot of pieces for the males and females – [smiles] maybe we will call it Last Queens.
Interview by Lynnike Redway