Guitar stabs and brittle drums punch their way into the beginning of Ty’s third record, Closer, and a sense of dread comes over any hip-hop fan hoping for Britain to obtain respect within the genre. This is Amerie’s “One Thing” beat, only it’s less complex, not as well-produced, and without the wild sense of abandon. And the rest of the song is awkward and dull. Fuck.
Ty is one of the big hopes from London. Along with Roots Manuva and Sway, he’s probably the best straight-ahead (read: not grimy) emcee on the right banke. His previous record, 2004’s Upwards, was everything you could have hoped for from mature straightforward hip-hop, and it proved that the U.K. has an enormous amount to offer the genre. Closer, however, is a step backward, with basic beats that sound amateur and weak and lyrics that only rarely reach the level of those on Upwards. One of the album’s redeeming tracks is Ty’s collaboration with De La Soul. The song, “The Idea,” doesn’t so much surpass the other songs with its fuzzy bass line — it just does it better. And that’s generally the best you can hope for when someone makes a straight-ahead hip-hop record with no risks and average lyrical skills: that they make it better than most of the records that come out every week.
Ty has never been the greatest rapper, even in the U.K., but he’s got a decent enough flow and a voice that fits in great with his usually quirky work. What’s so troubling about Closer is that it sounds like old U.K. hip-hop, the kind that has been so reasonably trashed over the years, the kind that has put that chip on the shoulder of every emcee that takes tea in the afternoon. Though it’s not a career ending move, Closer is a chapter best forgotten by everyone on both sides of the Atlantic.