In August 2016, Tyga told Harper's Bazaar magazine that he longed for the days in the early 2000s when you "didn't hear anything" about a star's personal life. As having dated Kylie Jenner, youngest scion of the Kardashian dynasty, he has not enjoyed that luxury. His life in music has also been punctuated by highs and lows — though there has rarely been a dull moment. Early success as a rock-and-pop influenced rapper saw him release his debut album in 2008, before joining Lil Wayne's Young Money Entertainment label. More success followed, including high-profile collaborations with Rick Ross, Chris Brown and others, before he was let go from Young Money. He has recently signed to Kanye West’s GOOD Music imprint, kick-starting another chapter in an exciting and unpredictable life.
Tyga was born Michael Ray Stevenson on November 19, 1989, in Compton, California, although his Vietnamese and Jamaican parents moved him to Gardena, California around the turn of the millennium. Inspired by listening to Fabolous, Eminem, Cam'ron and other rappers, he entered rap contests with friends from school and often posted songs that he made up in online chat rooms. His cousin, Travis McCoy, was a member of Gym Class Heroes and exposed him to a lot of music. He would eventually tour with the group, all the while making underground mixtapes. McCoy got Tyga his first record deal, sharing his music with Pete Wentz of Fall Out Boy, who told MTV News: “I liked Tyga’s voice a lot and his flow. I couldn’t believe he was related to Travis, because Travis is pretty geeky.” Wentz signed him to Bat Squad records, part of his Decaydance label, and executive produced Tyga’s first album in 2008, No Introduction.
Making That Young Money
Three singles were released from that album, and while they received little critical or commercial attention, a remix of one, "Coconut Juice" featured a guest verse from Lil’ Wayne, who was looking to sign him to Young Money Entertainment. It would take Tyga – an acronym for Thank You God Always – four years to release his first studio album for the label, but a number of mixtapes and singles kept him in the public eye and raised his profile. He collaborated with Chris Brown on the single "Deuces," which would reach No. 14 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 2010. It would go on to receive a Grammy nomination, while an official remix featured stars Andre 3000, Drake, Kanye West, T.I and more.
Big Music Collaborations, Falling Sales
The transformation of Tyga’s style was complete by the time of the release of his Young Money debut album, Careless World: Rise of the Last King in 2012. Its initial impact was dulled by its inclusion of an uncleared sample of Martin Luther King Jr.’s "I Have a Dream" speech, which meant many retail stores couldn’t stock it until it was reissued with the snippet removed. Sales were strong, however, the album debuting at No. 4 on the US Billboard 200; featured guests included T-Pain, Pharrell, Nas, Robin Thicke and J Cole.
His third album, Hotel California, was released on April 9, 2013, and leaned heavily on features from Wiz Khalifa, The Game, 2 Chainz and Lil Wayne. Sales were weak compared to his previous album, while critical reaction was mixed – Spin’s Jeff Weiss called it, “the least creative major-label rap album in recent memory.” Relations with Young Money soured shortly afterwards with his third album for the label, The Gold Album: 18th Dynasty, held in limbo. Tyga tweeted in October 2014, “Gold album been done. My label holding me hostage so I can’t release nothing.” He’d go on to release the album himself digitally in June 2015. A duet with Justin Bieber, "Wait for a Minute," did not make the final cut due to Young Money owning the song, and the mixtape/album received middling reviews and weak online sales.
Tyga & Kylie Jenner, Signing on With GOOD Music
Tyga has a son, King Cairo Stevenson, with a former video performer, Blac Chyna (she’d appeared in the video for his "Rack City" single). King Cairo was born in October 2012 and while the couple got engaged the same year, they split in 2014. Tyga began dating reality TV star Kylie Jenner, but their on-and-off again relationship ended in April 2017. Jenner is the sister-in-law of Kanye West, whose GOOD Music label signed Tyga in the fall of 2016. Only time will tell whether or not he’ll make another rise to the top. As Forbes’ Gary Suarez wrote about the signing recently, “teaming with West is perhaps the only way to salvage a damaged music career.”
(Profile photo of Tyga by Michael Bezjian/WireImage)
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