Donna-Claire knows T.Y.E can save jazz, not Gosling.
If this were a group-therapy session, I’d open with something glamorous like, “Hi, my name is Donna-Claire and I listen to records while face down in my own tears.” The first time I heard T.Y.E’s “La La Land” was no different. I was nose to nose with the kitchen tile, spiraling out of the same dark purple frame as the Dallas rapper. The lush, cloudy synths belied something sinister, especially when the vocals came in:
‘I don’t wanna be here anymore
Living in this place is such a bore
I day dream into oblivion, and yes I’m serious
I don’t wanna be here anymore
I wanna go to la la la la land.’
T.Y.E wasn’t singing the stuff of daydreams or of nightmares, he was drilling into the core of his reality—and on some level, mine. He was actualizing the weight of emptiness, how it stomps you out no matter the time or place. T.Y.E sings the reality of ‘I want to die, but I don’t want to kill myself. I just need everything to stop.’ But there is no “stop.”
Stop hasn’t been an option for me since I was twelve and making my rounds from guidance offices to hospital screening rooms. Too young to put my illness into words, music gave me the vocabulary to help myself. From emotive punk bands to drugged-out Mac Miller, the relief of finding myself in the music remains near-holy. It’s the relief of subverting the stigmas around discussing mental health, of hearing artists speak their most wrought truths, and of their experiences empowering me to persevere in spite of my own. So when T.Y.E is absolutely incendiary at the three minute mark, I’m right there with him. I’m trying to claw the skin off my body, to escape myself. His surging delivery coils around me instead, but this is not constriction—this is cleansing. T.Y.E hears me and I hear him back.
His debut record, 32, is a scorching tidal wave. As an opera singer turned baller, turned rapper-producer, and Oak Cliff native, T.Y.E seems to have lived a handful of lives. All of them have been colored by his bipolar depression. He describes his debut album as one big anxiety attack, and he’s not pandering. The record is more than the peaks and valleys of living with anxiety and depression. These are the Everests and Mariana Trenches. At least that’s the thesis on the six minute epic, “Universe,” with its frenetic beat switches and flows.
From the first track, “Everyone Loves Me,” T.Y.E builds a dreamscape with his opera singer voice, but the record is no glossy reverie. Chilling dissents—‘so now you love me? No!’—raze the surrealist landscape painted in broad strokes. Catharsis comes from the constant breakdowns. When T.Y.E howls, “Say hello to my anxiety,” I’m not just being indoctrinated to his demons, I’m being shrouded by my own. When the syrupy pinks and blues coloring the music collapse under T.Y.E’s unexpected and raging flow, we are left gasping and staring each other down. I can’t help but think of yesterday, or the days to come, collapsing before my own eyes in that same storm.
The brazen anger on “Aliens & UFOs” makes sense to me. I’m not taken aback when the horror of the lurking and pulsing rhythm gives way to T.Y.E’s fervent outpour. I’m drawn in. He’s screaming, he’s fucking, and damn near nothing feels real. Does it matter that on one of the most vexed cuts he’s rapping about “Stacking up money like legos?” Should he be saying something deeper, more purple? Absolutely not. This is the real deal. You hit your bottom and you belt out anything and everything until you claw back to center.
32 is genuine because these outbursts aren’t veiled in dimestore philosophy, because T.Y.E is getting fucking loud about how he feels, because anxiety is an irrational ruckus that he does not shy away from. I’ve learned to be quiet on my down days, but here T.Y.E is validating the noise I can’t help but make.
In place of indignity, T.Y.E bares the humility that comes with the consequences of a breakdown. “Universe” shorts out to a despondent T.Y.E admitting he fucked up. Bridge burning becomes an artform when you’re lost in yourself, and self-destruction overtakes penance. His admission of guilt is my humanization—my mistakes don’t intrinsically make me a monster. “Universe” is a song much bigger than itself, ‘Feeling low…feeling worse’ aside, the song is a lesson on moving forward even when you’re pinned by your misgivings.
For all of the hysteria and sexual sublimation, T.Y.E still resolves to love. He spins on all the sides of an emotion that is slated to last minutes or years, and does it as gracefully as one can when they’re in the throes of anxiety or depression.
T.Y.E’s story is not my story, but he’s managed to turn the intangible struggle we share into something I can grasp and rely on—that’s the magic. He commits to his vices, the innate immaturity of anger, and the swelling static of anxiety. On this record, emotions loom and implode. T.Y.E is unashamed of how he feels, and by extension, so am I. Every so often, an album comes around and makes it clear that you’re allowed to feel a certain way, but 32 makes the ‘c’ in ‘crippling depression’ stand for confidence. The bombs go off, the day resets, but there will always be something to be made from the rubble: this record, this article, and the next and the next and the next.