When you see platinum-selling hip-hop star Tyga wearing custom-made jewelry, designer jeans and high-end sneakers, understand his wears came at a hefty price.
During his mid-teens, the California native born Michael Ray Nguyen-Stevenson was working as a retail employee in the mall while also trying to launch his recording career. So dedicated to his craft, he felt his employment occupied too much time and hindered his chances to succeed in music. So he quit, walking out and never looking back.
Now signed to lucrative recording imprint Young Money, the hard-working rhymer is known the world over for such hits as “Coconut Juice” and “Rack City”. Evidently, his decision paid off. But what did it cost him?
SoulTrain.com: Tyga, you surely felt financial pressure being an aspiring recording artist and not having a job. How did that affect the other aspects of your life?
Tyga: There would be things I’d want to do but couldn’t because I couldn’t afford it. And you always see things you want to buy. You hope you can lean on your family or friends, if need be. But when you don’t want to work a regular job and just want to do music, people ain’t trying to hear that until you’re in this position right now. That’s when everybody wants to be by your side.
SoulTrain.com: It’s true success brings attention–especially from relatives and acquaintances. Do you draw a line with friends and family as far as how far you let them into your business life?
Tyga: Of course. And I just stay focused. I keep my phone on silent when I have to and don’t let people bother me and get to me.
SoulTrain.com: People come with elaborate requests once they think you can afford to honor them. They ask crazy questions, too. What kind have you been asked?
Tyga: Honestly, I’ve heard everything. People want to ask you questions just to be all in your business. I know how to block that out now.
SoulTrain.com: Sounds like you’ve learned to be defensive. Does their prying make you angry at all?
Tyga: I don’t get angry or want to go off on them. I’m not that type of person. I’d just rather not be bothered. When it’s family they start to look at you as more than a family member.
SoulTrain.com: When it comes to your life as a celebrity and how they knew you originally, what is it you want most from them when you’re interacting with them?
Tyga: To be respected. Everybody in your personal life thinks you’ve changed. They don’t know how to treat you no more.
SoulTrain.com: People are drawn to your image.
Tyga: Being an artist people always want to be in your personal life thinking that’s it – no matter who they are. All they know is the image they see on TV. They don’t know you as a person.
SoulTrain.com: I think since your debut your image has said “star”. So who are you behind the glamorous photos and flashy videos?
Tyga: I’m a down to earth person. I’m just here to do music. And I’m not here to be all in peoples’ business. I don’t mind answering questions and all that or making new friends, but I’m leery of people because you don’t know what’s real and what’s fake. You have to put yourself out there if you want to make it, but you gotta protect yourself, too!
SoulTrain.com: Rappers are perceived as being self-centered and all about money. You hear about what they have now, not what and where they went through to get it.
Tyga: That’s why some people are going to look down at rap. Rappers are coming from these tough environments to making money and having power. They’re talking about what they see and know, but some are also stereotypical of these places people perceive. There are people who don’t like that. That’s why there are people who least respect it. That’s why we have to be creative. Hit people with stuff they don’t expect. Make them respect you.
SoulTrain.com: Who do respect that made it?
Tyga: My mom. Where I am now, I wouldn’t have gotten here without her. We went through some tough times financially and everything else. My mom made it work, though. I look up to anybody who can support someone and themselves. Anybody like that has made it to me.
SoulTrain.com: You left a job to earn a living doing what you really wanted. What did you learn along the way?
Tyga: I learned rich or poor you’ll go through something. Life has obstacles. You just have to be ready and grounded. You’ll come out a solid person.
For more on Tyga visit his official website TygasWorld.com, “like” him on Facebook, or follow him on Twitter @Tyga.
–Mr. Joe Walker
Mr. Joe Walker, a senior contributor for SoulTrain.com, is an acclaimed entertainment and news journalist published thousands of times regionally, nationally, internationally, and online. Former Editor In Chief of both XPOZ Magazine and The Underwire Interactive Magazine, his work has graced the pages and covers of Hear/Say Now Magazine, Notion Magazine, Kalamazoo Gazette Newspaper, MLive.com, and AllHipHop.com. He loves to create, loves that you read. Follow him on Twitter @mrjoewalker. Also visit TheGrooveSpt.com and ByMrJoeWalker.blogspot.com.