- Words Miki Hellerbach
- Photography Chris Villa
"Tommy Lee" hitmaker Tyla Yaweh speaks candidly on his new collab with DaBaby, "Stuntin' On You", friendship with Post Malone, upcoming album, and his journey from homelessness to rap rockstar royalty.
If there’s one thing to be learned from Tyla Yaweh, it’s that his life is centred around honesty. He doesn’t know how to be anything else but himself. He constantly uses phrases like “honestly,” “gotta be honest,” and “if I’m being honest, bro.” Yaweh is as straightforward as they come about his beliefs, his life, and his interests. This is what cuts through in his music, which is not only made in the moment but rarely feels like it exists in a state of reflection. Yaweh’s forward-thinking and momentum has propelled him through multiple world tours opening up for Post Malone, a remix with Tommy Lee, and an upcoming album with all the guest features he wanted.
Manifestation is at the centre of his spirituality. Yaweh talks about speaking and thinking things into existence and is surely connected to the idea of fate. From the streets of Orlando to being homeless in LA to weekends with Drake, he has somehow stayed rooted in what he knows to bring him joy. Yet he manifested an outcome many people dream of – a rockstar lifestyle. Yaweh knows where he’s from and is proud of what it gave him, but at the same time, he’s on a never-ending journey to elevate. Though even when he reaches new heights, he doesn’t lose focus on what’s truly important.
We spoke to Yaweh two days before his new single “Stuntin On You” featuring Da Baby dropped, and he was as excited and positive as ever, even though he had just woken up. We spoke on everything from shooting craps in a bowling alley, to weed arrests and annoying middle school choir teachers. Jump in!
How did the new single with DaBaby come about?
Hard work and dedication. It was some sent back and forth shit. He sent it back like right away, him and his team they were fuckin wit it. It was dope to actually have him send it back so quick and be a part of the whole record. Come to the video shoot. Everything was just perfect.
What’s that ad-lib breath in the background of the hook?
Something in the beat that you’re hearing where’s it’s givin’ you that lil’ vibe. I gotta really listen to that… and figure out what the hell I put in the song, I don’t even know.
How did “Tommy Lee” come together with Post Malone? What made this the right song to collaborate on?
That’s our first song together man, to be honest. We’re just friends man. This music stuff, it’s just our job, and it’s fun and how we connected to each other, but it’s about our friendship more than the music you know. We finally came across and did a song, and I named it Tommy Lee. And when he hopped on it, we were like, “yo, this is crazy!” We were in Washington, DC, and I pulled up to his hotel room studio. And he picked that song and came up with the “I pull up with the drum like I’m Tommy Lee.”
Have you and Post Malone ever thought of starting a rock band?
Definitely! Hover Boys coming soon! He’s Chad, and I’m Chandler. He’s the sensitive one, and I’m the dancer. Wait, SKYLER and Chandler, that’s what it is! Man, we got something in the works. Coming in the near future.
How did you become close friends in between opening for him in Florida and touring the world together?
Florida was the matchmaker. Then I moved to LA a year after that. Then two years later ran into Dre London again, and he was a matchmaker to this whole life. They were bringing me around all the time; I was goin’ to the studio sessions, they were bringin’ me to little small after parties and shows. Went to Coachella and they introduced me everywhere. And that was the time that Post was like, “yo, we’re both genuine souls, we’re both connected.” And he just wanted me to come on tour with him. It was just all organic, and being friends, and everything happened for a reason.
Do you have a favourite memory of touring together?
Yeah, I do! We were in…Sacramento actually, and it was just so fun. We were all on scooters. We went to the bowling alley one day and ended up playin’ craps. We got really drunk off Fish Bowls. We had a lot of moments man. Like getting invited to Drake’s house and partying with Drake for a whole weekend straight. Bein in London for his album release party, then right after having an after-party he came to for me. From New Years to South Africa…we have so many memories I could just sit and tell you.
Where were your three favourite tour stops?
It’s hard to pick. But I love it when I’m in Sweden or when I’m in Australia. And I like it when I’m in Budapest. We get shown love everywhere, but Europe love is crazy. You get it from all angles. It makes you realize that you’re an actual artist.
What is it about the European fandom that you love so much?
It’s the support, to be honest. Like for example, I did Reading and Leeds festival in the UK. Right when we got out there, everybody knew every single song, word for word. At first, we went to the tent we thought no one was gonna pull up. We go out to the stage, and the tent is like filled with people that were waiting for me. That right there shows you a lot.
What music was playing in your house growing up?
They [his parents] wanted me to stay open to music, so they bought me all the albums I wanted. Like Green Day, My Chemical Romance…all the random rock albums. They were always just open-minded with music. My parents are a little older, so you know The Isley Brothers, Earth Wind & Fire, Gospel Music, Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles all of that music they put that on and I had to listen to it. And I just started exploring more music. I didn’t get into rap until like later on. My sister was into all types of music. She was in a girl band. Orlando is filled with all types of music. It’s so easy to get into different music out there.
Can you tell me about singing lead in your middle school chorus?
It was actually a required fuckin’ class I had to take cuz I was so bad they had to pick my classes for me. Yeah, it sucked. I had a fuckin’ crazy ass teacher too; her name was Ms. Longoria. Me and her used to get into so many arguments. Like “yo, I don’t wanna sing! It’s not me!” Now look at me I’m a fuckin rockstar singer!
Do you think maybe she saw potential in you?
Yeah, of course. Or she was just an evil lady and was like, (in demon voice) “YOU GOTTA DO IT!”
When you left school at 15, did you have a gameplan?
I was manifesting my life to where it is now. I didn’t know I was gonna get kicked out though. That wasn’t the plan. But it just happened, and I had to go to the streets.
When you started doing music consistently, did you ever get pulled back into the streets?
Yeah, of course. I had to make money during the day and go to the studio at night. Then sometimes leave the studio in the morning and go straight back to the streets. But it was a fuckin’ beautiful life man. It taught me how to survive. It taught me to work harder. It taught me not to give up.
What sets your generation of Florida artists apart?
Us being authentic and raw, and uncut.
How did you first connect with XXXtentacion? What made him special to you?
It was in Orlando. Everybody linked up in Orlando. Shoutout to Tariq and Matt, they started the road for all of us, the starters of Rolling Loud. And X, you know he was a GOAT. He was like our Tupac. Gone way too soon.
Growing up, did you have any rough encounters with police or “citizens on patrol.”
Oh yeah, I went to jail a few times. I had some racist cops come at me. But ya know, it’s Florida. It’s like what do you expect from it? It’s a wild state. But I love it, man. But yeah I went to jail I got caught with a lot of weed. Situations happen man. Actually, I went to jail, and the other homie had the same amount of weed on him and didn’t go to jail, and I was like, “what the hell? Why did I go to jail out of everybody?” It was a fucked up situation. We were with some white girls. I remember that. Some high school shit.
How is it to see the whole country becoming more aware of the problems with the police?
Honestly, it’s amazing. People are finally not being sheep and waking up. Seeing what’s really going on. It’s a beautiful moment. And it’s a time in history for all of us in this generation to see. It’s a blessing because it’s instilling in our kids to see what’s going on. They are watching all of us and our mistakes, and it’s planting seeds in them. We want better for them.
How do you avoid the LA pitfalls?
Oh, I just stay in my own world bro. I love LA. I love the way it looks. There’s a mountain in front of me right now. Like there are mountains that grow from the floor. That’s crazy. I’m from Florida, where everything is flat. I enjoy the vibes. You know who to stay away from. You stay in your own energy, you create your own energy, and you’ll always live a good life out here.
Do you freestyle everything when you go into the studio to make music?
I freestyle most of my music. Sometimes we have dope songwriters that come around. They don’t even have to write, but they hear me freestyle, and they’ll just start throwing out certain bars. But I just freestyle everything…melodies, it’s all off the rip. Sometimes I’ll sit down and write something, but it’s light. I go bar to bar for everything. It’s hard to write cuz it’s hard to just sit. I got ADD. I gotta get it out right away even if it’s a heartfelt song.
How do you actually record?
I’m one of those people who bring the mic out wit’ ’em. I just be smokin’, swinging in the chair. I hear a beat, I hear the first 5 seconds, and I’m like, “pull it up!” That’s how I work. Come up with an idea. 15 minutes we have a song.
If you could describe your style combining one rock artist, one rapper, and one R&B/ soul artist, who would they be?
Jim Morrison, mixed wit a little bit of Lil’ Wayne, mixed wit some Michael Jackson. There ya go. That’s a vibe.
What’s so dope about Jim Morrison to you?
His poetry is everything! The way the man would write, his creative direction, everything was fire. He was open. He let his psychedelics speak for him.
Did anything get put on hold for you because of COVID?
A few shows. We were supposed to be in Europe, and I was supposed to do my own tour but…you know everything’s cool. We got my album almost done. And we got all the features on this album that I asked for. That I manifested, they happened. We’re growing my records; we’re growing my base, we’re connecting with my fans more. It’s been dope to sit down and like go back into your mind and see what you accomplished. That’s been amazing besides all the COVID-19 shit that’s happened. It’s amazing to sit down and see that we’ve got a world that we take advantage of. We don’t appreciate what we livin’ on.
What can you tell me about the new album?
It’s gonna have a unique balance of life things that you can relate to. You’re gonna love the music bro. New vibes. It’s Yahweh; it’s a fresh breath of air. Things that you never heard yet. New stories that you never knew. I’m very experimental. I put life into it.
You watch a lot of documentaries. Got any recommendations?
I watch a lot of documentaries bro. I watch a lot of conspiracy stuff…in my private documentary watching. I like the Z Boys documentary. It’s about lords of the Dogtown, Tony Alva, Stacey Peralta, and the pro skaters from back in the day. And I watched this one documentary about the punk scene in LA. Backyard concerts and stuff that’s pretty fire.
I’ve heard you say before you wanted to bring that punk scene back. What got you into it?
Just skateboarding with a lot of metalheads. Big punk scene out there in Florida. I just love The Sex Pistols, the old Vivian Westwood era. CBGB era. That whole era is just dope. Seeing that made me wanna make it come alive again. And I think it’s already there, to be honest.