Poise and Purpose from Tairey / by Alex Young

 Tairey photographed by Alex Young

Tairey photographed by Alex Young

Since 10th grade, Tairey devotes every day to music.

"Music taught me how to speak up for myself," said the dedicated and confident 20-year-old hip-hop artist, pronounced Ty•Ray.

His sound documents personal maturation, and is inspired by sentimental moments alone, '90s R&B, and empowering people to best themselves.

At secure I.D. Labs, a recording studio and production team placed in a former bank building in Pittsburgh, Pa., Tairey and I are buzzed in. Shiny gold and silver certified records like "Loud," "Donald Trump," and "No Sleep," by Mac Miller and Wiz Khalifa, respectively, proudly adorn the walls of a lounge area.

"After those guys [Mac and Wiz] made it everyone was trying to be next, so it was competitive. There are more lanes here now. You got dudes like Hardo doing what they are doing, and then you got soft shit like me. There's a growing scene here now of young cats doing their own thing," Tairey pointed out about Pittsburgh's music scene.

Thanks to the city's small market, however, the music community thrives because of the artists' supportive nature. Inside I.D. Labs "everyone's doors are open," Tairey explained, and a lot of the 'Burgh's young musicians make music there.

Primarily, Tairey labels time as the most valuable thing anyone can have while we conversed in a room with articles posted to the wall about the city's musical legends. So, the meeting with the Boston-born, Pittsburgh resident with Puerto Rican roots was appreciated from the beginning.

 Tairey at I.D. Labs

Tairey at I.D. Labs

While recuperating from a February through April, 24-show, national tour with Kirko Bangz, a Houston, Texas rapper, Tairey re-evaluates his music. To capitalize on the exposure he gained, Tairey makes certain his sincere characteristics are still apparent while upgrading his musicality.

In cities such as Colorado Springs, Colo., Houston, Los Angeles, Calif., New York, N.Y., and Valparaiso, Ind., after every show Tairey would go into the crowd and hand out 10 CDs. He called it "grinding and paying your dues," and "showing people that I'm a good dude. If you're music is good, and you're a dick head, then people will only like your music." First impressions are very important, and Tairey kept this in mind all tour long. "The nation is seeing me for the first time, so being able to talk to people and literally deliver my message personally was a beauty in itself," he said.

However, Tairey may not have had the opportunity to go on tour if he did not drop out of college last school year. School took too much of his valuable time. "I'm not meant to be in school, and I'm not good at College. I was an engineering major. Engineering is not easy, and it takes up most of your time. The school was taking up too much time being in a dorm and classes all day, and not having time to do what I wanted to do made me depressed," he said.

With pressure from his mother to go back to school, and seeing his friends get engineering internships, Tairey felt insecure about being labeled as a dropout. He recognized the value of getting professional resources from college for a future career. But, Tairey also understood he could learn real life lessons outside of school, "I'm learning shit about life that school can't teach me. That's something that music did for me tremendously. It taught me how to speak up for myself, it taught me how to have integrity, and it taught me how to be a poised person, and I am now after having those insecurities of being a dropout. Music gave me purpose and fulfillment."

The effort Tairey puts into his music generates personal and professional growth for the artist. His work ethic keeps him from idling and opens up opportunities for him to do things like go on tour, which was an adjustment compared to his home life.

"I was in tour mode. That means I'm traveling, and my mind focused on other things, like being healthy. I did not want to gain weight on the road. I was eating fruit, yogurt, and water, as well as sleeping a lot," Tairey said. Riding in a van for, at times, 18 hours, it was paramount that he took care of his body.

Tour life also shifted Tairey's musical focus. It was difficult to make music on the road, so he concentrated on performing better to make the crowd more engaged with his music and his stage presence.

"When I'm on tour I think of my music differently," he said. "I think how I can enhance what I already made to make motherfuckers put their arms up more and make them dance more." On the Playa Made Live Tour with Kirko, Tairey took his previously recorded songs and performed them over other beats. Audiences felt the music more because the beats he rapped over were "crazy, unorthodox" instrumentals from SoundCloud that were good to perform live.

Additionally, a southern environment, brought forth by Kirko's hometown, Houston, had a positive affect on Tairey. During the tour's 11-day break in early April, spent in Hustle Town, Tairey and Kirko kicked it in the studio. Tairey caught a vibe with Kirko's whole team, and he even worked with a keyboard player. The show after the break, at the Warehouse Live venue in Houston, some people with access populated backstage, and ultimately invited Tairey to Mathew Knowles' (Beyoncé's Dad) studio following the rapper's set.

From recording multiple songs in the Texas city, and the tour experience in general, Tairey's music is changing a bit. "There's definitely more energy. Tour made me want to put more energy into my music because I know how motherfuckers are going to react to it," he said. The musician cites soulful, gospel chords the studios in Houston were using.

"Tour made my beat selection way more on point. And, I have more character now. I am able to talk to crowds better with the confidence to do it too," Tairey said.

Back to I.D. Labs in Pittsburgh, I felt the energized spirit in Tairey's new music booming through the speakers. Bass drops and catchy hooks like, "I just finessed you right," and "this is one for the bad bitches," a reflection of the type of girls he is attracting, keep listeners engaged.

 Tairey and I.D. Labs play basketball

Tairey and I.D. Labs play basketball

Spending long hours in the studio into new light, Tairey is currently making a whole bunch of music "real reflective" of his life. Although he has not released anything in a while, he is ready to variously deliver a long reflective part of his life. He said he wanted to be sure the art was packaged right so that his "music gets the love it deserves."

At a nearby park a few blocks away from the Labs, Tairey and his friends at I.D., like Big Jerm, break from their studio sessions to play basketball. When they resume work, Tairey prepares to release a new song, "No More Drugs" featuring Linwood, on June 10.

Since restoring confidence in himself, and building his character on tour, Tairey hopes his musical efforts will cater to and empower people in an authentic, mature way.