Tayfun (pronounced Typhoon) is a 20 year old rapper born in Tottenham and of Turkish descent. On March 20th he released his debut single "Figo". The track successfully infused a host a different influences and offered a unique twist on the artist's Turkish heritage. We sat down with Tayfun to meet the man behind the music and found him to be confident and self-reflective beyond his years. His outward cloak of strength and power masked inner traces of vulnerability. It's a combination of traits that some of the greatest artists are made of.
Tayfun's upbringing was anything but conventional. When he was 8 months old his father was sentenced to 11 years in prison. Tayfun would subsequently spend the next five years travelling with his mother each weekend to visit his father. Speaking about the situation, Tayfun said: "to some extent, prison felt like home. It was my happy place until I was about 6. I didn’t see it as a place for people who had committed crimes. I just thought it was where he [Tayfun's father] lived.”
He continued: “I can’t seem to hate it. When I think about it, I have three or four specific memories around the visits and they're all very happy moments.” As an adolescent he became aware of the circumstances of his father's conviction but continued to support him. "I still love my father. When I was a teenager I'd go protect my Dad and tell the kids in school 'My Dad's stronger than yours', because he was. He went to gym for 9 years while he was incarcerated; so he was like Hercules. I backed him then, and I back him now."
It was a fierce pride in his heritage that really stood out to us. We wondered whether that mindset would constitute a running theme and influence on his music. “Completely”, he said. “That’s the main inspiration behind my music. When it comes to my heritage - I think there's an opportunity to represent where I come from more authentically. It’s all good rapping, but you need a unique edge. So I’d like to think of myself as Turkish. I listen to Turkish music a lot and it’s a massive industry. On "Figo", the delivery of the vocals and the chorus are all influenced by Turkish music. I play the saz (Turkish guitar) at the end of the track as well as a homage to my culture.”
And it would appear that he was right. By seizing on the opportunity to use his music to showcase Turkish culture and talent he has managed to unite different locales who otherwise may not have had a reason to see eye to eye. "Now I’m getting messages from all over London congratulating me. There’s no postcode beef because all they’re telling me is that ‘I’m so proud that you’ve done this.’ and ‘I’ve been waiting for someone to jump on the scene.’ They're so proud and there are separate messages from people all over London showing so much love. They're saying that I put the country on the map.”
The track that has sparked this flurry of activity is called "Figo", named after the legendary Portuguese footballer. The track is produced by SLVNG MAJOR and Patrick Osei. It was mastered by Chris Athens (who also worked on Drake's "Views"), and the video was directed by Teeeezy C of Frankincense & Myrrh. The track feels like an anthem, and we wanted to know if that would be a typical mark of his music?
"It will be a mix", he said. "We were aware of the anthem feel we had on "Figo". In terms of my personal story, the song is only the tip of the iceberg. When I get into the depths of my stories you might get different vibes on the tracks." It's a sign of the kind of artist that Tayfun is. Where some artists use their platform to help people have a great time, Tayfun treats his music like a personal diary and uses it to express his inner reflections and tell his own stories.
Making a living from artistic expression isn't something that comes intuitively to Tayfun's family. Growing up in his kind of upbringing creates the challenge that some people would have discouraged him from the sensitivity associated with music. We were curious to know how he managed that transition.
He said: “Initially with the music, I had to come through the shadows. If I had come at the beginning and told my family and the people around me that I was doing music, they’d have laughed at me. I kept it quiet. When I released "Figo" my cousin hit me up and said 'it's amazing. I didn’t know that my family had this kind of talent.'"
"Once we did Figo and shot the video - I showed it to my family and that was the first time they found out what I had been doing. When they loved it, it was a relief. My family of 500 - 600 were all united. In fact my mother said ‘I can’t believe you’ve actually got the whole family behind this’. They were so caught up in the aura behind Figo that within 30 seconds of the release, I was already a successful rapper in their eyes".
And for a debut track Figo has already been a major success for the artist. It aired on BBC Radio 1Xtra for the first time on March 17th before the video released via GRM Daily brought in over 60,000 views. Tayfun said “When it came on the radio, my whole family was tuned in. When they said my name - that’s when everything felt real. My dad said 'my balls are about to explode. I can’t believe my son’s on radio.' It was a moment that enabled me to tell my mum that I had made it; and it was a moment of victory against all the people who thought I didn’t take my craft seriously. Since I really decided to pursue this in October, I've been working constantly in the studio. When I told my friends about my music - many of them thought it was a joke. So I said 'I'll come out with a product first. Then they’ll listen.'"
The concept behind that product, Figo, is powerful. “With Figo, I’m paying homage to the father of Portugal; not the Prince but the King. In the song I say that I’m the Prince, but the Daddy is Figo. The analogy is that the ‘King’ is my Dad. And I’m the Prince.”
Speaking about how the track was put together, Tayfun said: “when Patrick Oei and I met, we clicked immediately. He actually introduced me to SLVM Major and now we’ve got a strong team. Together we build each other up. With the three of us the one thing you can guarantee is sleepless nights. But they’re sweet sleepless nights because at the end of them we come out with magic. I leave the studio at 4am and can replay what we make all day long; and every time I play it - it sounds just as good."
The video is directed and shot by Taran Cee of Frankincense and Myrrh. He said “We met via mutual friends. When we caught up in the studio he came up with plans and ideas on the spot. I trusted him from the get go. He's genuinely a visionary. He’s more than a man and a camera. He’s a man, a camera and a genius brain.”
Finally we spoke about Tayfun’s new imprint "Karry Kash Recordings". He set the label up just before releasing "Figo", and we spoke about his intentions behind the imprint. He explained: “I’m changing perceptions. I’m changing the perspective that my people have on music. I’m showing that it’s possible for someone where I’m from to make something of themselves artistically, and own what they create.”
He continued, “if I achieve the heights of success, then the first thing on my mind will be to go and pick up some artists who I think are incredible but maybe they don't have the confidence to show it. I think that it's important to be confident. It’s all just in the mind. Get some balls. Get on the scene. Put your money where you mouth is. Put your mouth on the mic, and just go for it. Don’t think about it. Don’t sit down. Don't theorise. Just do it - because if you don't then one day you'll regret not chasing what you want. That’s not good, and that's not me. I love going to the studio, and I love being able to tell my mum when I'm there that I'm at work.”
It's that combination of drive, confidence and community that we really expect at Keakie. As for what's coming up next for Tayfun, the artist is currently working on his debut EP. He's a name you'll want to get used to.
Watch Tayfun's "Figo" here:
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