Ritualistic head of UK rapper Ty goes on show to the public at the British Music Experience

By Ben Miller | 14 July 2010
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A photo of a sculpted black head of a man wearing glasses with a moustache and beard

In a long line of intelligent, poetic UK hip-hop deep thinkers, the current album by Ty – London rapper Ben Chijioke – is one of the smoothest of the 21st century.

The fourth LP released by the syrup-voiced rhymer since he signed to Roots Manuva’s Big Dada label in 2001, it marks a continuation of form for an artist who was nominated for the Mercury Music Prize in 2004 and has worked with peers including De La Soul and Damon Albarn.

What most listeners won’t know is that Ty's attention to detail extends to the artwork for Special Kind of Fool, which features a painstakingly carved sculpture of his head influenced by tribalistic rituals.

A photo of a drawing of a head in profile

Original designs for the head of the rapper

"The head is based on the principle of unwavering commitment," explains Ben Wachenje, the former spray can artist and Camberwell School of Arts graduate who has used guitar strings, picks, headphones phono leads, cables and microphone cords among his materials for the piece.

"In my assessment, Special Kind of Fool is a declaration reaffirming Ty's motives for being expressive, communicative, artistic and devoutly committed to hip-hop culture."

The album artwork and head have gone on display at the British Music Experience, drawing acclaim for their folkloric mystique.

A photo of a sculpted head in a studio with a photo of a man's head behind it

The head is "based on the principle of unwavering commitment"

"The Nkisi or Nkondi style of the sculpture was a technique used in 19th century West Africa," says Wachenje.

"Reflective surfaces were used to represent eyes and human hair or teeth. Any object thought to be spiritually charged was placed inside the sculpture's hollow centre to affirm oaths or dispel evil forces.

"The Ty head acts as a protector of the relentless and uncompromising approach to his music."

A photo of wires and sculptures in a garden

Leads and cables were among the materials used in the creation of the sculpture

All of which, in a somewhat depressing era for the domestic genre, sounds slightly at odds with the sort of hip-hop which finances ringtones.

"The original expression of hip-hop pre-dates today's record industry concern for selling a commercially viable product for monetary gain," points out Wachenje.

"As such, Ty's music is a purposeful quest for true hip-hop without compromise."

For more on Ben Wacheneje's art, visit him online. For more on Ty, check out his website.

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