Digital Cover: Tyga ‘King Unchained’

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Seated by himself on a small couch, Tyga is waiting for his lunch to arrive. The room is eye candy for architects and interior designers: high ceilings, exposed beams and hanging light fixtures contrast antique elements like the rows of Victorian picture frames adorning an entire wall. Then there’s this claw foot tub brought in for him to recreate Tupac Shakur’s iconic almost-nude photo (Pac’s privates are hidden by gold galore).

Tyga immediately scraps the tub idea. “I just don’t wanna recreate things that have been done,” he says. “Especially something so legendary.”

A large curtain separates him from two bodyguards perched on stools about six feet away. Tyga’s troop for the day includes his publicist, assistant, nanny, barber, and 2-year-old son King. For a man with an entourage, T-Raww is much more of a recluse than one would assume—or maybe he’s just overdue for some alone time.

There’s been a lot of emphasis on crew love in Tyga’s space over the years. It was 2007 when Lil Wayne recruited the Compton native to Young Money Entertainment. That was two years before Nicki Minaj and Drake blossomed into Tunechi’s big money brands. In five years, Drake has sold over 25 million albums and singles combined, and topped the Beatles this year for the most entries on the Billboard Hot 100. Then there’s Nicki, the feisty Queens spitter who can go bar for bar with the boys. Minaj signed with Young Money in 2009 and already has more Hot 100 hits than Michael Jackson (Though MJ’s output wasn’t nearly as bloated as today’s artists). She’s the first woman to simultaneously fill the No. 1 and No. 2 slots on the iTunes singles charts, both of her albums debuted at No. 1 and her “Starships” single had a record 21-week run atop Billboard.

“[Kanye] was like, ‘If you guys want me to help you produce your albums, and co-executive produce it, I’m here. I just want to help everybody.’”

By comparison, Tyga has yet to hit his sales stride, despite “Rack City’s” quadruple platinum certification. His third album, Hotel California, released last year, was a commercial flop. But the separation goes beyond stats

YMCMB couldn’t be more unified. Rich Homie Quan, and Young Thug are the new class of Rich Gang affiliates, while Nicki and Drake remain wholly committed to Wayne’s army. At Hot 97’s Summer Jam this year, Drake squashed his rumored micro-beef with Minaj by hitting the stage with her and Wayne. Tyga’s absence from the love fest, as well as the Drake vs. Lil Wayne tour (Y.G., was added to the tour for West Coast dates) was a tip-off that Tyga wasn’t top-of-mind at home base.

Now, as he readies The Gold Album: 18th Dynasty, Tyga is demanding attention from his team. Everything about the album—whose title is a nod to Tyga’s obsession with ancient Egyptians—is authentic to who he is currently. This album wasn’t made for the La Marina and Toxic set. As Tyga vaguely explains, it’s more “vibe music.” He’s anxious to get the project out, even if that means publicly criticizing the label. The day after VIBE’S cover shoot, he threatened to leak the LP via Twitter if Young Money didn’t give him a release date.

YMCMB president Mack Maine shot back through his own tweet, warning Tyga to take ownership of his shortcomings. Minaj then unfollowed him. Days later, he released “40 Mill,” one of the many Kanye West-produced cuts from his new album. Yeah, that Mr. West. He might now have the attention he was looking for.