Atlanta rapper and performer, Big Homie Ty.Ni, says she grew up in a family that celebrated both music and the game of basketball. The two endeavors, which have a long relationship going back to hip-hop music in the 90s and before, also often share a general requirement for rhythm and pizzazz in the participant. One glance at Ty.Ni’s knack for both and it’s clear why she’s been so successful of late in garnering a fan following and building a burgeoning musical career.
In December, Ty.Ni released her debut single, “Jelly.” The song and video for which put her shapely body front and center. But, if you examine the track closer, past the jiggling posterior, Ty.Ni’s natural artistry obviously pops out, too. Her voice is a laser; sharp and focused, piercing and bright. Her cadence is both clear and provocative. She’s got game, so to speak, even though she hasn’t always felt confident in displaying those talents in public over the years.
“I grew up in a basketball household,” Ty.Ni says. “In basketball you got to have rhythm and in music you got to have rhythm. My parents definitely played basketball while listening to music and I grew up playing basketball and listening to music, too. Especially in warm-ups.”
Ty.Ni, who played both guard positions and small forward in high school, says she has overcome great stage freight to first play sports in front of a crowd and then later to perform as both a dancer and now a vocalist. She says that, at first, she didn’t want to start rapping because she was “terrified” of the microphone. It took coaching and coaxing to bring her to a level of comfort speaking to people openly. She had stage freight, so to speak, while playing basketball. But that also was different than performing on stage. On the court, she didn’t have to speak to the audience, only play in front of them. As a rapper and lyricist, though, she has to verbalize to a watchful, at times even judgmental, crowd. It’s only of late that this task has become normalized. And, as a reward for her newfound power, Ty.Ni recently signed a record deal with Warner Records.
“It feels amazing,” Ty.Ni says. “I would say that I didn’t know how to feel at first. I didn’t know anything about this music business. But it’s great. It’s opened a lot of doors. I have a new support group of people. I still have to try hard but I don’t have to do everything by myself anymore.”
If one needs to experience serious lows to really enjoy life’s highs, then Ty.Ni is certainly equipped to enjoy her recent successes. At fifteen years old, her mother died, which put Ty.Ni in a tailspin that took significant time and effort to climb out from. In that time, she didn’t treat herself as well as she needed to, but, in a way, that helps her now to appreciate the fruits of her labor.
“That took me in all kinds of directions,” Ty.Ni says. “Mentally, physically. I lost a lot of weight. I was getting in a lot of trouble. After she died, I went on a ‘fuck the world’ type of thing. I didn’t give a fuck. I got locked up a couple times. I don’t know—there was a lot going on in my head at the time. I was living house-to-house, going broke. But after that, I focused on getting to a better place. I started getting myself together. I gained my weight back, started working out. I started dancing to get some money in my pocket. Now I’m here.”
As a professional dancer in strip clubs, Ty.Ni learned how patrons interact with the stage. She saw how some songs piqued interest, how others impacted certain behaviors. She took these skills, not long after, to music videos, dancing and showcasing what God gave her in projects produced in her influential hometown of Atlanta, where she’d grown up.
“Working as a dancer,” she says, “I definitely taught myself how to engage with a crowd. Being a video vixen also, it helped with being in front of a camera. It helped my performance. I’m a great performer.”
Ty.Ni says she’s one of those types that, when the light switches on, she’s masterful on stage. Despite growing up with severe stage freight, despite still finding it uncomfortable to talk to people in public or record unabashedly in the studio, she is a dynamo when she needs to be. In fact, her skill for pleasing a crowd, has worked in digital interfaces too. On Instagram, for example, Ty.Ni has amassed nearly 400,000 followers for whom she often twerks and shakes her butt.
“I got my following from shaking my booty,” Ty.Ni says. “I’m a sex symbol on Instagram and that’s how I brought my music in too, as a sex symbol. I just felt like I needed to stick with what I know and I’m known for shaking my ass. So, I thought, ‘I should make a song about it and put it out. Why not?’”
In an era of popular music when Cardi B’s “WAP (feat. Megan Thee Stallion)” is maybe the biggest thing in pop culture today, one might think Ty.Ni sticks out positively in the minds of fans far and wide. But still there are those out there, she says, who work to hurt her sense of self or tear her down and discredit who she is.
“The door is definitely more open,” she says. “But it’s a little harder for me being a brown-skin natural-bodied person. A lot of people overlook natural-bodied women – I’ve heard men say, ‘She ain’t got no money because she ain’t got her body done.’ Not all, but some men overlook natural-bodied women and it makes it harder.”
Despite detractors, it’s clear that Ty.Ni is making traction. Her career is blossoming day by long day in the studio, fan by fervent fan online and face-to-face. As a young person, she says, she wanted to learn choreography and dance and as her life has progressed, she’s getting that chance to express herself and plant her flag on the world of music and American culture. While the twenty-five-year-old artist is still near the beginning of her likely long career, many in Atlanta and beyond say she’s “next up” to succeed in a major way. Today, to help that along, Ty.Ni is working on a new EP, expected for 2021, that should showcase all of the daring artist’s sides.
“I love music because it’s so diverse,” Ty.Ni says. “From the words to the beat to the different personalities of the people performing it. I don’t just listen to hip-hop, I listen to country, pop and a lot of R&B. Music is diverse and I love it.”