On the day after Halloween, the weather outside is quite rainy and drab. The rush hour traffic in Cleveland Heights' Coventry neighborhood is almost at a standstill. Inside the B-Side Liquor Lounge, the spider webs and skeletons are being taken down and prepared for storage until next year. In contrast to the conditions outside, rapper Fly Tye sits at the bar with a sunnier outlook as he prepares to headline this year's Cruel Winter Fest that takes place on Saturday, Dec. 8, at the Grog Shop
"I'd say Fly Tye is definitely a unique type of artist," he says as he declines a bartender's offer of some leftover candy. "I'm coming from more of a Trap era of music. That's the swing we took, but it also has a message. I'm just an inner-city guy trying to figure it out. I'm from the Superior-St. Clair area, one of the rougher parts of the city."
Fly Tye isn't completely new to the Cleveland hip-hop scene, but he also isn't in line to start collecting a pension any time soon either.
"I'm in my fifth year now," Tye says. "I had a year or two when I took a serious run at it and then I got myself into some trouble and that sat me down for a little while. I came back and have been running ever since then."
While Tye certainly considers himself to be in the new school of artists in the city, he takes the bulk of his inspiration from artists that came before him and has elements of both within his music.
"I came up listening to more music right before this era," Tye says. "It was moreso Jay and Nas. Those were the guys that I was influenced by. I do catch some influences from some of the new wave guys as far as the sound, but as far as the message and influencing me to want to make music, I would say the Jay-Z, Nas and Biggie era did that. My music is like a blend of the two. It's best to find a way to merge them. I have that new age sound with an old age message."
Tye's breakthrough moment came in 2016 with The Chase
. He followed up with his Big Woa EP
"I had a few prior projects," Tye recalls. "They were really like mixtape circuit kinda projects — rapping over industry beats and maybe a few original songs, you know. I had about three or four of those before I took a more serious approach and starting putting music out in more of an EP or album style. It's more intense with the content and thought process. The mixtapes were really just for fun, the EPs and albums are more of a statement of who you are as an artist."
Tye has worked with some of the city's best artists in the past, including Ducky Smallz and Ripp Flamez, and he's open to more but on a whole he prefers his collaborations to come about naturally.
"I kinda play it by vibe," Tye insists. "I like to have a relationship outside of the music first. A lot of times you can end up in a situation with an artist you may not really fit in with and that can transfer over to the record. Prior to that, you may not have heard much or even any of each other's music and that can affect the quality of music that we would make together. I'd rather build everything organically."
While many other artists feel as if they need to become a Swiss army knife in the studio, Fly Tye is content with sharpening his skills on the microphone at this point in time.
"I'm moreso focused on the MC part," Tye says. "I have the ability to produce songs for sure, but I'm focused on the rapper standpoint for now. Sometimes trying to do it all waters you down, it's like giving people a little bit too much."
Cruel Winter Fest 5 will also feature Only Native Sounds, Creez Mob, Nick Samps, BKA Watts, Lil Gran, Lord Setty, Malik X, P FrmDaTribe, R the Czar, Smplgd, Jams Davis, Jazz and Roscoe Noe. It's not Tye's first time headlining, but it's his first time in quite awhile.
"Not my first time, but it's my first time this year," Tye says. "I haven't been taking a lot of shows this year because I've been working on my craft. I'm going to do another EP. I'm actually finishing it up, working on dates and the creative direction. Hopefully in the next 30 days or so we can finalize some things, but the title is still up in the air."
When it comes to a Fly Tye show, it's all about the vibe.
"Organic, man," Tye says, when asked what his show is like. "I kinda feed off the crowd. It's just a vibe. I try to keep it hands-on with the people. I feel like that helps them remember you afterwards. It's so many shows happening in the city now, not a lot of artists get to be hands-on. That's why I try to focus on being eye-to-eye. It's more personal."
Tye is mum on any potential surprises for the show, but he has an idea of how he wants things to go.
"We want to bring that same type of feeling when you bring in Devin the Dude or Scarface," he says. "We want to pack it out and get an organic feeling going. As long as the vibe is tight, everything else will come together."
Tye's ascent through the ranks hasn't been without some difficulty as he's learning as he goes along.
"The transition from a street background was a little difficult" he says. "Also understanding that the business world doesn't quite always work the same way and l had to learn not to always take shit so personally."
There's a line between the worlds somewhere, but Tye admits that there are a few similarities.
"They're kinda like the same," Tye says. "With the streets, obviously you want to take something, get into the mix and blow up. That's the ultimate goal. It's likewise with the music, you have to find that fine line of being able to play both sides."
In addition to the music, Tye is a devoted father to his two children. He doesn't see them as a hindrance to what he's trying to accomplish and doesn't rule out a future for them in the industry as well.
"It works well," Tye says of the balance between his craft and family. "My kids are around me a lot so they're just starting to adjust to the lifestyle. I guess it'd be the equivalent to someone like Lil Wayne having one of his kids growing up around him and embracing the way of life that comes along with that. It's kinda dope when I see my daughter getting into the rapping. Hopefully one day they can follow in my footsteps and be even bigger than I am. That part of it is tight. We're not really at the point where I'm away from home a lot yet, so we'll have to see what the future holds."
Cruel Winter Fest 5 with Fly Tye, Only Native Sounds, Creez Mob, Nick Samps, BKA Watts, Lil Gran, Lord Setty, Malik X, P FrmDaTribe, R the Czar, Smplgd, Jams Davis, Jazz and Roscoe Noe, 8:30 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 8, Grog Shop, 2785 Euclid Heights Blvd., Cleveland Heights, 216-321-5588. Tickets: $10 ADV, $15 DOS, grogshop.gs