Tygapaw wears the suede rider jacket, standard slim and ellery boot

We got to hang out and shoot with New York based DJ/Producer Dion McKenzie AKA Tygapaw around her neighborhood. Where she also opened up to us about her love for music, advice for self-care and letting go of negativity. Check out the photos and listen to the exclusive mix she made in celebration of her debut EP “Love Thyself”, life, and saying goodbye to 2017.

E: What was the moment in your life that made you fall in love with music?

T: I think I loved music since birth, from as long as I can form a memory. It definitely had to do with hearing Whitney’s voice for the first time. Without music I wouldn’t be alive, I wouldn’t be able to cope with such a cruel world.

Tygapaw wears the drop shoulder crewneck sweater angst

E: If you had a theme song, what would it be?

T: It used to be “all by myself” the Celine Dion version. Then I wrote “Who I Am” feat. Abu Ali, which is on my EP. I think I wrote that for my 13 year old self.

E: When did “Tygapaw” materialize? Is there a meaning behind the name?

T: Around 6 years ago I was looking to step into a solo project. I chose a name that was connected to my previous group project. Tygapaw, which borrows from “Lion paw” which is a greeting, as well as a mark of respect used among peers. Tygapaw is the fearless, unapologetic side of me, that’s been suppressed for most of my life due to my circumstances. But it’s great to see her shining now.

E: What advice would you give 13yr old Dion?

T: What people have been telling you about yourself are all lies, please try not to internalize the hateful and abusive words directed at you. Please know in your heart, mind and soul that you are worthy of love, even when you are told you are not. Please trust that you will defy the odds and make something of yourself, even when they tell you that you’ll amount to nothing. Please trust and believe that you are intelligent, even when they call you stupid and dumb.Please know that you are talented and you will fulfill your dreams, regardless of lack of support. Please know that you are resilient and powerful. That you have conquered every obstacle put in front of you, and you will continue to persevere and eventually thrive.

Self doubt has plagued you because of the words of your mother, but please know that her circumstances and trauma have played a part in her treatment towards you. Know that you do not have to seek her validation anymore, you will be alright on your own. Know that you are not your trauma, and you will be taking steps to heal from it.

Lastly, when you hear those words “you are ugly” and I know you’ve heard it quite frequently already in your young life, please know that when you get to my age, you will be throwing shade at the world for being alive, black, beautiful and queer. You are stronger than you give yourself credit for.

You will be alright kid, just you wait and see.

Tygapaw wears the reverse sherpa jacket, turtleneck sweatshirt, ellery boot, and the standard slim

E: Do you have any rituals when it comes to self-care? Either it be mentally, spiritually, emotionally and/or physically?  

T: I’m practicing staying as far away as possible from toxic people. It does wonders for your mind, body and soul.

E: 5 things you can’t live without.

1. Clean air
2. Water
3. Musical Instrument of some kind (preferably ones with strings),
4. Laptop, cause that’s the tool I use to produce my music.
5. Peace & Love, but there doesn’t seem to be much of that in the world right now unfortunately. The best I can do is show love in everything that I do and hope that I can make a difference in someone’s life.

E: How do you stay motivated and inspired? 

T: Leaving NYC  helps with that. Visiting other countries and experiencing different cultures helps to restore my faith in humanity.

E: Favorite spots to eat in NYC? 

Fisherman’s Cove– best jerk chicken spot in Crown Heights
Natural blend– where I get the best ital food in Bedstuy
Samurai Papa– think this is now my favorite ramen spot
Chuko– was my former favorite ramen spot

E: Vinyl or leather pants?

T: I love vinyl pants, but they’re the most obnoxious things to wear. Every step you are guaranteed to hear me five blocks away.

Tygapaw wears the long crewneck sweater and the off shoulder crop sweater

E: What are you leaving behind in 2017 and moving forward with into 2018?

T: I always make it a point to move at my own pace, cause the way folks move out here, you would swear it’s all a competition. But what people fail to realize is that it all stems from insecurity. At the end of the day, you only have yourself and the resources (however meager they might be) available to you, so just do you, at your own pace.

Tygapaw wears the long crewneck sweater, pleated baggy pant, clay sneaker and tailored overcoat

You will be surprised at how much you are able to get done when you are focused on yourself and not others. There are so many distractions out there. Don’t give so much attention to the noise. And please keep in mind that Instagram is a liar, and most people are very unhappy with their lives. I am leaving behind toxic people/spaces, and moving forward with love, kindness, patience and understanding.

Interview/Shot&Styled: Elvin Tavarez