Mercury prize nominated UK rapper Ty dies of coronavirus aged 47

Ty, the acclaimed UK hip-hop star who was nominated for the Mercury prize for his album Upwards, has died aged 47 after contracting coronavirus.

The Nigerian-British musician died on Thursday after contracting pneumonia while recovering from coronavirus.

Ty had been put in a medically induced coma after being admitted to hospital with medical complications related to Covid-19. His condition had improved and had been moved out of intensive care in mid-April. However, in an update posted to his fundraising page, organiser Diane Laidlaw stated: “Ty’s condition had been improving but last week while on a normal ward he had contracted pneumonia which worsened his recovery and ultimately Ty’s body couldn’t fight back anymore … close friends, family and fans are devastated of his death.”

Born Ben Chijioke, he started recording in the mid-90s, appearing on tracks produced by IG Culture's New Sector Movement and DJ Pogo, as well as hosting a hip-hop night called Lyrical Lounge.

He released his debut album Awkward in 2001, but it was Upwards - with its mixture of Afro-funk, Jamaican dub, Latin shuffles and dextrous wordplay - that brought him to mainstream attention.

Upwards was nominated for the Mercury Prize alongside Amy Winehouse, The Streets and eventual winners Franz Ferdinand in 2004.

Ty went on to record three further solo albums, the most recent being A Work of Heart in 2018. He was also a spoken word artist, and an associate of The Hip-Hop Shakespeare Company, founded in 2009 by rapper Akala, who tweeted: “Rest In Power brother. We gonna miss you big bro.” In 2019 he formed a UK hip-hop supergroup called Kingdem with rappers Blak Twang and Rodney P, who performed an acclaimed freestyle on DJ Charlie Sloth’s Fire in the Booth series.

Over the years he also collaborated with De La Soul, Soweto Kinch, Roots Manuva and more.

Rapper Ghetts was among the rappers paying tribute, writing on Instagram: "RIP TY. This ones deep I had a lot of respect for.

Producer Hudson Mohawke said Ty’s music “had such a big impact on me at the time, still sounds fresh today”.

The author Nikesh Shukla wrote: “Rest in peace Ty. You were one of the nicest people I ever met. Such a huge huge loss … Devastated.”