British rapper Ben Chijioke, best known under his stage name Ty, died Thursday at age 47, reportedly from complications of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. The critically acclaimed performer, who was nominated for the prestigious Mercury Prize, was placed in a medically induced coma last month. His most successful album was 2003's Upwards, and he released his most recent album, A Work of Heart, in 2018.
Ty's representatives confirmed his death to The Guardian. His family also shared the sad news on a GoFundMe page, which raised £20,000 (about $24,700). "It is with much sadness that I have to report the passing of Ben Chijioke, better known as TY Chijioke on the 7th May 2020, close friends, family and fans are devastated of his death," organizer Diane Laidlaw wrote. She later added, "This is a shock to everyone. I actually have no words or clear way of thinking and hope this comes out correctly when I post it. I personally wanna say a big thank you to those that donated to the GoFundMe and for the other campaigns that happened online to support TY."
"The family would like to say a big thank you to everyone who has reached out and expressed their concern since he was admitted in hospital but right now they would value having their privacy, so they can mourn privately," Laidlaw continued. "They just need time to process." She stopped accepting donations through the page.
According to the GoFundMe page, Ty as admitted to the hospital with "medical complications related to COVID-19" in April. He was later put in a medically induced coma "to temporarily sedate to help his body receive the appropriate treatment." His condition was improving last week, but he contracted pneumonia after doctors moved him to a different part of the hospital. His "body couldn't fight back anymore," Laidlaw wrote.
Ty was born in London to Nigerian immigrants. He released his first album, Awkward, in 2001. Two years later he scored a breakthrough with Upwards, which earned him a Mercury Prize nomination in 2004. Three more albums followed, including his last, 2018's A Work of Heart.
In 2014, he formed Kingdem, a super-group featuring fellow U.K. rappers Blak Twang and Rodney P. He also collaborated with The Bamboos, Blitz the Ambassador, Zion I, Hocus Pocus, Tony Allen and The Nextmen.
"Our music is considered 'unclassic' by mainstream British culture," Ty said of hip-hop in a 2018 interview with PRS for Music. "It’s considered throwaway and vague, and I think we have become comfortable with the name tag and position. I’m not comfortable with this process, art form, culture and experience being relegated to a minor importance, just because it isn’t classical music. A lot of thought and self-analysis goes into making music, let alone hip-hop music, and I wanted to upgrade the perception a little."