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Ty Dolla $ign Revisits Classic SPIN Covers Featuring Kurt Cobain, Kanye West, and More Artists

Ty Dolla $ign has never made a secret of his influences. Musical heavyweights from across R&B, hip-hop, gospel, and rock have given him a distinct musical lineage and provided a blueprint for his own pioneering sound. While SPIN’s August cover story is all about Ty, we did ask him about past SPIN cover stars—from Biggie to Janet Jackson to Kurt Cobain—whose creative trajectories have in some way intersected with Ty’s own.

Sitting with his dog Julio in a bright garden in L.A.’s Eagle Rock neighborhood, Ty spoke effusively about Skrillex (“Uncle Sonny!”), calling him “one of the dopest musicians I’ve ever worked with.” Presented with Kanye West’s 2008 SPIN cover with Daft Punk, Ty hinted at the possibility of an unreleased collaborative full-length. But of all the covers we showed him, it was the late Nirvana frontman’s that made the biggest impression.

“I got Kurt tatted on the back of my leg! The first time I ever actually loved a rock song was ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit,’ and then it made me go and listen to all of his shit,” he explained. “I wish he would have lived longer to really get off everything, and I wonder what he would sound like right now. It’s an honor to be on the SPIN cover like all these legends.”

Ty’s cover photo shoot drew inspiration from Cobain’s October 2001 cover, which was rendered simply in black and white, and accented with yellow-orange gradients.

“I definitely wanted to pay homage to Kurt because he’s the rock star of rock stars,” said Ty of his own SPIN cover. “I’m just a sex symbol—I’m trying to get there.”