A Victory for Ty Dolla $ign

Graphic by Laura Padilla-Castellanos

Since his last solo album in late 2017, Ty Dolla $ign’s musical aptitude has blessed our ears via consistent collaboration. In 2018 his falsetto accented Post Malone’s hypnotizing track, “Psycho.” As a trusted collaborator of Kanye West — equally obsessive about his craft — Ty produced much of GOOD Music’s five album releases that same summer. He assisted Fifth Harmony’s global hit, wrote a song for Jay-Z and Beyoncé, and even embellished a Drake track. Not to mention a collaborative R&B album with Jeremih, the 38-year-old has been busy.

“My approach to music has always been about frequencies, emotions, and energy,” Ty said on Instagram leading up to his album. “Whenever I collaborate, whether it’s for my project or someone else’s, it’s always about marrying frequencies… I use featured artists with the same precision that I would use any instrument.” On Featuring Ty Dolla $ign, Ty argues that he’s more than a color in the palette of another artist: he’s a visionary himself. While he can take a renowned artist’s song from a million to a billion streams with a melody, his new album aims to show that he is the star, a capable conductor who we take for granted. Presenting 25 tracks in exactly an hour — only six are over three minutes — the album functions as one continuous song. As each piece blends seamlessly into the next, Ty urges you to leave your speaker on. It’s well worth it. 

Flexing that the only feature he needs is himself, “Status” is our introduction to Ty’s world of intricate production. “Could this be everything that I dreamed of?” he sings over sparse synths, building suspense before a beat drop halfway through, “Brand new crib, ooh, it’s a palace / my new b****, she’s the baddest.” As the drums cut in and out with regularity, Ty floats between melodies and raps with ease. The transition into “Temptations” is scintillating, a track that uses a rare Kid Cudi feature to perfection. The two complement each other as they reminisce about being left behind by their lovers.

Despite its name, “Track 6” by no means lacks character. Featuring a diverse cast of Kanye West, Anderson .Paak, and Thundercat, the track juggles both funky and psychedelic production. Ty knows how to use space — his lyrics here aren’t awe-inspiring, yet fit snugly into the award-deserving production. Anderson .Paak delivers one of his most polished performances in recent memory while Thundercat’s quintessential falsetto caps it all off. 

The Quavo-backed track “Freak” thrives even as he repetitively boasts, “I got a freak (I got a freak), I got a freak, uh (freak)” —a club banger even over Zoom. On the catchy track “Double R,” the Lil Durk verse couldn’t feel more natural. On “Real Life,” Ty unites with Mustard and Roddy Ricch to sing, “Cops still killin’ n*****s in real life / signed a deal for eight figures in real life.” On these tracks Ty doesn’t put the expensive features to waste, instead displaying his unique ability to make a hit. 

While each song can function alone, when played in order, it’s difficult not to appreciate the attention to detail. The transition from Young Thug’s solo interlude “Dr. Sebi” — whose title is a reference to the doctor arrested in 2016 for money laundering — to the Gunna-backed track “Powder Blue” is one of many highlights. After the instrumental fades down to bells beneath Thug’s lesson on foreign shoes and women, the beat drop slaps. 

Beginning with nothing more than bare guitar chords, “Your Turn” serves as the album’s enchanting yet chilling finale. Ty sings, “Nobody’s really yours, it’s just your turn,” reflecting on his ever-fleeting experience with love. It’s interesting hearing this from a man whose sexual exploits are a major component of his music — he’s human like the rest of us. The production here is minimal, yet the massive feature cast of Musiq Soulchild, Tish Hyman, and 6LACK are the only instruments he needs. Ty does it all — he sings, raps, writes, produces, engineers, mixes, and even masters. On the album, his unique skill set is always on full display. Ty Dolla $ign is a conductor. He meticulously incorporates each instrument and feature, all the while flaunting his elegant voice. Featuring Ty Dolla $ign makes a compelling argument for why we should consider him one of the most talented R&B artists of the ‘10s. It’s easily the best music of his career.

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