The first time I heard Ty Dolla $ign, I had no idea what to make of him. Was he a rapper, a singer, or a mix between the two? I knew he was from the LA collective of up and coming artists that included DJ Mustard, YG, and Dom Kennedy; always seen in videos or studios sessions. Like most of his fanbase, I naturally gravitated to the song “Paranoid” not only because of the catchy beat, but also because of the hilarious situational lyrics. However, he didn’t catch my attention until I heard the original Beach House mixtape, and discovered the multiple facets of his talent.
I found myself doing more research into his backstory and I found out a reason why I naturally gravitated to his music so much. Ty has an amazing musical background that gives him credibility with the streets and the industry executives as well. Ty Dolla $ign, born Tyrone William Griffin, is the son of Tyrone William Griffin Sr., who was a member of the legendary funk group Lakeside. It was this musical upbringing that provided the foundation for Ty’s career. Imagine meeting legendary acts such as Earth Wind & Fire, Rick James, and The Isley Brothers all throughout your childhood and being constantly surrounded by musical instruments. One might even go as far as to say that he was birthed into the perfect musical incubator, giving him an inside look at not only the art of music, but the business of it as well. All of these ingredients added together ultimately created one of the most talented R&B artists in the industry.
While he’s mostly known for his chart topping singles with catchy hooks and lascivious verses, what stands out to many music aficionados is his ability to manipulate melody to make memorable music. What makes it even more impressive, is his ability to do this within the nearly defunct R&B genre. While artists such as Bryson Tiller, PartyNextDoor, and The Weeknd have still managed to find success, their sound tends to be cold and distant, taking after the trend that was started by Drake. Ty finds a way to create music that remains light and playful, while remaining impactful. He’s not trying to burden you with emotion, he’s trying to give you the playlist for the bedroom, the turn up before the club, and smoke sessions that stretch late into the night, lasting into the wee hours of the morning.
While he doesn’t have the strongest voice, what he lacks in technical singing skill, he makes up for in tone. That gruff timbre hearkens back to the soulful singers that dominated in the yesteryear. It’s not crystal clear, but it has the capability to stir the soul and add to the flow of the track. In true musician’s form, Ty uses his voice as another instrument to add more emotion to his music. The way he chops and holds the inflections and tones in his voice steer the feel of the music and work to form music that everyone can relate to.
Free TC is a moving work of art. Named to pay respects to his brother, who is currently serving time in prison, this album weaves in and out of stories that chronicle his celebrity lifestyle, while also shining a spotlight on his brother’s unfortunate situation. Ty made sure to include some of the same club bangers that made him famous, however, that is not where he shines. What makes Free TC, memorable is it’s diverse blend of sounds- bending between rap, funk, pop, and even country, and all the while making it effortless.
While many of his contemporaries dabble in live instrumentation, musicianship is a mainstay in Free TC. Songs such as “Miracle/Wherever”, “LA”, and “Solid” pay respect to a more traditional sound and sense of music. These songs pay homage to the people he cares about, his hometown, and the relationships that he holds close to his heart with his homies.
The features that Ty has managed to land on the album are equally impressive. He has taken a selection of the top hip hop R&B artists of the last twenty years and found a way to make them all fit into his sound. The fact that R. Kelly and Babyface are on the same project as Rae Sremmurd, Fetty Wap, or even Kendrick Lamar is jaw dropping. It isn’t often that an artist can land such high profile features on their debut album. This not only speaks to the talent of Ty Dolla $ign, but also the respect that these legends, and his contemporaries, have for his music. Each feature serves the role of a light seasoning in his musical mixture, never dominating the song, but adding just the right amount of flavor to make the track easier to digest.
Free TC shows Ty Dolla $ign at his best. Not just as a singer and songwriter, but as a student of music. Never confined to one particular sound, but just a strong vibe, or groove, that resides in the innermost depths of your soul. In a time where people gravitate towards artists with darker, more brooding themes, it’s great to see an artist succeed while sticking to a lighter scape/vibe with a more positive message. Ty’s here to have a good time and let go of the stress. It’s time that we join him.
Get your copy of Free TC via iTunes.
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