Ty Dolla $ign, or TY$ for short, released his debut studio album, ‘Free TC‘ towards the end of 2015. Before that though, $ had been releasing mixtape after mixtape, providing vocals for guest features for numerous records as well as working on production. However, his full-length LP, dedicated to his wrongly-incarcerated brother, is a smooth and interesting project from the R&B crooner.
“LA” featuring Brandy, James Fauntleroy and Kendrick Lamar, join TY$ over the slow, Pop tune, with glorious strings, minimal drums and Jazz keys. The mixture of vocals between the singers add a strong atmosphere to the beginning of the album. Kendrick’s verse is reminiscent of his ‘Section .80‘ album days, and as always, I’m never not impressed with K. Dots’ contribution to a track. Although TY does throw in some less-friendly radio tracks, a lot of the content does sound like it was made for a radio audience. Bay Area MC, E-40 appears for the DJ Mustard-cut “Saved” and although 40 Water provides a solid verse, the track sounded like another typical Mustard production and loses its authenticity and weight to the album.
Another track that appears is the Metro Boomin and DJ Spinz “Know Ya”. Starting with a woman leaving obsessive voice messages, it quickly drops with a Metro tag and gives the listener a dark instrumental while still being devilishly sexual. While TY’s verses and vocals are wicked and work perfectly over the melodic Trap beat, the real show-stealer here is Trey Songz. He rides the beat effortlessly and gives one of the best features on the album.
One of the songs that immediately would grab a Hip-Hops’ head eyes would be “Guard Down”. Produced by Hit-Boy and featuring moguls Diddy and Kanye West, the song has drums all over the place and TY sounds like he’s struggling over the jumpiness of the beat. However, his vocals on the chorus work well. Disappointingly, two of the biggest features on the album don’t provide anything but spoken word contributions or painfully auto-tuned vocals.
Although the album is dense with emotions, sensuality and dealing with fame, TY also tries to keep himself within his own lane; raspy and smoky vocals, fresh instrumentals and a great line-up of collaborators and producers. However, the majority of tracks are overshadowed by its features and production credits.