Ty Dolla $ign • Free TC • Atlantic • Release Date: 11.13.2015
What’s the best way to stylistically categorize Ty Dolla $ign? Ultimately, the Los Angeles bred musician is a blend of R&B singer and rapper. This balance is reflected on Ty’s full-length debut album, Free TC. Why is the effort entitled Free TC? It references the musician’s incarcerated brother TC, who happens to appear in a couple of instances on the album. All in all, there are lots of pros that bode well for Ty Dolla $ign over the course of Free TC; it’s a better than expected album.
“LA” is as creative as an opener you’ll find on any R&B album – definitely not your typical R&B song. Ultimately, this Cali proud joint is the first indication that Free TC is unlike other albums released in 2015, and that’s just fine. Follow up “Saved” featuring Bay Area rap vet E-40 keeps the momentum rolling without a hitch over a typical, yet brilliant DJ Mustard production. Among the catchiest moments of Free TC, Ty proclaims these strippers/groupies/girls he’s formerly ‘been with’ are “tryna get saved, she wanna get saved, I ain’t gonna save her.” In other words, they want what he can give them because he’s ‘came up’ (“Pull up in exotic, I see a little b*tch jockin’”).
“Straight Up” is ‘straight up’ old school and there’s no shame in it. Featuring Jagged Edge in a minimal role, there’s something magnetic and appealing about this slick, poised, slow jam. Arguably, there are more innovative numbers, but it’s hard not to be sucked in, just like the “feelings” Ty urges not to “catch”: “I’mma tell you straight up / do yourself a favor / them feelings, don’t catch those / feelings don’t catch those.” Equally alluring is the Babyface assisted “Solid” with its prominent acoustic guitar, funky anchoring bass line, and raspy, swagger-laden vox from Ty. “Solid” definitely sounds like the Lyfe Jennings school of R&B, which is a good thing.
“Horse In the Stable” is another track that does a fine job of embodying the classic sensibilities of R&B, but is firmly planted in 2015. So who are these horses in a stable which Ty references? Women – all kinds of women – willing to ‘be with’ Ty, period. Basically, he says it best: “I snap my fingers they be on me just like that.” Keeping it sexually driven, “Know Ya” follows, featuring Trey Songz of all folks. Basically, Ty laments the fact that his other chick left before he got to know here because she saw him with his other chick. In other words, this is some R. Kelly bleep at its best.
Give Ty some credit on “Credit” featuring Sevyn Streeter: “No I stopped talking to them b*tches / I did everything you asked me and more.” Here, Ty seems to be taking this girl seriously as opposed to his doggish behavior on “Horses In the Stable” or “Know Ya.” To add to this genuine sentiment, Ty also “never smoked weed in your mama house / unless you sparked that shit, she was out of town.”
“Miracle/Wherever” clocks in at over 8 minutes – an ambitious length to say the least. It features Ty’s incarcerated brother TC, who appears in interludes/skits built into Free TC, as well as D-Loc. Despite its length, the two-part song is quality, street-smart fare like everything else. Add in the fact it’s soulful and lush and another winning listen is in store for the listener. “Guard Down” featuring Kanye West and Puff Daddy is also satisfying listen, produced by standout Hit-Boy. While it does feature two heavyweights, it’s mostly Ty.
“Sitting Pretty” (featuring Wiz Khalifa) is shallow (“That ass she walkin’ round with is sitting pretty”), but it’s not unexpected per se. “When I See Ya” swaps Wiz Khalifa for Fetty Wap, but the result is still a sexually-charged song. “When I See Ya” may have the edge in the battle of shallow songs, with excellent, slinky-sounding production and a pleasant melody delivered with rhythmic hip-hop swagger. “Blasé” featuring everybody’s favorite duo Rae Sremmurd (they’ve even grown on yours truly since penning this review) is hypnotizing…for some reason. Not “blasé” in the least, particularly with memorable lines like “And my b*tch cold, she a centerfold / put her on a stand, and she never told.” Swag?
The close of Free TC isn’t as electrifying as some of the earliest triumphs, but still worthwhile. If nothing more, the production shines on both “Only Right” (featuring YG, Joe Moses & TeeCee4800) and “Bring It Out Of Me.” On “Actress,” R. Kelly appears, right in his element, singing salacious lines like “She remind me of a pornstar the way she put it on me.” Also, where would “Actress” be without Kelly’s contributions on “damn she good, damn, damn she good?” “Finale” concludes Free TC – surprise right?
As previously stated, Free TC has ample pros. Ty Dolla $ign shows great versatility, switching from singing and rapping – oscillating between soulfulness and unapologetic brashness. Flexibility definitely makes Ty marketable to R&B and hip-hop fans alike. The biggest con of Free TC…it’s 73 minutes long. Is it quality? Yes, but some cutbacks wouldn’t have been lamented. Still, Ty gets it right on Free TC.
Favorites: “LA” featuring Kendrick Lamar, Brandy & James Fauntleroy, “Saved” featuring E-40, “Straight Up” featuring Jagged Edge, “Solid” featuring Babyface, “When I See You” featuring Fetty Wap and “Blasé” featuring Rae Sremmurd