Ty Dolla $ign Free TC Taylor Gang / Pu$haz Ink / Atlantic
Ty Dolla $ign is a hugely successful songwriter, a dextrous multi-instrumentalist and an incredible singer. Born in the mid-80s, the LA artist is just about old enough to be inspired by the golden era of West Coast gangsta rap first hand. And due to the educational influence of his father – a funk session musician – Ty’s sound transverses genres from different eras, including the current form of radio-dominating, hyphy-inspired club rap that his longterm ally DJ Mustard has perfected. On paper, Ty Dolla $ign is a very appealing prospect.
Less widely appealing is his on-record persona. Throughout his career, Ty has been obsessed with the role of the irresistible womaniser, coating the questionable sentiment of his lyrics with an enticing, buttery croon. If you’re up for the ride, he often seems to be saying, there’s fun to be had. But if you’re expecting more, it’s best to just walk away before you get hurt.
And although he spends a large bulk of Free TC’s run-time reiterating his disinterest in romantic commitment, this LP – Ty’s debut retail album – is sonically ambitious, with an indulgent amount of instantly gratifying hooks spread thickly across a selection of luxuriously produced beats. Sure, there’s some filler in the latter half of the tracklist – Bring It Out Of Me repeats the trick of earlier club single Saved with less effect, and Only Right serves little purpose other than to dutifully allow his old friend YG to chip in with a guest verse.
But there’s a soulfulness to Free TC which reaches its peak during Miracle / Wherever – a choir-assisted double track which forms the album’s centerpiece. While a lo-fi prison recording of a verse from his incarcerated brother TC makes for a tender moment, it’s not long until Ty’s dirty mind gets the better of him in the second half. “You remind me of Aaliyah,” he sings. It’s certainly an impressive performance, but the come-on itself should probably be met with a raised eyebrow.