Free TC – Ty Dolla $ign (Taylor Gang, Pu$haz Ink, Atlantic) – November 2015
What is most amazing to me about this album is that Ty Dolla $ign has developed that Nate Dogg knack of sounding vocally incredible while never giving the impression he is trying too hard. This album names 24 different acts as features and never feels like it isn’t Ty’s album, which is perfectly captured on the first track “LA”, basically an exclamatory show of pride for Ty’s hometown of Los Angeles, which features Kendrick Lamar, Brandy and James Fauntleroy. While Kendrick delivers a verse in which he pays tribute to the LA Lakers and 2Pac, both synonymous with West Coast life, Brandy’s bit-part shows she still has it 24 years after her solo debut and Cocaine 80s’ Grammy-winning singer James Fauntleroy does what you’d expect him to.
One of my biggest gripes with so many albums of this kind is that, too often, the singles on it feel separate from the movement of the album, however Free TC manages to blend the tracks together to create a sonically-pleasing album through Ty’s unassumingly great voice and the production from some of the game’s best such as Hit-Boy, DJ Mustard and Metro Boomin among others.
Another highlight of the album is the collaboration with Babyface called “Solid” which, to me, is undoubtedly one of the year’s best songs. In order to demonstrate how impressive it is for Ty to have Babyface on his album, you have to go through his eleven Grammy award winning career and look at the fact he has written for and worked with people like Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Beyoncé, the aforementioned Brandy and even Lil Wayne. The guitar-driven track is, in theory, pretty simple: wherever Ty Dolla $ign goes, women follow in their masses and he wants for very little, be it money, real friends or weed as he already has an abundance of said things. The actual song is infectiously catchy and since I heard it first, it has barely left my head.
The album grows naturally and feels very unforced. Ty and his team do a fantastic job of integrating A-List artists like Kanye West, R. Kelly and his label mate Wiz Khalifa without placing them on a pedestal and keeping Ty feeling like the main attraction the entire way through.
The hip-hop community looks forward to seeing if Ty Dolla $ign can keep his meteoric rise going. With a great feature on Kanye West’s “Real Friends” from The Life Of Pablo and two new songs out today, he is taking the right steps towards stardom.