'Featuring Ty Dolla $ign' Proves He's More Than Everyone's Favorite Collaborator - Rolling Stone
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‘Featuring Ty Dolla $ign’ Proves He’s More Than Everyone’s Favorite Collaborator

His sleekest solo album to date further showcases his skill at navigating R&B, pop and rap.

ty dolla sign

Nabil Elderkin*

Ty Dolla $ign is the musical equivalent of hot sauce — he goes on everything. He has spent the better part of the last decade forging collabs with seemingly every rapper and singer who’s spent time in his native Los Angeles, from Berner to Beyoncé to Bhad Bhabie. With hundreds of credits to his name as a feature artist, he has not only navigated the ever-coalescing intersection of R&B, rap, and pop — he has come to define it.

With his new album Featuring Ty Dolla $ign, Ty acknowledges and leans into his reputation as an absurdly prolific and highly dependable guest star. Like so many streaming era tracklists that have ballooned to grotesque proportions, Featuring Ty$ is long. It contains 25 tracks, nearly as many as the deluxe edition of his excellent 2017 album Beach House 3. (Similarly, the original BH3 and Free TC deluxe had 20 tracks apiece.) And yet, Featuring Ty$ is his sleekest solo album to date, a carefully sequenced collection of songs that invites ordered listening and showcases his finesse as a first-time executive producer.

Ty’s relentless libido has always been his muse. Armed with a blunt lyrical style and a wonderfully sweet, raspy tenor, he’s been singing radio smashes about running up a body count since ‘09. Now 38 years old, he’s as horny as ever. Featuring Ty$ reaffirms his gifts as a savvy songwriter who knows precisely how and when to introduce tension, dimension, and even warmth to his casual womanizing. The highly catchy “Temptations” sets the tone for his album-long vacillation between sexual monogamy and bachelorhood. “Your Turn” is about the exhilaration of entering into a new relationship; “Time Will Tell” is a disbelieving lament for a lover who suddenly left him; “Slow Down” is a tender sex lullaby; “Lift Me Up” yields the album’s single most indelible moment, when he adds harmonies to Young Thug’s yelping expression of sexual nirvana.

 Across Featuring Ty$, Ty enrobes himself in a galactic swirl of far-flung guest artists. During one five-minute stretch, he artfully crams in cameos from serpentwithfeet, Post Malone, Kanye, Mr. Talkbox, Anderson .Paak, and Thundercat. He enlists a small army of producers (he himself has production credits on 13 tracks) and flits between vintage DJ Mustard bounce (“By Yourself,” “Real Life,” “Nothing Like Your Exes”), Chicago house (“Ego Death”), a chipmunked Badu sample (“Tyrone 2021”), and various strains of Atlanta trap, from the melodic, amniotic glide honed by Wheezy (“Lift Me Up,” “Powder Blue”) to Pi’erre Bourne-esque fizz (“Freak”). There’s a lot of guitar—sultry strums, bluesy wails, and sullen Blink-182-style arpeggiations. Altogether, the range of sounds on Featuring Ty$ is far from mind-blowing, but it coheres easily, filtered through Ty’s classic R&B sensibilities.

For an album with 25 songs, Featuring Ty$ never feels like a slog. It clocks in at a hair under an hour, and with only five songs that run longer than three minutes, it moves at a brisk pace. Song transitions are often so seamless that they are nearly undetectable. Three minute-long sketches not only cast a focused light on their respective guests (Thug, Burna Boy, serpentwithfeet), they are effective segues that form the album’s connective tissue. By purposefully integrating half-written throwaways that would have been left on the cutting room floor in another era, Ty has developed the most palatable, least shameful form of tracklist padding attempted by any artist in the past few years.

Three other skits that give Featuring Ty$ additional structure are phone calls with his incarcerated brother TC. “You’ve been doing music as long as you could talk and walk,” TC tells Ty on the album intro, amidst luminous, spacey guitar chords. “You work with other artists, but you really don’t even need to. You’re really doing them a favor, blessing them with your talent.” He’s right. Ty has earned his reputation as the most ubiquitous feature artist in pop, but his solo work deserves just as much recognition.

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