Earlier this week, the Booth’s own Yoh penned a feature about Ty Dolla $ign’s career crossroads. Ty is an artist who’s been on the cusp of stardom for years, and who’s worked with a who’s who of industry elite—from Kanye West to Kendrick Lamar to Future. His list of collaborators is also a testament to his versatility, and in just the past two years he’s shown up on singles from such disparate names as Major Lazer, Kranium, N.O.R.E., Nick Jonas, Lil Durk and Travis Barker, among others. Today, he released his latest project, a “commercial mixtape” named Campaign, a follow-up to last year's debut studio album Free TC, an effort that was met with favorable reviews but failed to make much noise commercially.
Versatility is perhaps Ty Dolla’s greatest strength, aside from an abundance of talent—not only as a singer but also as a songwriter, producer, and multi-instrumentalist. He can bounce between soulful ballads, sex jams and club bangers with ease, comfortably owning each like Tom Brady in the pocket, and with his bourbon-soaked vocals always present.
One thing that is not always present in the West Coast native's music is substance. Rarely does the subject matter in Ty$'s universe delve far from his usual drop-top hedonism, a happy-go-lucky world of carefree sex and drugs; the PARTYNEXTDOOR of the daytime hours.
At first glance, Campaign makes a marked effort to mix up that narrative, going the route of making a strong political statement, which it accomplishes...sort of...not really. Despite the number of politically charged, anti-Trump skits that pepper the project, the intro, and the track "No Justice" (which features TC, the artist's brother and the namesake for his debut album), Campaign relies heavily on Ty$'s usual bag of tricks.
3 Standout Songs
“??? (Where)” (ft. Migos)
“Blasé” was one of the great club bangers of 2015, propelled by riotous production from Atlanta mainstay DJ Spinz. “???” (or better yet, "WHY WAS THIS NOT A SINGLE???") is its kindred spirit; another electrifying, surefire party starter, this time with characteristically spirited verses from Migos’ Quavo and Takeoff.
“3 Wayz” (ft. Travis Scott)
One of five tracks from the project to surface before the release date, “3 Wayz” is the laid-back afterparty to “???”’s full-on club rager. It features Travis Scott and, with its dark and murky atmosphere, feels a bit like a Travis song featuring Ty Dolla, rather than the other way around. It’s perfectly suited for the moments where you’re not sober, and the chorus is catchy enough to get stuck in your head for days.
Switching gears, we head to “Hello,” a delightfully bright and addictive taste of Dolla floating over bouncy production from Allen Ritter (who’s very quietly contributing some of the best production for all of your favorite artists right now).
Campaign settles for the lower aspirations of a mixtape, but with all the packaging and promotion of an album; the latest project to blur the lines between the two. It's not an artistic step forward, nor is it a bad project by any means, but the juxtaposition of its political ambitions amidst the overbearing depravity that makes up the other 90% of the project leaves the listener wishing instead that Ty$ would have gone one direction or the other.
This is especially true when hearing "No Justice," the one record that truly focuses on police brutality, racial inequality, and other societal ills currently dominating headlines. It's powerful and likely to give you chills, yet it's sandwiched between a song called "Pu$$y" and a song with the line "I put that pussy in a coffin / Make her deep throat till she coughing." Seriously. (Other choice lines include "Dolla gon fuck with his drawers on," "Dolla fuck her on the couch" and "Dolla get head in the pool"—and those are all just from one song.)
You have to respect the various political points being made, and they ring very true, but it's a lot like watching a porno where a PSA pops up midway through to tell you not to vote for Trump: great message, but not what you signed up for.
Politics aside, while the singles were all underwhelming, the rest of the album is enjoyable if you're into having sex, eating shrooms, having sex, smoking joints, having sex, popping Xans, and of course, having sex.
Ty$ continues to show his versatility, mixing in bangers ("Campaign," "Watching") with bedroom jams ("Juice," "R&B") and smooth acoustic serenades ("Stealing"). If you go into this project expecting any real awareness of the political climate, you'll be disappointed. If you're looking for Rachet & Blues, spark up and tell your girl to bring a friend; you've got the soundtrack for the weekend.
By Brendan Varan. You can follow him on Twitter.