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Album Review: Ty Dolla $ign’s “Featuring Ty Dolla $ign”

Last week, I produced a review of Ariana Grande’s positions and enjoyed mixing two of my favorite hobbies–writing and listening to music–so much that I decided to write another one! Ty Dolla $ign released an album, Featuring Ty Dolla $ign, not long before Ariana on October 23rd that almost instantly made it into my saved albums. The album features some of my favorite rap and R&B artists like Kid Cudi, Anderson .Paak and, of course, Nicki Minaj. Similar to last time, I’ll be writing my thoughts on each song and giving my top three favorites as well as my general thoughts on the album as a whole. Happy listening!

1. “Intro”

This 25-second intro doesn’t give me much to say but starts the album off with a strong message. A voice says, “You work with other artists, but you really don’t even need to. You really doin’ them a favor, blessin’ them with your talent,” reminding listeners that Ty normally features other artists, but now they’re coming to him. He has the power to control his destiny as a solo artist, although he often chooses to be on other artist’s songs. The voice also says, “You could sing, rap, write, produce, engineer, mix and master,” advocating for Ty’s talent which is often overlooked. It’s obvious these words of encouragement mean a lot to Ty and it takes a lot for him to recognize it himself.

2. “Status”

As you can figure out from the title, “Status” is all about the clout among celebrities. Ty highlights his brand-new crib, new girl and new car as the most elite—thanks to his status. He’s built his way up to where he can do anything he wants, whenever, whether that be taking a trip around the world or getting any girl. I love the energy in this song. The repetition makes it an easy song to get into and get the full vibe of.

3. “Temptations” (feat. Kid Cudi)

Kid Cudi humming could cure any of my problems. His mellow, deep voice turns anything into a relaxing yet meaningful song. The song “Temptations” is all about the exes who left Ty and Cudi needing more. Even though both have other women on the line, they’re not over their ex-lovers and would take them back in a heartbeat. The line “my love for you won’t go anywhere” shows how feelings often get in the way of lust.

4. “serpentwithfeet Interlude”

The interlude featuring serpentwithfeet is just under a minute but is a cool transition between “Temptations” and “Spicy.” It keeps up the same energy as “Temptations” with the line, “Oh, the disappointment when I fall to temptations / Oh, the frustration when I fail expectations,” showing that Ty regrets the past and does not feel satisfied with where he is now in terms of his love life.

5. “Spicy” (feat. Post Malone)

“Spicy” is one of two songs released before the album came out, so I was very familiar with it coming into the album. Post Malone brings in the pop with this feature, and the song reflects his own musical style. As for lyrics, the song highlights the money, fame and girls that come along with Ty and Post’s lavish lifestyles, along with having a good time. I definitely feel like this song didn’t have as much substance compared to other songs in the album and was meant to be more of a catchy pop song, but nevertheless, it succeeded at being just that.

6. “Track 6” (feat. Kanye West, Anderson .Paak & Thundercat)

“Track 6” explains how Ty and his lover are on different pages. She has too many questions and he doesn’t have enough answers to give her. She wants more time and he has none, and it leads him to tell her to “say less and don’t talk to me.” Anderson .Paak, one of my favorite rap artists, comes through, saying it’s all his fault because he hasn’t taken care of himself in order to be the best for someone else. In his verse, the song picks up the pace and starts to become a lot more assertive, but Thundercat’s faint vocals tone it back down.

7. “Freak “(feat. Quavo)

Quavo’s style comes out in this song with his repetitive, quick lyrics. This song is all about having a girl who’s a “freak” who’s down for anything but is also classy with what she wants. This girl is worthy of her high status, which Quavo and Ty want her to understand. There’s not much to this song beyond fantasizing over women, but it’s a nice song in between the more lyric-heavy tracks in this album.

8. “Double R” (feat. Lil Durk)

Ty continues the conversation about having money with his song titled “Double R,” referencing a Rolls Royce. The references to cars like “I had to park” and “do the dash in the lamb’” show how he can give a girl the clout that comes with dating an artist. Lil Durk comes in saying that it’s always easy for him to get a girl with his status, which makes other guys jealous. Although this song all about flexing isn’t my favorite lyrically, it brings in a beat that makes it a catchy song to listen to with friends.

9. “Expensive” (feat. Nicki Minaj)

It’s no doubt that Nicki gives her all on every feature. I often make the joke that any song she comes on instantly becomes hers. Not only does she always come in hard with her verses, but oftentimes it’s the artist she’s with that takes the backseat. In “Expensive,” Ty talks about how he can satisfy his girl’s expensive tastes while Nicki owns up to being an expensive girl.

10. “Burna Boy Interlude”

Another interlude under a minute, “Burna Boy Interlude” takes chords from the song prior and mixes them with the upcoming song. This interlude is a good string of chords and vocals that takes the album from its upbeat beginning to a more relaxed and sensual spot.

11. “Tyrone 2021” (feat. Big Sean)

I’ve always been a fan of Big Sean’s music, so I was looking forward to this collaboration, and it completely exceeded my expectations. The song tells the story of Erykah Badu’s “Tyrone” from the man’s perspective, even using a nearly unrecognizable sample from Badu. Ty talks about girls who only want him for his money but don’t have the reputation to be with him. Big Sean’s verse comes through, saying to drop these girls because even without their materialism, the problems they create no longer make him happy.

12. “It’s Still Free TC”

“It’s Still Free TC” is just over thirty seconds, another interlude leading into the next song. Here, TC and Ty talk about social change, how it’s taken so long, but things are finally starting to turn around for the better. Acknowledging this in his music only makes Ty an even more respectable artist.

13. “Real Life” (feat. Roddy Ricch & Mustard)

Ty carries on this narrative about social justice for African Americans, noting that there’ll be ups and downs when fighting the system. He talks about how cops are still killing Black people in real life, not just in the stories we hear through music. He flexes his wealth here because he knows the system that fails African Americans hates to see them winning. Roddy Ricch makes references to his song “Ballin’” and says that he’s not just ballin’ in the song—he’s ballin’ in real life. The message of the song is communicated in an upbeat yet lyrical way that fits right in with the other songs.

14. “Nothing Like Your Exes”

“Nothing Like Your Exes” puts Ty’s self-worth first. The song is a clear message to his ex that she hasn’t done better since him and he’s seen it with his own eyes. He can give her dream house to her if she leaves her man for him. He says he wouldn’t just go back to anyone. It takes a lot for him to save a girl he really wants, but he’s willing to do that for her. The song is full of his regret for leaving her and comes through as a softer, lyrical rap.

15. “By Yourself” (feat. Jhené Aiko & Mustard)

Jhené Aiko was exactly what this album needed. Here, Ty is uplifting his girl saying, “You don’t need to be afraid to be by yourself,” because she’s been on her own before. In an interview, Ty said this song went out to Black women for doing everything they need to do in life to succeed and doing it right. Aiko comes on this track to defend herself, saying, “You know I do this on my own.” She’s exactly the female voice necessary for this song to be the self-worth anthem it is.

16. “Universe” (feat. Kehlani)

The opening chords of “Universe” make it a softer song for Ty to explain his worth. He says, “The universe must want me to win / I’m happier than I’ve ever been,” and, “Feeling this good should be a sin,” and I’m all here for it. He’s proud of all he’s become and where he’s at today, even if he thinks he doesn’t deserve it all. Kehlani, another favorite R&B artist of mine, comes in with her verse emphasizing everything Ty has said. She continues the song by backing up his vocals. This duo taking on a song full of confidence and self-love definitely digresses from the album’s past talk of girls, fortune and status.

17. “Lift Me Up” (feat. Future & Young Thug)

Young Thug and Future are two artists with unique voices, and this song, “Lift Me Up,” is unlike any of the other tracks. Although the song itself talks a lot about girls and sex, the flow that Young Thug and Future have in their rapping makes it come together easily. I don’t have much to say about this song except that this trio’s collaboration is the album’s strongest.

18. “Time Will Tell”

“Time Will Tell” gives listeners an update on Ty’s love life. Ty is in between keeping his relationship and saying farewell, but he’s trying to make things work. Although they’ve been going through problems and crossing lines, they always go back to each other. They can never get over one another no matter what happens and how much they try to get away from each other. Ty delivers with his smooth voice in both his rapping and singing, making the song a fun listen.

19. “Dr. Sebi”

“Dr. Sebi” is another interlude that is just over a minute and is purely a verse long with Young Thug rapping. It’s all about not wanting to become Dr. Sebi, a man arrested for money laundering after claiming to be a healer through herbal medicine. Young Thug doesn’t want to give anyone false hope and reassures us his money is authentic and well-earned. This interlude transitions right into “Powder Blue.”

20. “Powder Blue” (feat. Gunna)

Back to rapping about cars, “Powder Blue” is all about the leftover money used on powder blue Porsches and the disposable income rappers have after paying their dues. The song is all about taking in the money they’ve worked hard for and finally being able to enjoy it, saying, “Mama, I made it.” Gunna’s verse talks about only wanting respect, and money is the way to achieve this. His vocals blend flawlessly with Ty’s.

21. “Everywhere” // 22. “Slow It Down”

“Everywhere” takes on a more R&B style, full of riffs. This song definitely comes off as another message to his partner, full of lust and a desire to have sex everywhere they can. I decided to pair this song with the next, “Slow It Down,” because both communicate very similar messages. He wants them to take it easy but still wants sex. These songs are two of the last songs in the album and they’re among the last chances Ty has to communicate what he wants. He does just that by taking the R&B route.

23. “Your Turn” (feat. Musiq Soulchild, Tish Hyman & 6LACK)

“Your Turn” is where Ty confesses his love for his significant other, not wanting to let go despite life getting in the way of things. It’s his partner’s turn to try to keep him now after all he’s been through, and even then, he’s still holding onto her because it’s what feels right. Musiq Soulchild and Tish Hyman come in with the background vocals and harmonies which really take this song to the next level, making it more emotional and full of love. 6LACK comes through in the outro, leaving the song with a mysterious element as it fades away.

24. “Return”

“Return” is just under thirty seconds and tells listeners to find a purpose that’s genuine because life is short and there’s not much to hold onto in this world. This ending message for listeners communicates what Ty has been learning over his years not just as an artist, but as a human.

25. “Ego Death” (feat. Kanye West, FKA twigs & Skrillex)

“Ego Death” was released months before the album back in July, and I had no idea it’d end up making the tracklist. The single features three amazing, yet radically different artists—Kanye, FKA twigs and Skrillex. The beat of this song, Kanye’s verse, FKA twig’s outro and Skrillex’s production make it one of my favorites. This strong end to the album emphasizes the necessary evil that “ego death is,” that it hurts but it’s the only way to find happiness. Kanye’s verse takes a hit at the government, saying they admire African Americans but do little to validate their contribution to society through political change. Instead, they “lower the count on our damn votes,” referencing voter suppression. Now, I won’t say Kanye’s 2020 presidential platform appealed to me, but recognizing this long-existing problem is something I wholeheartedly agree with.

Now it’s time for my top three favorite songs. This album has a lot to choose from, but I have to say my #1 off the album is “By Yourself” feat. Jhené Aiko. I love the message it sends as a reminder not just to Ty and Jhené but to Black women. It recognizes them for their strength, and the artists’ voices complement each other which makes this song so comforting to listen to. Next on the list is “Track 6” feat. Kanye West, Anderson .Paak and Thundercat, and I have to say, it’s Anderson .Paak that makes this song. His raspy voice and style have always made him one of my favorite artists, and the song, in general, has been one that I often get stuck in my head. Lastly, “Nothing Like Your Exes” really embodies Ty Dolla $ign’s solo work and his style as an artist. I’ll be honest, I’d never paid much attention to his solo work until now. I had always heard him as a feature on other artists’ songs but never recognized his talent. Featuring Ty Dolla $ign has defined his style and solo work in the music industry. He is much more than a feature to me now. Turns out, his lyrical style and seamless voice fit right in with my taste in rap music.

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