Ty Dolla $ign is a unique talent.  One who can keep it street, artistic, commercial and honest – all at once.   He’s his own man, but in the same breath is this generations equivalent to what R.Kelly brought to the game years ago.

Ty’s singing style has likened him to be a “rapper” but he usually laughs off the claims and maintains that he is truly just a “singer.”

The album title “Free TC” is a direct tribute to his brother TC who is behind bars serving a life sentence for murder.  Ty Dolla $ign is adamant that his brother is indeed innocent and is fighting to bring his case back to trial. The realness of their bond is solidified throughout the album as snippets of phone conversations between the two are sprinkled throughout the album.

On the track “Miracle” TC is actually featured on the song, singing through the phone line from prison. The track has a church piano feel to it and is one of the more uplifting tracks on the album.

“On Straight Up” Ty talks about falling for a woman who has a man who she couldn’t possibly be feeling more than him: “Your man, he a ball boy. . .Girl, why you still messin’ with ol’ boy?/he can’t get you what you want. . .”   Ty’s laid back, never sweating the situation too hard, type of character he presents comes off genuine on this track as well as the track “Horses In the Stable.”

On this track, he comically refers to the number of women in his life as a horses in a stable – and on this one, he definitely shows an “R.Kelly-type” of demeanor.  Ty’s pimp-hand is strong on this one: “I told give me something good I might come back/I snap my fingers they be on me just like that/They know the way that I’m living ain’t right/You just another girl and this is just another night.”

Wiz Khalifa joins Ty on “Sitting Pretty” to continue talking about the female gender. The chimes and finger snaps come together nicely with what sounds like a heavy bass string. Wiz counteracts Ty’s laid back flow with a rapid attack over the beat as they both admire the “assets” of a woman they are checking out.

Another high point on the album is “Know Ya” which features Trey Songz.  Ty makes it sound somewhat “sweet” how he runs through girls so quick that he never gets to really know the girls he’s been with.

The harmony between the two vocalists sounds perfect as Ty handles most of the mids and lows while Trey handles the higher octaves.  The two even flip it at the end, when a girl is tripping out about her moving on from them and they both kind of look at each other like “I didn’t even get to know her. . .”

With all the R.Kelly comparisons laid down in this review it’s only right to mention the track which features the Pied Piper.  “Actress”  has the guys speaking in such high adoration about a female that she is a star in her own right.  There is probably no one else better at these “ridiculously plotted-pantie-dropping sex songs” than R.Kelly, and Ty proves he can go toe to toe in verbal extremes with the legend.

A general disappointment on the album was “Guard Down” which is produced by Hit Boy and features Kanye West and Sean Combs.  It ‘s an awkward track that actually sounds like the type of beat someone would make when they first purchased their studio equipment.  And the “feature” by Sean “Puff Daddy (or is he still Diddy) Combs, is really just him speaking at the end of the song. . .

Even with that, there is not enough to deter the listener from an enjoyable listen.  The album opens with Ty paying homage to his home “L.A.” Ty spits the real on “LA” with:  “In the city of the gang bang/yeah we still dying over red and blue stripes/Chuck my set up and it feel good/Cause don’t nobody love you more than your neighborhood.”   The chorus is blessed with a nice harmony between Brandy and James Faunterloy and the song is also blessed with a Kendrick Lamar verse that is far from a throw-a-way : “Let me hit the pawn shop, momma said we need a loan/God, let me dedicate this to the 80% that ain’t never coming home/God, let me know you exist in a city where a hundred hollow tips get thrown.”

Ty Dolla $ign has orchestrated a very well put together first album.  The sounds and the soul he packages together, with a sense of self and a sense of humor (when needed) is a refreshing take when looking at today’s R&B scene.  With features from E-40, Rae Srummerd and Fetty Wap, there is no way he stays off the airwaves anytime soon, and it’s much deserved.  He might be a little too raw for some, but that’s what makes it all come together – he doesn’t bend for anybody and makes the music that best represents himself.  Like an artist should.

Rating 8 out of 10

G.W. Gras

Twitter @GeeSteelio

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