Ty Dolla $ign is a mixed-bag of tricks. His previous projects and consistent pushes as a featured artist show his undeniable versatility. He can swing between genres and instruments with his voice and rhythm effortlessly. His credentials stretch far beyond that of an “R&B singer”; as he is a go-to artist for a grocery list of industry greats. Though throughout the years, it’s not hard to notice, while his appeal hasn’t deteriorated, it certainly hasn’t evolved much. The same holds true for much of his latest offering Campaign, which is a sort of commercial mixtape release.
So let us get into that.
I go into every Ty Dolla song telling myself I will know what to expect. And trust me, that’s not an inherently bad thing. You would in fact find my name on a list of his fans, if such a list were to exist. So for this album, I held that same mental standard going into it. That said, my mind was open. I imagined getting a project chock-full of modestly-poppy instrumentals with slightly politically-tipped verses. And to little surprise, that’s essentially what we are dealing with here.
The project opens with a voice that resembles something of a conspiracists propaganda video using our presidential candidates as a platform to discuss the current state of violence in our country, speaking through a poem. Honestly, from here, I was excited. It’s deep enough to elicit the feelings of anyone with the slightest care in the world for politics, a sense of togetherness or both. Unfortunately, this is where any sense of higher purpose, is traded for the usual suspects.
Sonically, the project is sound. The production is familiar enough thanks to the likes of Hit-boy, Zaytoven, DJ Mustard and company, that it becomes another stretch of pavement on the 2016 musical highway. The instrumentals are a collage of staple elements. High hats tap away, while electronic symphonies of sounds build up a majority of the energy you can expect from Ty. The song “$” immediately following the opening track, is a testament to this formula. A wavy synth is lifted by occasional background harmonizing vocals. The man in charge ends up using the moment to stand in front of a mirror and boost his confidence, continually singing “Dolla you know you the shit”. But, his ability to flow over the elements in the beat, make it one of the more enjoyable cuts on the tape.
Next stop, is title track “Campaign”. He uses the metaphor of doing numbers in the sense of album sales as compared to what are presumably the numbers in the polls. The production holds heavier trap elements and sees the assistance of Future, a proper suitor for the style. The album continues on the same pace while making a few slight turns along the way. One of those turns comes in the form of “3 Wayz” with Travis Scott. It honestly sounds like a lost track from Birds In The Trap Sing McKnight. The dreary, Halloween night-style instrumental is instantly recognized as having Scott’s hands all over it.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Ty Dolla $ign album without the hedonistic bedroom songs to which his voice is so perfectly fitted. Tracks like “Zaddy”,“Hello” and “R&B” effectively swing your thoughts from the party going on in the basement to a more intimate setting. The latter of the three is a meta-ode to the genre. Ty name-drops artists like the immortalized Ginuwine to more recent entries like The Weeknd as a part of his sex playlist.
But I think the most surprising and satisfying track on the rundown is the next one, “Stealing”. The acoustic underlay of a guitar sets the tone perfect. Ty croons to his momma, pleading for her not to judge his being a criminal. A criminal how you ask? For stealing all these women’s hearts. It works so damn well. Then the formulaic tendencies fall back in line for the remainder of the project and half-assed political rantings find themselves on the back-end of a few tracks along the way. Instead of sounding inspired they end-up severely jarring, like trying to talk to your girlfriend about plans for the night, but your friend keeps jumping in to ask you if you’re going to vote this year. Not to mention the song “No Justice” which is his best shot at taking a legitimate stand on an issue. Problem is, it is horribly wedged between two tracks about sex.
Ty does some things better than most, no doubt about it. When he’s in his pocket on this project, it’s exactly what you could expect from him. The tape is a victim of itself and its marketing. The very things he relies on and clearly has a firm grasp of, are exactly the things that hold this project back from being great. This project iterates the thing a plethora of artists are guilty of. It’s as though Ty figured out he’s good at hitting shots in the paint consistently… so he keeps his feet planted inside the metaphorical three-point line, all the time. It was marketed like a political-album and much like a political campaign, the expectations of change at the end, far exceed the reality of it all.