On the track, an orchestral sample dances under the near-onomatopoeic effect of Ty’s “up and down, up and down, up and down-down-down” chant. The song’s title? “Stripper Pole”.
There is a song on Ty Dolla $ign’s first mixtape, Hou$e on the Hill, that wouldn’t be out of place in a Los Angeles Philharmonic pops concert. On the track, an orchestral sample dances under the near-onomatopoeic effect of Ty’s “up and down, up and down, up and down-down-down” chant. The song’s title? “Stripper Pole”.
Ty has honed this musically refined yet lyrically raunchy aesthetic for years, from his Raw & Bangin’ tapes to his breakout single “My Cabana”, to the louche Beach House series to last month’s made-in-a-day Airplane Mode. It’s a balancing act very few have mastered—and Ty bows to or has recruited anyone who has here—but he does it on a hoverboard while texting two or 10 girls.
To be sure, it helps that his musical gifts are many: he writes hooks that lodge in your head for weeks and he arranges four-part harmonies like an R&B George Martin. His molasses-dipped voice never misses a note even when it darts up into falsetto. He’s stoked about sweeping orchestrations, ’80s smooth jazz sax solos, and acoustic songs with Babyface. His confidence is why he flies when he swings for the fences on his new album, Free TC. On its dazzling highlight, “Miracle/Wherever”, TC, the album’s incarcerated namesake and Ty’s younger brother, sings a vibrato-heavy hymn of perseverance over a prison phone. Midway through, Ty joins in. After putting God first and damning the haters with the conviction of a newly born-again Christian, he begins to pray. Musically, the shift is exquisite. But what’s truly special is Ty’s porcelain, Prince-like falsetto. Over dirty 808s and a stirring chord progression, his pristine voice pops out of the ether singing about—what else?—lying with a woman in the, uh, biblical sense. Ty said he spent $60,000 of his own money on the Benjamin Wright Orchestra. If all that bought was the final 20 seconds of “Wherever”, he should consider it money well spent.
Predecessors who’ve climbed that Lucite-heel littered stairway to heaven before Ty are thanked outright. On “Blasé”, the best song currently in radio rotation, Ty sings, “I think I’m Nate Dogg.” Obviously. Love notes like “When I See Ya” sound ripped right from Nate’s notebook. Another standout, “Credit”, features Sevyn Streeter and recalls “Be Careful”, R. Kelly’s collaboration with Sparkle. Kellz actually makes an appearance on the sleek and glittery “Actress”, which sounds far more like Hollywood than the Valley. “Straight Up”, the album’s sexiest song, samples Patrice Rushen’s quiet storm classic, “Settle for My Love” and finds Jagged Edge downgrading their classic proposal from the altar to the bar.
Ty’s up to his old “how many hoes?” tricks on Free TC, too, even if a woman is responsible for writing “Horses in the Stable”. You can credit both his fireside manner and his forthright delivery—there is no fine print in a Ty Dolla $ign song—for the fact that plenty of women will still slip into his silk sheet-covered waterbed despite his warnings.