Photo: Nabil Elderkin

For the most part, Tyrone William Griffin Jr. is known as one of the biggest feature artists in the hip-hop scene, lending his auto-tuned chops to some of the greatest songs from the past decade. The LA-born rapper is undoubtedly self-aware of his countless appearances on other rappers’ hits, ironically naming his newest venture Featuring Ty Dolla $ign.

At over an hour long with 25 tracks, you could be forgiven for thinking that Ty has made a throw-away cash grab features album, one that gets thrown on at a party and maybe occasionally turns heads with that one big single everyone knows. Luckily for us, this album, for the most part, is a well thought through, enjoyable effort with clear vision.

Featuring Ty Dolla $ign hits it out of the proverbial park in the first half of this album, with the opening 17 tracks slipping and sliding into one another like a face-tatted autotune-trap-crooning anaconda. Tracks like ‘Temptations ft Kid Cudi’, ‘Spicy ft Post Malone’ and ‘Track 6 ft Kanye West, Anderson. Paak and Thundercat’ (yes, all on the same song), pre-emptively lace the start of the album with gun powder for the explosive track ‘Expensive ft Nicki Minaj’ to finally ignite it.

The flames carry on burning until the mid-point of the album when tracks like ‘Lift Me Up Ft Future and Young Thug’ start to dampen what once were scorching hot bangers into dull embers. This album could without a doubt do with being about 10 tracks shorter, with the second half of the album feeling like someone with IBS that has eaten too much gluten; bloated and heavy.

By the time you reach the mid-point of the album, songs start to sound identical to each other, with no flare or key moments. Unfortunately, it seems as if Ty is frightened of making a song that isn’t radio-friendly enough, with songs that should be five or six minutes long being split into two or three individual tracks; Tyrone needs to take a leaf out of Kanye West’s notebook and embrace the long anthem.

It’s clear that with tracks like ‘Dr. Sebi’ and ‘Powder Blues’, which are essentially the same song but split, Ty is aiming to get as many songs on this album onto Spotify playlists as possible; whilst this isn’t a dreadful move, it takes away some of the credibility from the album. Why bother crafting interludes to link songs together and give the whole album vision, when you want the songs to be split up and put onto playlists, anyway?

However, as Featuring Ty Dolla $ign stumbles its way over its mid-point speed bump, Ty puts his foot on the gas and proves his incarcerated brother TC’s opening words right. The penultimate track, ‘Your Turn’, shows that Ty really can “sing, rap, write, produce, engineer, mix, and master.” This crispy, sleeker than Schwarzkopf-kissed-hair track jingles and jangles over its sexy five-minute runtime, with violins squeezing their way into stereo field and bringing the track to an almost orgasmic, crescendo, climax. 

This song, paired with the final and also five-minute track, Ego Death Ft Kanye West, proves that Ty is at his best when he takes chances and uses enough time on a song to experiment. Ego Death flipflops between beats, artists, and genres throughout its runtime like a musical game of squash, even managing to get one of Kanye’s best bars in recent memory, so props for that.  

To step out of your comfortable, well established musical lane and take the limelight can’t be an easy task. But on this album Ty Dolla $ign proves that he is more than capable of playing with the big boys, and might have been overlooked as one of the best in the game this whole time.

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