In the summer of 2010, Ty Dolla $ign made his unofficial foray into the mainstream music scene with YG’s “Toot It and Boot It.” Ty’s standout vocals may have went uncredited on the Compton rapper’s commercial debut – which Ty also wrote and produced for Def Jam Records – but that didn’t stop his goal of becoming a star in his own right.
While adding more star power to his name took a bit of patience and perseverance (he released his first solo mixtape titled Beach House in 2012 and followed with the mixtape’s sequel, Beach House 2, the following year), it would take 2014’s Beach House EP, his major label debut project that debuted at No. 14 on the Billboard 200, and featured singles “Paranoid” and “Or Nah,” to add some girth to his presence. Since then, Dolla has built an impressive reputation, adding his debut album, Free TC, to his resume in 2015. Peeling back the layers of the tall, tattooed, and green-eyed man of musical lineage (his father was a part of a ’70s funk band called Lakeside), audiences found Ty to be a novelty in the industry. In comparison to the microwavable talent breaking through in recent years, he was a breath of fresh air: a singer, songwriter, and record producer with legitimate talent.
Over the past three years, you’d be hard-pressed to find a song that wasn’t peppered with Ty’s slick sound that fuses contemporary R&B and hip-hop. Whether it’s been vocals (Kanye West’s “Fade,” Fifth Harmony’s “Work From Home,”), production (YG’s “Still Brazy,” Lupe Fiasco’s “Next to It”) or songwriting (he co-wrote Chris Brown’s “Loyal” and Rihanna, Kanye West and Paul McCartney’s 2015 hit “FourFiveSeconds”), he’s ascended to the credited fame he knew he was destined for years ago.
Continuing his penchant for consistency, Ty has delivered his highly-anticipated sophomore studio album, Beach House 3, as an overdue follow-up to the Beach House franchise. But what’s next for someone that has continually shown improvement time and time again? If you ask Ty, he’ll profess, “You can expect better lyrics.” “The pen game is definitely going all the way up,” he recently told Glamour UK. And in an intimate interview with Rolling Stone, he reminisced about the days when R&B used to be on the Hot 100. “It just stopped. I felt like I had to dumb myself down a lot. I know a lot of people feel like that,” he explained. “There’s a lot of people out there that can really sing, but you don’t really hear them. That’s fucked up.” “With this project,” he continued, “I sung my ass off. But it’s still gonna be a mainstream vibe. That’s all I’m trying to do: Make a lane for the singers.”
Holding true to that same sentiment, the album’s opener, “Famous,” boasts of an alluring acoustic guitar and unexpected backing vocals from John Mayer, but it’s the soulful texture of Ty’s gruff voice that shines brightest as he croons about his perception of others striving for fame.
Throughout Ty’s trailblazing career, we’ve come to understand that he can churn out chart-topping hits for all audiences with ease. “Love U Better” is a stunning example. The DJ Mustard-produced track is centered around a guy explaining that he can love a girl better than her current boyfriend. While it’s not a story we haven’t heard before in music – it’s actually an interpolation of Mary J. Blige’s 1997 classic “I Can Love You” and a sample of Peabo Bryson’s “Feel The Fire” – Ty somehow maneuvers all the right pieces in place to make it an undeniable hit for the new generation. Infectious beat? Check. Charming lyrics that are easy to digest? Check. Edge things up a bit with Lil Wayne’s witty, sexually explicit bars and balance it out with The-Dream’s softening falsetto? Check. But even while focused on placing R&B back on the charts, Ty does an amazing job at not making the music feel or sound forced.
The YG-assisted “Ex” follows the same formula. While the track is anchored by a sample of 112 feat. The Notorious B.I.G. and Mase’s “Only You (Bad Boy Remix),” there’s a waft of West Coast funk that makes it Ty’s own. And as Ty and YG swap stories about exes, main chicks, and riding jet skis with naked women, it’s a romp some can relate to or have dreamt about at least, offering listeners a sense of reliability.
When he’s not drawing from influences of the past, Ty creates gems like “Dawsin’s Breek” that are so unique they’re in a class of their own. He also fine-tunes his Casanova heartthrob ways with songs like “In Your Phone,” “All The Time,” and “Side Effects” that push past the rap star persona the public has tried to box him in with. Referring to himself as a singer, Ty, who also made it clear he wants to make a lane for the singers, does his proclamation justice with “Message in a Bottle.” It’s a slow-burning joint; soft, relaxed, and void of raps. Even with all the trappings of a sweet ballad, in true Ty fashion, at it’s core, the song is littered with women, vices, and bad choices. “Coupe is outside, too drunk to drive. She said, “I got Uber, do you want a ride?” Typed in my address, it led to some sex, now I’m dressed,” he sings. But in the same breathe, he comes to his senses and realizes it’s his old flame he still in fact yearns for: “Poppin’ these Advils and textin’ my ex, thanks to the… Message in a bottle.”
At 20 tracks, Beach House 3 is lengthy, but offers up a mix of sounds to keep listeners too busy jamming to notice that it’s near an hour play time. In its entirety, the album feels more like a playlist in the vein of Drake’s More Life: a handful of really dope songs that don’t necessarily follow one singular story. However, in the same interview with Glamour, Ty did divulge, “Every song isn’t just going to be the same thing so you might hear some acoustic stuff, I got a reggae song, I got some trap, I got all types of shit.”
If Ty’s true motive for music-making these days is to not only put R&B back in the forefront but also see its resurgence on the charts, then a few of the offerings on Beach House 3 are a good start.
For more of our reviews, read our take on Gucci Mane’s new album ‘Mr. Davis’ here.
- Text: Ashley Monaé