When a Ty Dolla $ign feature drops, you stop and listen. The Los Angeles R&B singer has garnered a reputation for creating the sexiest music hits, but what makes him a go-to feature artist on songs from Fifth Harmony and Post Malone to 2 Chainz and Roddy Rich is his consistency. He always brings a smooth hook to the table, which turns a pretty good song into a hit.
But his anticipated third studio album, Featuring Ty Dolla Sign sees the artist flip the script and take on the role of a curator.
Instead of being the star of the show, Ty invites the aforementioned artists and turns this record into a collaborative event. While ther are a few solo moments for Ty to shine — like Status and Everywhere — even those songs outsource adlibs and uncredited features which turn the record into a treasure trove of surprises.
On Dr Sebi (a reference to the late infamous Honduran herbalist and self-proclaimed healer) Atlanta star, Young Thug pops up for a surprise verse. "I don't wanna end up like Dr Sebi," Thugger warbles in the opening lines. "I beat the case 'cause I had on some black Giuseppes (Yeah)."
Ty handing over the keys to hip-hop and R&B's finest feels decidedly refreshing, though it's not by any means unique. Thanks to DJ Khaled, Calvin Harris and Mark Ronson, the guest feature album has always been a touchstone of modern pop, but it is the first time Ty has shown off his own curatorial skill.
And what makes this album unique from a Calvin Harris joint is that Ty is there to offer us the mellifluous, catchy hooks we love. On Real Life featuring Roddy Ricch and DJ Mustard he takes the driver's seat, singing the verses, bridge and hook with Roddy swooping in with uplifting bars like, "bitch, I came from the bottom, put the whole damn hood on."
The Kid Cudi-assisted Temptations opens with the rapper offering his signature crooning and once again sees Ty steer the song. Moments like this are aplenty, but where the album takes an unexpected turn is when Ty takes a step back.
What's instantly clear on this record is that Ty can bring out something special with the artists he's invited on the record. Whether he's pushing Cudi to deliver his most animated verse yet or convincing Nicki Minaj to drop some rare bars on Expensive, he manages to reimagine their talents through an R&B-meets-pop lens.
And then there are the interludes. From the dreamy serpentwithfeet interlude to the acoustic Burna Boy interlude, Ty manages to create magic even in those barely one-minute-long snippets.
As for the intimidating tracklist — which is 25-songs long — it manages to fly by. Featuring Ty Dolla $ign has no dead air, nor are there any skips. It's a flagrantly fun record that couldn't have come at a better time. And for Ty, it's proof that he's much more than a feature guest, he's a visionary.