Ty Dolla $ign’s debut album, Free TC, comes a year after the first single, ‘Stand For’, was released. Although the single did not make the album, it represents the purpose of the album better than anything on it. Free TC was positioned as an album Ty Dolla had been waiting to make his entire career, further evident in his 2011 cut, ‘Free TC,’ from his first mixtape. The money Ty Dolla earned from the album was promised to be going to getting his brother TC a lawyer (I thought rappers didn’t make money off of albums? Especially selling 16k) to help fight a case that led to him a life sentence, but presumably did not do, according to Ty Dolla. Unfortunately, the album does not convey this at all; it came closest on ‘Stand For,’ but this early single is left off of the album.
Beyond this, Free TC is likely Ty’s best work yet. With the typical beautiful opener into club/radio song, the album provides the serene ‘LA (feat. Kendrick Lamar, Brandy & James Fauntleroy)’ into ‘Saved (feat. E-40),’ a surprisingly fresh DJ Mustard beat that has potential to become Ty’s next big hit.
The rest of the album is largely new for Ty. While Ty is known for his overly club friendly singles like ‘Paranoid’ and ‘Or Nah,’ he has also proven to be an artist who focuses on making all types of quality music. Free TC effectively displays this as Ty mixes songs with stripped down instrumentals like ‘Straight Up’ and ‘Solid’ with songs that sound straight out of a kid’s Christmas movie such as ‘Guard Down’ and club bangers of all varieties. This blend of sounds makes Free TC much more than a rap or R&B project, but rather a combination of many different genres. Ty is even open to EDM-like production on Free TC. On ‘Bring It Out of Me,’ Ty makes himself at home over an EDM-influenced Stargate beat, sounding more natural than the Stargate-produced single ‘Drop That Kitty (feat. Charli XCX & Tinashe),’ which proved to be a commercial flop.
Ty Dolla $ign particularly excels on ‘Horses In the Stable,’ where he sets his voice free over catchy yet majestic guitar instrumental. Ty mixes up the stereotypical song about all his hoes by losing the synths and throwing in a few clever metaphors brought together by guitar. Another favorite, ‘Miracle’ features vocals from his incarcerated brother, Big TC, that prove to rival both Ty’s voice and flow despite being recorded in low quality.
While Free TC is one of Ty’s most consistent projects, a handful of tracks are forgettable, such as ‘Credit (feat. Sevyn Streeter)’ and ‘Actress (feat. R. Kelly).’ Both these tracks slow it down too much without an interesting melody to justify it. Also ‘Only Right’s (feat. YG, Joe Moses & TeeCee4800)’ feels a bit generic compared to the rest of the album; at least other more typical trap bangers like ‘Blasé (feat. Future & Rae Sremmurd)’ have catchier hooks and beats. While the final track, ‘Finale (feat. SA-RA & PJ)’ has a calming, whoozing beat that is reminiscent of lullaby, it is a bit of a bland finish to an otherwise dynamic album. Ty has gone out memorably on past albums, but ‘Finale’ finishes the album in a dreamy trance that leaves much to be desired.
Ty Dolla $ign truly does it all on Free TC. He mixes soulful guitar compositions with club-tailored bangers like ‘Blasé’ and ‘Sitting Pretty (feat. Wiz Khalifa),’ while keeping hold of tracks despite having features on almost every song. Although Free TC certainly has flaws, like really not addressing who TC is or why he is locked up and having a few tracks that derail the album, overall, it shows Ty puts his music first over trying to be a commercial artist. Although Ty is music focused, he certainly does not neglect his commercial appeal with a good portion of the album feeling like it could do well on radio, while a sizeable portion feels the opposite way. Free TC has replay value and is one of my favorite albums this year. Despite a few skippable tracks, it is a continuation in the right direction for Ty Dolla $ign.