On his own projects, including and especially 2017’s Beach House 3, Ty has largely not received the commercial success he’s due—even as he swims in critical acclaim. The buoyant Beach House 3 found Ty bouncing over a number of self-produced beats, with guest verses from The-Dream, Lil Wayne, Tory Lanez, YG, Damian Marley, and Ty’s girlfriend, Lauren Jauregui of Fifth Harmony. The first of the Beach House series to be released as an album and not a mixtape, the record flowed seamlessly. Each track swelled further toward the mirage of summer. Thematically, it treaded the pitfalls of fame, the excitement of new love, and of course, the specifics of sex. It was both sultry and fun, a musical victory lap. But “Love U Better,” the Dream-assisted number, peaked at No. 20 on the Billboard 200. Beach House 3 peaked at No. 11.
Ty’s nearly flawless 2016 mixtape, Campaign, featured the likes of Future, Meek Mill, Trey Songz, and Travis Scott. The record is familiar and cohesive, with Ty exploring his transgressions, as well as the more well-trodden territory of sex and money. The featured artists elevate Ty’s vision, but it’s the solo track “Zaddy” that best makes the case for why Ty is a star. Repetitive but not redundant, the mixtape’s third single casts Ty as a generous lover in both the bedroom and the glitzy boutiques of Rodeo Drive. The singer’s prior album, 2015’s Free TC, was a considered dedication to his incarcerated brother. Brooding and introspective, Free TC introduced listeners to a multi-faceted artist, one who cared about criminal justice reform and his hometown as much as he cared about multiple women (and keeping them away from each other). It peaked at No. 13, with singles “Blase” and “Saved” peaking at No. 20 and No. 16 respectively on Billboard’s R&B and rap charts.
The records have their cult fanbases, to be sure, but Ty has yet to shake the dizzying paradox of being pigeonholed as a “featured artist.” Like the Chicago singer Jeremih, whose struggles with his label have often affected his output, Ty outshines other artists on their own records but can’t quite tap into that appeal on his own. Perhaps with this dynamic in mind, the two singers are set to release a joint record, aptly titled MihTy, sometime later this year. They’ve collaborated with each other before. Ty contributed an impossibly catchy verse to “Impatient,” one of the standout tracks on Jeremih’s much-anticipated 2015 mixtape Late Nights. Jeremih sang the chorus for Beach House 3 single “Dawsin’s Breek.” The men have sung with and around each other on other artists’ records, too. Their voices both contrast and complement one another’s, with Ty’s typically plumbing the lower registers while Jeremih floats on top.
“The Light,” the single the pair released on June 6, is yet another entry into their lusty, harmonic oeuvre. “Let’s have sex, but not without the foreplay,” Ty opens with a raspy groan. Jeremih adds ad libs and later a verse, his voice hovering above Dolla’s: “Back in the days when I was young, I'm not a kid anymore / But these days I'm thinkin' baby we should fuck again.” The lines are an allusion to West Coast rapper Ahmad’s oft-interpolated 1994 hit “Back in the Day,” which itself sampled soul legend Teddy Pendergrass’s “Love TKO.” “The Light,” then, is multiply referential. Both Jeremih and Ty Dolla $ign shine on other people’s records, but their own musical knowledge helps set the artists apart.
The energy Ty brings to his Jeremih collabs is the same he carries into his own work: studied, versatile, contagious. His voice carries, his production slaps. Ty Dolla $ign takes his work seriously—it’s about time listeners did the same.