Ty Dolla $ign's Lead Album Single "Stand For" Is Everything You Could Have Hoped For
It's produced by DJ Dahi and Diplo, and it is perfect.
Over the last two years, I've watched Ty Dolla $ign go from being a brilliant genius on the outer edges of R&B to the brilliant genius driving the sound of mainstream R&B (maybe you've heard "Paranoid"? "Loyal"? the remix to practically any song you can think of?). But I've also had my moments over the last couple years of reservations that Ty might get pushed into the role of industry hook guy, songwriter, and producer, that his label or management or whoever might make sure that every song he releases for the foreseeable future is so weighed down by rap features that his appeal is suffocated (check the heavily laden track list for this summer's still-great Sign Language mixtape, for instance). Which would be a shame because Ty Dolla $ign is a star, and the world deserves to experience his unfiltered stardom.
Ty Dolla $ign appeals to us because we like to be titillated and think about sex and stuff, yes, but his real appeal lies in the way that he can turn even the sleaziest sex jam into a completely honest and human experience. When Ty Dolla $ign sings that he's got two bitches in the club, we don't get mad because he sings about it with a kind of bemused shrug—what is he supposed to do in this situation? Can you blame him? There's no situation in Ty Dolla $ign's world, we imagine, that can't be solved by an eventual make up orgy. And who's really going to take a guy to task over an orgy?
More to the point, though, Ty Dolla $ign may make music about sex, but he also makes music about life. He's the kind of artist for whom these things aren't mutually exclusive—the human experience is, in a sense, an orgy of moods and situations and triumphs and failures, and these things are often indistinguishable from each other. All of which brings us to "Stand For," the just-released lead single from Ty's upcoming debut album Free TC, produced by DJ Dahi and Diplo. First of all, it is brilliant. It is perfect. It is exactly what we should all want Ty Dolla $ign's lead single to be. It's sonically adventurous, working within the same digitized production mode that DJ Mustard and Ty himself have conquered radio with while beefing the sound up a bit and giving us more to work with than a few keyboard plinks. There are ghostly vocal samples and little rubs of synths that remind us that this guy is part of a movement in hip-hop that has found the most seamless way to pull together the worlds of electronic music and rap radio. There is Ty's own signature gauzy harmonizing. And lyrically, not only is it catchy as shit, but it finds Ty quickly shuffling through several sides of the human experience.
"Stand For" is about all the people and things Ty stands for, which involves people locked up, shitty weed dealers, guys who can't afford their car payments, and, of course, "bad bitches." But while a lot of artists might rattle that list off with a certain focus on one thing or another, or in a way that doesn't suggest any of those things go together, Ty does it in a way that celebrates all of it, that makes it all part of one seamless experience. Consider how quickly he transitions through sex, traveling, not testifying in court, and back to sex, all riffing on the same idea: "Bad bitches and a whole lot of stamps / In my passport / Nigga, I stand for her / Never see me on the stand though / Nigga I stand for it / Ask your bitch she know I'm the man though." Or consider the hook that the whole song rides on, that captures the entire appeal of Ty's music and the way it so effortlessly switches registers in four short bars: "Standing up while I'm fucking / My bitches / I'm a stand up nigga / If you a real nigga I'll stand up with you."
This is Ty at his most engaging, alone in the spotlight, over awesome production. He's pushing his sound, which ran the risk of stagnating amid Los Angeles's chart-conquering year. It's the platonic ideal of what we would want from a Ty Dolla $ign single: Smart, funny, emotional, radio-friendly, and sneakily weird. Let's hope it's a pop smash. Either way, though, I am a thousand times more excited for Free TC now. The single drops on iTunes on Monday. Stream it below:
Follow Kyle Kramer on Twitter.