During this pivotal election season, musicians and entertainers have gone above and beyond in making their voices heard not only through social media and spoken word, but also through their art. On his new tape, Taylor Gang affiliate Ty Dolla $ign (whose better known works usually include having “two of my bitches in the club”) is no exception, attempting to make a political statement on his latest full length release, “Campaign.”
On this latest project, Dolla $ign looks to make sure his political voice is heard while offering his listeners with 16 new tracks for his “soundtrack of the campaign,” as he deemed it in a recent interview with radio station Hot 97 New York. Sonically, the LA native has continued to develop his unique blend of soulful ‘90s and early ‘00s R-and-B samples over driven mid to uptempo trap drums while still leaving the listener with an undeniably fresh sound that is showcased on standout tracks “Zaddy,” “R&B” and “Hello.” However, Dolla $ign doesn’t stray too far from home base, as we still find him revisiting the sound that made him a staple in the music industry both as a songwriter for others and as a solo artist, as he continues to work with beats from the native west coast, G-Funk inspired “ratchet” sub-genre of hip-hop perfected by his long time affiliate DJ Mustard.
Mustard makes his presence known on the one track he produced on the project, “Pu$$y” and with a song using DJ Mustard-type elements on “Clean” with its wavy, almost unmistakeable synths, classic 808-styled drum kits and simple, fetching melody, similar to those that have driven dozens of hits produced by Mustard and his affiliates in the last three years. Lyrically, Dolla $ign doesn’t deviate very far from his usual “say what you see” type themes of discussing beautiful women, drugs and the high glamor of superstardom, as he has become known for through his previous releases such as the “Beach House” EP released in 2014 and much of “Free TC,” released in 2015.
After standout club and trap anthems dominate the first seven on the project such as “3 Wayz (feat. Travis Scott)”, “Campaign (feat. Future)” and “Juice,” Dolla $ign finds time to convey the political message behind his “Campaign” on songs such as on “No Justice” where he and his previously incarcerated brother TC discuss police injustice and racial discrimination. Dolla $ign’s political message surfaces once again on YG’s uncredited rant at the end of “Hello,” when his other day one affiliate exclaims, “Vote Hillary in before Donald Trump. I don’t fuck with you Trump nigga, you racist nigga, you don’t represent us right as Americans, we don’t fuck with you.”
Dolla $ign has proven himself as a serious artist and a talented producer since his rise to stardom in late 2013, and is trying to be more than just a club rapper whose politics in his music usually involve little more than women fighting over him, (as on his 2013 hit “Paranoid”) or how much money he’s making (basically every song he’s released in the past two years), which he is beginning to do with some prowess. However, the project being called “Campaign” should have weighed a lot heavier in the significance of the record’s focus, which it lacked, in that the subject matter of most of the songs was very surface level, very “say what you see” and not in any way political, but then abruptly the apparent flow of the project is disrupted with aggressively political and powerfully thoughtful moments such as on “No Justice.”
There is nothing explicitly wrong with having an album switch focus, for example YG’s “Still Brazy,” released earlier this year, beautifully balances club hits with strong political statements (“FDT,” ”Police Get Away With Murder”). However, with a title like “Campaign” listeners expect to find an overt political message, in which the focus of the title rears its head on more than two tracks (“$intro” and “No Justice”). “Campaign,” although somewhat a continuation of the sound that Dolla $ign has worked on throughout his career, is still a refreshing step out of the norm for the artist, a haphazardly encouraging sign for his upcoming projects.
However, there is definitely room for improvement, and Dolla $ign will hopefully continue to grow as an artist both lyrically and sonically if he hopes to take the next step in his career and go from being referred to as a party rapper to a bonafide chart-topping artist.