Ty Dolla $ign Shows Us the Money ... and the Drugs
With a twinge of irony in the air, Ty Dolla $ign, known for sun-drenched songs of sleaze and conquest, kicked off New York City's SummerStage series at Red Hook Park Tuesday night with a grey, ominous sky overhead. The 29-year-old California native, with his signature waist-long dreads and bloodshot eyes, sings of cabanas and has released a series of projects titled "Beach House," and here he was, headlining the first of 96 free outdoor shows, performing for an audience in the rain.
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The weather likely deterred some concert-goers, leaving a sparse, umbrella-clad crowd, eager to see one of R&B's brightest new songwriters. Ty Dolla doesn't carry the boyish charm common to a lot of R&B acts, nor does he flaunt a sculpted body or high-wire dance moves. Yet he's starting to rack up national magazine covers and higher profile features. His strength is his ear for melodies and simple syrup choruses that document the many herbs and women he's come to twist. His largest success to date isn't even his own. He penned the smash hit "Loyal" for Chris Brown, the song currently sitting at No. 20 on Billboard's Hot 100. Any listener familiar with Ty's cadences and enunciation can hear him in Brown's voice, a near ventriloquist act that's soared with a more familiar front.
There was no mention of Brown, who was recently released from prison, or "Loyal" in Ty's 30-minute set, though. Instead, the singer -- dressed in a black hoodie, black jeans and black sunglasses -- ran through his most familiar tunes, a large portion of which came from January's Beach House EP. He opened with "My Cabana," his voice low to start, before taking it back to the song that first gained him recognition, YG's 2010 "Toot It and Boot It." With close ties to YG and in-demand producer DJ Mustard, Ty Dolla $ign lives within the current West Coast harmony that emphasizes minimal sound with maximum impact. During his set, Ty's DJ repeatedly released a "Young California" drop, and when an audience member returned the call, Ty turned in curiosity, asking, "What you know about 'Young California'?"
Nearly 10 minutes in to his performance, the rain cleared (Thanks to the "f---- the rain" shouts, perhaps), and the singer seemed to loosen up, literally letting his hair down, removing his glasses and raising the energy. "Who's tryna smoke weed with Ty Dolla $ign? Who's repping Taylor Gang?" he asked, puffing away, referring to the Wiz Khalifa set and imprint that Ty signed to last July, a day after releasing his Beach House 2 mixtape. The two have displayed a keen chemistry and distinct potency on tracks "Irie" and "Or Nah." As Wiz sets to roll out his third studio album, Blacc Hollywood, this summer, behind the strength of the anthemic single "We Dem Boyz," one can't help but picture Ty Dolla in the wings, behind the boards, and in the booth; a talented musician through and through, deeply in touch with the feel-good ethos that Wiz holds so central.
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Ty performed condensed versions of both "Irie" and "Or Nah" on Tuesday night, the latter a perfect representation of his sexed-up act. He rolled his body as he sung, stretched an arm out downward, extending his hand up, rotating it in tight circles. "After this, I got the studio, then my hotel room," he remarked casually, a frantic woman on the crowd's right screaming back, "I'm coming with you." The same woman began sucking on her index and middle fingers, a longing look in her eyes, as Ty invited females to join him on stage for "Paranoid," a DJ Mustard-produced club hit that has done wonders for Ty's recognition as a legitimate star and closed his SummerStage set. She never made it onstage, though Ty offered himself to the crowd once more as the swaying synths and snares of "Paranoid" came to a close. "I'm definitely tryna hang out and take pictures, I ain't one of those weird-ass rappers," Ty said, before "We Dem Boyz" came bellowing through the stage speakers.
He posed to the right of the stage for five minutes, eyes stoned-cold and expressionless, before retreating to the tented backstage area, a presumable buffet of intoxicants awaiting him. SummerStage will continue through Aug. 24, with performances in fourteen parks across the city's five boroughs. The series is put on by the City Parks Foundation and is allegedly appropriate for all ages.