I Am My Brother's Keeper
Ty Dolla $ign's debut album "Free TC" draws on his deep musical roots while cementing a future that puts family first, and women a close second.
Words By Daniel Schwartz
Photography By Elijah Dominique
A chill bro sesh is in full effect in Ty Dolla $ign’s New York City hotel room, and Ty is the only person whose eyes aren’t glued to some sort of screen. While members of his entourage and management team idly scroll through their phones or watch the football game on TV, Ty stands tall atop his IO HAWK hoverboard and rolls around aimlessly in the space between his bed and dresser, a joint in one hand, a bottle of Jameson in the other. He wears a stylish navy raincoat. In the past year he has slimmed down from 230 pounds to a svelte 180, inspired by the crowd’s reaction when Trey Songz took off his shirt at the Fillmore in DC last October. His eyes are droopy-lidded, a translucent olive-green. A small cross dangles from his left ear, and his rope-like Medusa braids, a source of much his allure, fall easily down his back and sway to and fro as he traces an infinity symbol in the carpet with his hoverboard.
Ty is displeased with the size of his “itty bitty suite.” It has a balcony (a “calcony,” he calls it) and an unobstructed view of the Hudson River, but it is true, other than that it is just a regular hotel room. “How am I gonna bring 15 bitches back here?” he wonders aloud. It’s a joke. Or is it? He pondered a similar question on his Skrillex-sampling 2012 single “My Cabana.” How many girls can I fit in my cabana? How many, hoooooo-oooes? He has built his career largely on these sorts of blunt portrayals of his sexual conquests, Dionysian lifestyle, and distrust of hoes, packaged without fail in dulcet melody.
It is a Sunday night three weeks before the release of Ty’s debut album Free TC. A cable network has flown him out to New York from LA to guest star in a new pilot, and the film crew is currently one floor up setting up a party scene on the roof.
Ty swirls a jar of cashews, powers up the portable speakers sitting on his dresser, and puts on Bad Brains, an old punk rock band that he likes to play in his dressing room before his shows. Suddenly, a frenzied typhoon of thrashing drums and psychedelic guitar blasts forth from the little, powerful speaker, and for a moment it feels like we have teleported to Wayne Campbell’s basement.
The purposefully lo-fi sound of Bad Brains has awakened Ty’s inner beast. I got my super potion. Cashews and cookies become missiles directed at the heads of unsuspecting football-watchers, and aftershave samples become rocks side-armed out the ‘calcony’ door, over the cliff and into the abyss. He rolls in circles, leans back, pumps his arms in an enthusiastic air bass, and sings along to the music in a facetious, birdlike squawk. “DON’T BOTHER ME!!”
At this moment, Bad Brains, Jameson, and Ty Dolla $ign are one. Ty is nearly ready -- for the party scene on the roof, and for the long night of debauchery that lies ahead.