Ty and Jeremih use their experience and versatility as songwriters to craft a rare joint album that is more than the sum of its parts.
Ty Dolla $ign and Jeremih are the kind of people you want around in the studio. By now, many of the most successful artists in music are aware of this, which is why you’ll find at least one if not both of their birth names (Tyrone Griffin Jr. and Jeremy Felton) in the fine print of major releases like Kanye West’s Ye, Beyonce and Jay-Z’s Everything Is Love, and Drake’s Scorpion. Particularly in Kanye’s case, the two have become the songwriting equivalent of Harvey Keitel’s “The Wolf” in Pulp Fiction -- the people you call to provide surgical efficiency when you’re in over your head. This reputation, not only as masterful hitmakers, but also as hyper-productive studio rats, makes MihTy, the new double-bill project from Ty and Jeremih, a logical development for both artists. As many joint albums are these days, the project was first envisioned following a particularly fruitful recording session. Beginning with Drake and Future’s What A Time To Be Alive in 2015, it’s become a trend to release these kinds of sessions as time capsules, shared with the asterisk that they were completed in a week’s time. Though there are few more capable at putting together a cohesive project in a matter of days than Ty and Jeremih, they’ve resisted the urge to capture lightning in a bottle, instead taking their time to forge a perfect storm.
Beginning with the familiar opening bassline on the “The Light,” which riffs on Kenni Burke’s “Risin’ To The Top,” a song with a pulse that’s been beating through R&B since the 80s (Mary Jane Girls, Mary J. Blige, LL Cool J), the sample sheet alone is indicative of the care put into crafting MihTy. The wait for clearance caused some delays in the release and inspired more than a few “Where’s the album?” demands from fans, but after seeing Teyana Taylor’s K.T.S.E. deconstructed in order to be rushed to streaming earlier this year, it’s comforting to know that MihTy has made its way out as it was intended. As referential as the project is, it uses its classic R&B interpolations as a mood board rather than a crutch. “FYT” is Bad Boy revisionism applied to an actual Bad Boy track as Jeremih and Ty gloss up Biggie and R. Kelly’s “Fuckin’ You Tonight,” but that’s as close as the project gets to a nostalgia trip. It’s clear that Hitmaka, the producer formerly known as Yung Berg who executive-produced the project and hosted the two artists in his studio, is as big of an R&B nerd as his collaborators, and the project is at its best when he’s leaving cues to his influences like Easter eggs. On “These Days,” Mint Condition’s “So Fine” is filtered down into a textural presence that swells in and out of focus, while “New Level” lets a Dru Hill sample breathe before dropping it down an octave and looping it behind a knocking bassline. Hearing the transformation in real time shows just how Jeremih, Ty, and Hitmaka are using R&B’s most traditional tools but are dead set on doing something new with them.
Perhaps the biggest strength of Ty and Jeremih’s songwriting partnership is that the song always comes first. As two artists who have each put work in penning for others, they’ve developed the ability to take themselves out of the equation. On the first half of the project, which contains most of the bouncey, Hennessy-swishing tracks, their roles are clearly defined, with Jeremih occupying the wispy, high register while Ty fills out the punchy low end. No one steps on each other’s toes because each artist knows when it’s their time to hang back and let the other take the lead. In the second half, things slow down and every other track sounds like if you laid 808s under a dancing ballerina music box (largely courtesy of Starrah collaborator Retro Future), at which point the writing starts to submerge. “Lie 2 Me” finds Ty in a vulnerable place: “Tryna make you smile, see that blush in you, Let's, work on this trust, girl, I got trust issues,” he sings in a line that feels too personal to be written by anyone but himself, until Jeremih repeats it a minute later just as convincingly. A similarly unguarded moment comes on “These Days,” where Jeremih takes center stage, sounding weathered by his fame as he does his best to adapt to his surroundings without changing who he is. “Things a little different these days/Feel a little different these days/Same old n****/I just move a little different these days,” he decries in what might be the album’s emotional peak. It’s rare to get these kind of vulnerable moments on collaborative albums, which have generally felt more like events than lasting works. Ty and Jeremih’s extensive collaborative experience and willingness to come together as a proper songwriting team is really what takes it home.
When it was first announced, MihTy was said to be 21 tracks in length. It now stands at an economical 11. With the exception of “Surrounded,” a radio-ready Chris Brown and Wiz Khalifa collaboration that feels out of step with the rest of the album, it feels like Ty, Jeremih, and Hitmaka narrowed down the songs that really fit its primary songwriters. In the end, it’s likely the best case scenario, as we know from experience that the songs left on the cutting room floor are far from dead -- you’ll probably hear one on the next Kanye or Rihanna album. Whether or not we ever see another joint project from Ty and Jeremih, the Griffin Jr./Felton songwriting team is stronger than ever. Just keep checking the liner notes.