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Like a sonic Crash, Ty Dolla $ign's plots intertwine. His debut album, an anticipated account, boldly narrates the story of life in LA, the story of the R&B singer's own family dynamic, the story of his younger brother TC and the story surrounding America's penal system. TC is imprisoned on a life sentence for murder, a crime his LA hitmaker sibling insists he didn't commit. In order to raise awareness and funding for the convoluted case, Taylor Gang auteur, Ty$ directly dedicated his debut major label full-length to that synonymous story, even enlisting his brother behind bars to help tell it. "It's just me out here. At least, that's what it feels like. They said I wouldn't make it, that this was a city of broken dreams. But somehow lost angels broke cages," Free TC's intro starts. "They saw a Rodney, you saw a King. Realize how powerful you are and break free."

Recorded phone conversations between family acts as alluring interludes and telling transitions pinning together the 16 varied tracks that make up Ty Dolla $ign's most diverse and eminent offering to date. Through muffled phone recordings, they catch up after a three-day prison lockdown, where jokes about weed and cutting Ty's dreads suppress sensitive sentiments. "I miss you, man," they impart. It's stirring.

Although packed with accompaniments from Ty's prodigious rolodex of rap and R&B sovereigns like Kanye West, Future, Kendrick, Lamar, R Kelly and Jagged Edge, the R&B singer-songwriter uses them sparingly, confidentially anchoring the opus with his own grainy interlocking vocal runs and hypnotic melodies over the spectral, soulful and sparsely-produced deliveries from DJ Mustard, Metro Boomin and Hit-Boy. He begins with 'LA', a cinematic and introspective ode to the city like a West-Coast 'Empire State of Mind', that solicits K.Dot, Brandy and James Fauntleroy accompanied by delicate strings, choral arrangements, and a score-worthy piano composition.

Although focused and powered, the album also holds precedent to the hedonistic ratchet R&B/hip-hop music that brought Ty to the forefront of the subgenre. Here, his kink and perv flourish alongside lush synths and vicious basslines. Cuts like 'Saved', 'Blasé' and 'Sitting Pretty' are glossy and quixotic up-tempo contributions, custom-made for uninhibited club nights. Ty hits a cloyingly misogynistic peak, however, with 'Horses In The Stable,' an electric-twanged ode to the women he's been with in the past that mean nothing more to him than what the song title suggests. But the album's lows are balanced by a developed creative drive, as he pushes his craft through new sonic landscapes, while holding his own between soulful legends during the jazz-induced 'Straight Up' (feat Jagged Edge) and acoustic ballad 'Solid' (feat Babyface.)

Love for a woman may mean little to the R&B playboy, but love still fuels his major label debut, as Free TC's strength resonates most authentically when bringing the attention back to the opus' focal point - his younger brother and the subtle commentary on the American justice system. On 'Miracle/Wherever', TC sings passionately from his cell in a clip he and friend D-Loc recorded from prison. It's fittingly the most substantial vocal on the entire album. The original can be found on YouTube with over 17,000 views, as the duo slouch on their bed and sing/rap wholeheartedly to the camera, yet on the album, the same audio is engineered with soft minimal instrumentation, where Ty adds his own verse. The brothers, though separated physically, croon together harmoniously.

While TC's forthcoming freedom outside the prison walls aren't quite assured, Ty Dolla $ign's forthcoming dominance throughout the R&B/hip-hop landscape is essentially cemented, as the Taylor Gang artist has adequately evolved beyond the confining barriers of strictly ratchet R&B. Offering his debut album as a symbolic plea to circumstance, the singer-songwriter is simply looking for a better life for he and his brother, two boys from LA.

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