2016: The Year of the Dolla $ign

Ty Dolla $ignEXPAND
Ty Dolla $ign
Jory Lee Cordy

Young California, the statewide DJ collective, celebrated their 5th anniversary late into a November evening at Santa Ana’s Observatory planning on capping the show with a Tyga performance to send the alacritous crowd home on a high note. Forty miles away, the American Music Awards wrapped as the year’s most popular artists exited the Microsoft Theatre, some with new hardware in hand. Celebrating a win that night was Ty Dolla $ign, recognized for his contribution to the smash “Work from Home,” a platinum certified hit in at least 13 countries.

Instead of resting on his laurels and perhaps spending a night with the beauties of Fifth Harmony, including the one he was rumored to be dating, 31-year-old Dolla $ign, born Tyrone Griffin Jr., headed south to replace Tyga as the headliner of the Young California show. Perhaps a favor to his tour DJ, Dre Sinatra, a member of the Young California cohort, certainly not unfounded given Dolla $ign’s 2016 activity log, surely among the longest in music. Ty closed the show with a bang and a smile, leaving the hip-hop crowd dazzled in a way that many other acts in 2016 could not. He is, by the way, the man of year.

Grounded in his multifacetedness as an artist and entertainer, the hip-hop crowd in Orange County was just one of many blessed by the rapper on a “campaign” in 2016. Where it may have been obscured before, it’s clear now that he was campaigning to be the foremost figure in entertainment this year. At least this year; his stretch into the next year began during a performance at the 2017 AVN nominations where Dolla $ign’s lothario-nature was embraced.

Ty Dolla $ign as a lover was yet another of his highlights during this trip around the Sun as his exploits were scrutinized more than any year before dating back to his days as the mastermind behind “Toot It and Boot It”. As mentioned above, Dolla $ign led subject heads around the world as fans ran abuzz with his love interests. BET reported on the charmer getting caught lock-lipped with Keke Palmer while a German publication thought Ty might be schwacking ? of 5H. Zaddy made headlines again when outlets scrambled to put a face to the guy kissing on the briefly single Kylie Jenner in May.

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Assuming the role of “Zaddy” himself was just another of the Taylor Gang pillar’s claims to ownership of the year, capitalizing on the suave afforded by his eyes that gleam green like emeralds and a voice that cascades sensual notes. An impish casanova, Ty closed in on R. Kelly as a naughty heartthrob with the song and the others flanking Campaign, just another of the arenas where he outdid his peers.

In concert with the peers he features across his Instagram, seemingly appreciative of every moment he can interact with another creator, Ty Dolla $ign was yet again the go-to guy. While his own project slipped under the year’s most acclaimed projects, he found himself contributing several times to albums atop the most revered end-of-the-year lists. Lending his signature creaking to two contributions on The Life of Pablo, he bolstered the album offering sonic consistency when it sorely lacked. “Fade” summoned Ty for a few bars in his unmistakable tenor and tagged him out as soon as he appeared. He echoed Kanye’s sentiments of being buried so far under work, relationships preceding fame are estranged on “Real Friends”; not many but Dolla $ign, father to an 11-year-old might comprehend the strain as much as he considering his world-rounding sprint dating back to last year. Steven Horowitz captured the utility man shuddering at his forthcoming run at the end of 2015 in a feature with Spin.com, as he realized he’d be away from his family for an extended period.

Dolla $ign capped Chance the Rapper’s opus, Coloring Book, on “Blessings” refreshing among the most cherished hymns in the Black music canon, polishing off arguably the most important project of the year. He influenced Mac Miller’s deviance on “Cinderella” in the midst of it all, as if he’d found extra time and voltage unbeknownst to the rest of us. Or at least just the voltage, considering he often freestyles his verse on a once-through on his tour bus as done on the title-track “Campaign”, and once more on “Zaddy”, wasting little time at all.

Dolla $ign’s access to Future, came via his accompaniment of arguably 2015’s Man of the Year on the Purple Reign Tour which started the artist’s year off in the midst of one of music’s most impressive streaks in recent history. Perhaps the torch was passed as they passed doobies. Upon the tour’s end in March, Ty was left with a gaggle of remaining appearances, including more last-minute fill-ins a la him joining his labelmate Wiz and Uncle Snoop on the High Road Tour for a few stops.

Volleying in between continents for sets at festivals throughout the summer, Griffin saw crowds in Japan and Switzerland, recording videos for album cuts in the respective countries finding a smile all the while. The optimization of his environment is resourceful in a way that an economist might smile upon. England, Germany and several European countries hosted the “Wavy” crooner, where he found gigs at other festivals and venues as far out as Denmark. At summer’s end, Dolla $ign was back on his turf for sets at Southern California’s Hard Summer, Ohio’s Breakaway Festival, and Atlanta’s Cross Festival where he shared a bill with Harry Belafonte and the Dave Matthews Band in an effort to raise money toward Belafonte’s social justice organization, a field where Dolla $ign has sharpened his chops recently.

Balancing the Atlas-stone weight of his endeavors is worthy of the praise alone, yet he heaves them to-and-fro, loading more on the way. Griffin pervaded all aspects of society, extending beyond the musical sphere he’s worked to domineer up to this point.

The 2015 release of his official debut set up Ty in several ways. Titled Free TC, an ode to his incarcerated baby brother, the craftsman’s project delivered club hits, lusty ballads, and most importantly a message that could be seen as his stump speech: Ty Dolla $ign campaigned early for more than his brother, Big TC’s release; he took to restructuring the inhumane criminal justice system afflicting millions of families across the nation. His slew of tour dates gave him plenty of chances to raise awareness on the epidemic. Vice partnered with the L.A. native to release the documentary also titled Free TC in April. He reiterated his sentiments on “No Justice,” one of the 16 songs from Campaign, his latest EP. The song, like “Miracle/Whenever” from the Free TC album features Big TC languishing over the perils of their situation, attempting to emit positivity in the face of a bleak situation.

Prior to Hillary Clinton’s defeat in the general election, Griffin was campaigning yet again, this time for prison reform and a DNC victory. In a move showing his maturation, the “Paranoid” singer endorsed Hillary despite being less than enthused with her political track record. He went on to headline the “Rock the Vote” concert at the Democratic National Convention in July, after being tagged as a Hip-Hop Caucus representative. It was in association with #Cut50, an organization upheld to reduce incarceration rates nationwide. In September, Dolla $ign led the charge in resurrecting MTV’s TRL -this time as Total Registration Live, another attempt at raising voter turnout among the youth, whom he’d already captivated in several ways prior.

That Dolla $ign would be chosen to target several different audiences suggests that he was either really lucky or better yet he appeals to such a broad base of music fans that it would be folly to pass up on the opportunity for him to represent your promotion or campaign. When he did the halftime show at the Clippers game, his appeal to the NBA demographic was broadcasted to millions and likely other execs who now see Dolla $ign as a viable option to bulk their bottom line. For other artists like Drake, an ambassador to his team, a halftime show never materialized.

Marijuana brand and distributor Louie the XIII tapped the joint-smoker to represent their line sometime last year, a partnership that’s still in effect today. Ty has also been among the most outspoken in support of weed legalization this year, starring in a PSA in support of Proposition that went on to pass and make the greenery a go in California. Perhaps for his own selfish reasons, he didn’t shy from the chance to activate himself into the political process. Another weed brand, Hemper, also came calling for Ty’s services this year, allowing him to help them create the perfect pot-smokers accessory pack.

Unsurprisingly, HUF, whose biggest splash come from their sale of socks emblazoned with marijuana leaves, tapped the “Blasé” singer for an exclusive line of clothing using Ty’s likeness in some of the products. The partnerships have mounted as Griffin has billowed upward to a summit.

And he’s done it all with a bottle of Bombay in hand. The gin manufacturer is yet to offer their biggest spokesperson by a country mile a partnership, which may be to the company’s detriment unless of course Ty Dolla $ign’s brand has grown so virtuosic that the vintner profits from his promotion without putting him on the payroll. Still, a place must exist where a symbiotic benefits both parties, and other gatherings powered by the drink.

His Dolla Day concert September 25 (two days before reviving TRL) would have been opportune for the partnership to flourish. The Dolla and a Dream-type function was just another exhibition marking Dolla’s victorious year akin to a State of the Union address. Parallel to the entire year, the weekend leading up to the concert entailed all things Dolla $ign. This included the brands, the bud, and the politics joint with the Man of the Year. The Hip-Hop Caucus linked with Dolla $ign to put on a voter registration drive at the show which hinted at the makings of an OVO Fest-esque event. Performances in his hometown from juggernauts like Kendrick Lamar, A$AP Rocky, and his one-time mentee, DJ Mustard consecrated the feeling.

Here is Ty Dolla $ign fully-actualized at an event geared toward everything he’s worked so long to achieve. A chunk of his undetermined, still illustrious legacy looms in 2016; The Year of the $. Maximizing his role on a tour, Dolla $ign went on to make one of biggest club hits of the year. As hitmaker, his resume put him in touch with one of the biggest Pop acts. As a black man experiencing the effects of the systematic oppression, he put his muscle behind alleviating the struggles his community faces everyday. Tyrone Griffin Jr. put his interests first in 2016 and ameliorated society two-fold; as mood-enhancing musician and an advocate for humanity.

Raise your glass of Bombay for a toast to the emcee, activist, heartthrob and Man of 2016, Ty Dolla $ign.


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