"It's the soundtrack for the Summer of 2016. "It's a movie. Every single song... I gave it my all." Those were Ty Dolla $ign's words when first describing this mixtape, 'Campaign'.
Coming off having one of the top R&B albums of 2015 in 'Free TC', Ty Dolla's first studio album that served as a movement to create awareness for social injustices, specifically the unjust sentencing of his own brother, Big TC, who is still incarcerated to this day.
Though this project technically dropped a couple days after Summer had ended, 'Campaign' still accurately encapsulates the emotions and mentality that were present throughout much of Summer 2016 in America. The theme of 'Campaign', title and artwork alone should be enough to relate this music to the historical presidential election that seemed to divide his country's citizens more and more each day.
Now don't be mistaken. Even though we didn't get 'Campaign' until late September, Ty$ did float his way through the year with singles from this project including big songs like 'Campaign', 'Zaddy', and maybe the most relevant song on the project, 'No Justice'. Not to mention Ty Dolla $ign's collaboration with Fifth Harmony in the song 'Work', which actually went triple platinum in America as well as in Sweden.
The influences of the events that transpired over Summer 2016 are clear from the intro. With a a fuzzy and deep voice speaking poetically over a dark and rainy backdrop, saying lines like "Damn bullets don't got no name, we all getting slain." and "We all got pain. But if we ain't voting, we all got blame." it's clear that recent events play closely to Ty, especially since the intro then continues to then talk about Big TC, and how the movement from 'Free TC' is being continued through the campaign.
We mentioned 'No Justice' being one of the more relevant songs on this mixtape. The reason for this is not only because his brother Big TC is featured on the track beautifully, but also because this is one of the few songs on 'Campaign' that actually explores the ideas of social injustices. There's a soft filter on Big TC's voice that does an amazing job at portraying the fact that Big TC still is not free. Ty Dolla takes a broad approach in the hook saying "There can never be no justice when killing us is legal" before going a much more personal route on his last verse, painting the picture of a scary moment in his life where the police unlawfully invaded his home and family.
Besides 'No Justice', there isn't really a whole lot playing off of political and social issues. On 'Hello', YG appears on the outro with some strong words for the presidential candidates, particularly Donald Trump. Though this outro fits in with YG's 'FDT' movement, he doesn't really say anything that should rightfully influence someone. If anything, he comes off as a little ignorant himself. This outro being the last piece of political content in this mixtape unfortunately felt forced into a song that actually felt really nice and peaceful with it's elegant sample work and signature intimate chorus.
You may think that the title track 'Campaign' has some sort of conceptual tie in with the presidential election, and that would be wrong. Instead this is a banger that more so focuses on the typical themes of money, drugs, and mainly sex. Future does his thing on the hook but doesn't surprise me whatsoever with his verse. Ty Dolla $ign really goes in though and this is showed off even more on the upbeat, piano centered Charlie Heat remix of the song that was put at the end of the project.
Future briefly appears again on 'My Song', but more importantly the song features 24hrs, someone who fit in better than any other guest on the project, and that's saying a lot considering there were some very notable features. On '??? (Where)', Quavo and Takeoff of Migos come onto the track hard but not after Ty brings some bars himself, proving his own statement that he "isn't a rapper, but a singer with bars."
One song that we think failed to have the impact it could have, was the Travis Scott collaboration on '3 Wayz'. This song has a similar feel to a lot of Travis Scott's music, and half leaves you expecting him to yell "It's lit!"between each line. The big problem is that the song feels like it's for Travis Scott... Not for Ty Dolla $ign. This is backed up by the fact that this song was leaked as a Travis solo but re released with Ty's performance laced in appropriately.
Continuing with some notable features, Trey Songz and Wiz Khalifa appear as familiar faces on the track 'Pu$$y', a song that could seem like it's targeting the radio off of name value and production alone, but may have ending up being too obviously explicit. Meek Mill shows up to drop a verse on 'Watching' that was very redeeming for the blows he's been taking in his current beef with The Game. This beat is just the first Charlie Heat produced track and one of our favorite beats on all of 'Campaign'.
On the outside you may be inclined to believe Ty Dolla $ign is like any other mainstream radio artist. With mega-hits like 'Paranoid' and 'Or Nah', you may not realize that Ty $ is a truly talented individual. Knowing how to play instruments like the bass, keyboards, guitars and drums, Ty can put his skills into producing his own songs. We see examples of this on tracks like 'Stealing', with it's acoustic backing, or 'Clean', a track Ty that likely played the keyboard or MPC for.
If Ty Dolla $ign had his own theme song, it would probably be 'Zaddy'. This incredibly smooth flowing song perfectly captures the essence of Ty Dolla's style. A part of this "essence" is the genre itself, the proclaimed "trap&b" style of music that has revived r&b back to a mainstream status over the past few years. Ty sticks to these roots on his Zaytoven produced track simply titled 'R&B'. This song serves as a tribute to the genre of r&b, in which Ty sings about falling in love with a girl who loves R&B, naming off legends in the industry as the uncredited background singer weaves in signature ad-libs from said legends, such as Aaliyah, R Kelly, and modern day icons like Chris Brown and The Weeknd.
On one hand there is the previously mentioned song 'R&B' which we think ends too short, and on the other hand there's '$', which probably could have ended a little bit sooner. It's not that we think that this song is bad, it actually bumps and flows quite well. The problem with this track that just so happened to open the mixtape is that the lyrics are just far too repetitive. From hook to the verses, Ty plays with the same wordplay almost the entire song.
'Campaign' continues the movement
Is 'Campaign' a soundtrack for the Summer? Despite the fact it was dropped after Summer had ended, we here at Keakie believe this claim is fair. From political and social movements to the continued movement of Freeing TC, 'Campaign' feels very influenced by recent events as well as modern sounds and artists that served to progress the genres of r&b and trap music. Will this music be influential itself? That is yet to be seen. What has been seen is the undeniable quality of music that Ty Dolla $ign is able to provide.
Listen to Campaign today.