Since 2014, the issue of violent anti-Black racism in this country, through heightened visibility, has garnered huge controversy. Hypervisibility compounded with this wonky election season between two less-than-stellar candidates, the significance of political action both in the quotidian and in artistic expression has impacted the music industry in 2016. But it’s also given way to a burgeoning consumer bloc supporting “liberatory” politics. Ty Dolla $ign, through Campaign’s cover art and title, would have one to believe that this mixtape would be conceived in America’s political hotbed. But instead it’s more of the same from the R&B crooner, which could leave his audience disappointed and confused.

Beginning with the introduction, “$Intro”—where he questions whether Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are the opposite sides of the same coin regarding gang and police brutality—insinuates that he will be taking on more serious subject matter. The spoken word harangue here makes it seem as though Ty is tapping into his inner Diddy during the latter’s “Vote or Die” campaign (“But if we ain’t voting/ We all got blame“). The political urgency then takes a backseat to Ty’s familiar shtick of sex, drugs and materialism for, basically, the remainder of the project. Even if we were to judge the music itself, disregarding the supposed social critique, the tape is flat and redundant. The title track is a banger—with Ty and Future doing their best “What a Time to be Alive” impression—but the song doesn’t move the needle in terms of lyrical or sonic growth. The record also lets the audience know that the “Campaign” Ty and Future are referring to has nothing to do with politics and everything to do with sex.

Trap beats and wavering vocoder-induced vocals are par for the course when jamming out to Ty’s sex thrills. On the Travis Scott produced (he also is featured on this track), “3 Wayz,” Ty bops and bangs with the frivolousness of a young rap meteor. “Pour that lean, lean, lean, lean, lean/ She gon’ turn to a freak/ Have me off the bean,” might as well be the anthem for this album as it signals Ty Dolla $ign’s unusual lack of charm on this record. Travis Scott’s swagged-out purple vocal strains are a welcome departure, but his redundancy doesn’t help the project overall. Other friends come through on the record too. Keke Palmer’s weird intro and Jay 305’s overly misogynist outro on “Zaddy” is a bitter, biting reminder of the $ign’s narrow construction of gold digging sexual partners—which unfortunately is a common thread that stretches, literally, the entire mixtape. Listen, being a hip-hop head means having to grit your teeth when it comes to disgusting male chauvinism. But given how swollen this mixtape is, with its overwhelming emphasis on women that only want to be with Ty because he “shines” (“Zaddy,” “R&B, “Juice”), it’s a tiring endeavor to sit through.

There are minimal surprises here and most have more to do with the myriad of production partners Ty employs here—from D.R.U.G.S., to DJ Mustard, to Zaytoven. On an otherwise trap bass-heavy record, the rhythm guitar that carries “Juice” feels like a welcome outlier. “Stealing” is a bluesy serenade about “stealing bitches hearts” but its divergence from vanilla tracks is of little significance.

When we finally reach “No Justice” which is the most forwardly political track, we’re already fourteen songs in and we’re already exasperated with the seemingly unending romp in the Red Light District. It’ difficult to go from a club to a protest. By the time we get to the social justice, it falls completely flat, with uninspired lyrics from both Big TC and Ty Dolla $ign himself—”We all created equal but nothing about us equal.” The song is legitimately corny and is a weak attempt at addressing real issues of race and brutality.

Finally, the song encapsulates the misogyny permeating the entire record. TC and Ty both address the fact that there’s “no justice for the brothers” but what of the sisters? What’s liberation without dispelling notions of welfare queens (gold diggers), without critiquing the lack of respect that women—especially black women—face on a daily basis? What’s a democracy without providing space for the voices of women (voices that are almost completely absent on this record, mind you) on this “Campaign”? Surely, black male freedom is tied to the freedom of black women but with such a narrow focus, poor construction and a negligence to deliver on his promises, Ty is looking more like an American politician than ever before.

  • Monthly Mixtape: October 2012

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