The Essential Ty Dolla $ign Guide: From Collaborative Hit-Maker to Stealth Producer

Kevin Winter/Getty Images for Coachella
Ty Dolla Sign performs on the Coachella Stage during day 2 of the Coachella Valley Music And Arts Festival (Weekend 1) at the Empire Polo Club on April 15, 2017 in Indio, Calif.

Ty Dolla $ign has been a staple in music ever since “Toot It and Boot It” in 2010, collaborating with just about every star player in the game as he dabbles in various genres: EDM, pop, R&B, hip-hop, dancehall, reggae, etc. The Los Angeles native has an impeccable ear for melodies, which most likely stemmed from watching his father, Tyrone Griffin, record and perform as a member of classic funk band Lakeside. 

Aside from his solo work, $ign's sonic attributes are often best seen in his joint projects. He is something akin to the next generation’s Babyface (who he actually collaborated with on 2015’s Free TC), whether he’s sprinkling his magic on a track’s production, crafting club-ready lyrics or adding his honeyed yet gritty vocals to the mix -- the perfect balance of sensual and haunting.

2018 is shaping up to be the best career year for the in-demand, do-everything artist, as he’s been found on a wide array of the year's biggest releases so far: Post Malone’s Beerbongs & Bentleys, Christina Aguilera’s Liberation, Kanye West’s Ye (and his Kid Cudi joint project Kids See Ghosts), Migos’ Culture II, Tinashe’s Joyride, The Carters’ Everything Is Love and most recently, Drake’s Scorpion. The singer's also had his own collaborations as a lead artist with the likes of Quavo, 21 Savage and Wiz Khalifa (on his Beach House 3 deluxe reissue), as well as a full-length joint album with fellow acclaimed R&B singer-songwriter Jeremih (as MihTy), and a Billboard Hot 100 hit alongside co-stars Khalid and 6lack with "OTW." 

So before he blows up even more, we crafted a guide that will take you through all the essentials of Ty Dolla $ign's ever-expanding catalogue to this point. Read on below, and catch yourself up with our Spotify playlists in each section.


Ty the Lead Artist

Start With the Highlights: “Paranoid,” “Or Nah,” “Miracle/Wherever,” “Blasé,” “Know Ya,” “Campaign,” “Ex,” “Droptop In the Rain,” “So Am I,” “All The Time,” “The Light,” Beach House EP, Free TC, Beach House 3

After signing a deal with Atlantic Records in 2012, Ty Dolla $ign called upon DJ Mustard to provide some hyphy production as he detailed a conundrum most guys suffer from: trying to balance a relationship with two girls at the same time. In comes 2013’s “Paranoid,” where $ign makes this theme somewhat passable all thanks to his incredibly infectious crooning. His affinity for tongue-in-cheek lyricism about sex paired with soulful vocals soon became an artistic signature, found in the naughty-as-hell 2014’s “Or Nah,” featuring frequent collaborator Wiz Khalifa. (The Weeknd’s subsequent remix took the track to further R-rated levels).

As his career blossomed, the singer began to further experiment with his music, writing about heavier topics, deriving influence from the ‘90s R&B of his youth and flexing his church-ready vocals even more. The two-part “Miracle/Wherever” from 2015’s Free TC features $ign’s older brother Big TC singing an impassioned verse about hope while he was still behind bars, while “Ex” from 2017’s Beach House 3 interpolates Donell Jones’ heartbroken 1999 classic “Where I Wanna Be,” while sampling 1996’s Bad Boy remix of 112’s “Only You” featuring the Notorious B.I.G. “So Am I” tacks on Damian Marley for an authentic reggae flair, while 2018’s “The Light” with Jeremih finds $ign boasting about his love for foreplay over a rubbery sample of Keni Burke’s 1982 hit “Risin’ to the Top.”

Further Listening: “Saved”, “Horses In the Stable,” “No Justice,” “In Your Phone,” “Famous,” “Love You Better,” Campaign, Sign Language, Beach House 2 

Leave it to $ign to make sexual comparisons between women’s asses and majestic horses sound romantic on 2015’s “Horses In the Stable,” while “No Justice” featuring his brother Big TC (released the following year) boldly tackles police brutality. “In Your Phone,” one of $ign’s more fun collaborations, finds he and girlfriend Lauren Jauregui teasing each other about their blossoming relationship.


Ty the Featured Artist

Start with the highlights: Fifth Harmony’s “Work From Home,” Kanye West’s “Real Friends,” Kanye West’s “Fade,” Zara Larsson’s “So Good,” Afrojack’s “Gone,” Kranium’s “Can’t Believe,” Wiz Khalifa’s “Something New,” Post Malone’s “Psycho,” Christina Aguilera, “Accelerate,” Kanye West & Kid Cudi’s "Freeee (Ghost Town, Pt. 2)"

Ty Dolla $ign is to rap hooks as avocado is to millennial toast -- you can’t have one without the other. The singer’s instantly recognizable voice is the perfect topping to hard-edged tracks, whether he’s harmonizing in the background or flaunting his swag in the chorus. His romantic charm was the perfect addition to Wiz Khalifa’s breezy “Something New,” and he matches Post Malone’s hazy flow on the chart-topping “Psycho.” 

But the singer’s talent goes beyond the smoke-filled rap studio. His melodic tone keeps Fifth Harmony’s sassy “Work From Home” balanced while his appearance on Zara Larsson’s “So Good” keeps the song’s throwback influence flowing. $ign’s recent feature on “Accelerate” is one of more ambitious collaborations, as he croak-wails alongside Christina Aguilera atop an addictively weird, staccato club production.

Further listening: YG’s "Toot It and Boot It,” Big Sean’s “Play No Games,” Fat Joe & Remy Ma’s “Money Showers,” 2 Chainz, “It’s A Vibe,” Meek Mill’s “Whatever You Need,” Khalid’s “OTW,” Drake's "After Dark," Kanye West’s “All Mine,” “Wouldn’t Leave” and “Violent Crimes”

2011’s “Toot It and Boot It” was a breakout hit for both YG and $ign, as they introduced another vibrant side of California rap to the rest of the genre. $ign’s feature on Meek Mill’s “Whatever You Need” is an excellent complement to fellow R&B charmer Chris Brown’s croons, and $ign’s background vocals on Kanye West’s minimalist “All Mine” keeps the track grounded.


Ty the Behind-the-Scenes Music Guru

Writing credits: Snoop Dogg & Wiz Khalifa’s "Young, Wild & Free;” Chris Brown’s “Loyal” featuring Lil Wayne, French Montana, Too Short and Tyga; Jordin Sparks’ “It Ain’t You;” Rihanna, Kanye West and Paul McCartney’s “FourFiveSeconds;” Beyoncé and JAY-Z’s “Boss”

Production credits: Trey Songz’s “Fumble,” YG’s "Really Be (Smokin N Drinkin)” featuring Kendrick Lamar, YG’s “Still Brazy” 

With the way $ign effortlessly floats on rhythms, it’s no surprise that he’s lent his pen to other artists. He has a handful of co-writing credits aside from his own work, helping Snoop Dogg and Wiz Khalifa get higher than kites on 2011’s Hot 100 top 10 “Young, Wild & Free.” $ign went the folk-pop route on Rihanna’s barebones “FourFiveSeconds” anthem with Kanye West and Paul McCartney, and recently contributed to The Carters’ Everything Is Love highlight, “Boss.” 

$ign is also a producer, representing California’s synth-heavy hip-hop roots on YG’s "Really Be (Smokin N Drinkin)” and providing an emotional atmosphere for Trey Songz’s apologetic “Fumble."