Ty Dolla $ign on What Makes a Hit Now

Ty Dolla $ign
Pegah Farahmand-Mobarekeh

Ty Dolla $ign

Billboard’s year-end issue is all about one question: What makes a hit now? So we asked some of the biggest names in music — like Ty Dolla $ign — for their thoughts. The studio savant and go-to collaborator for the biggest names in pop, R&B and hip-hop showcased new depths of his artistry on his third studio album, Featuring Ty Dolla $ign, which hit No. 1 on Top R&B Albums in November.

I’m all over the place when it comes to music. I’m never just on one thing, like, “Everybody was only vibing to club music, and when the pandemic hit, club music didn’t make sense anymore.” There are so many new people that I’ve been hearing that are incredible. It’s dope where music is going.

When it comes to features, I look at it like whatever instrument I want to play on my song. If I want to make an R&B song like “Your Turn” [from Featuring Ty Dolla $ign], I could’ve used a regular piano, an acoustic guitar, an electric guitar. They have different vibes, different sounds, different frequencies. You can play the same thing on all of them, but they all have different tones. So what are they going to do to this record to make it another level?

I always say the music game is like shooting dice: You don’t know what’s going to happen, but hopefully you get that seven or 11 on the first roll. The one song where I felt like I knew it was going to go was “Paranoid” [from 2014’s Beach House EP]. That was the third song I made on that beat, and I just felt like that was it. I felt like everybody would want to be a part of it when it comes on. There are always songs where you’re like, “This is dope” — like [this year’s] “Hit Different” with SZA. But I didn’t know it was going to go as big as it did because it was slow, and slower songs are always a bit tricky.

For me, I say it comes from God and goes through me. As long as I stick to that, it connects. If I try to go outside of that, then I don’t know what’s going to happen. A lot of songs, I don’t try: I open my mouth, come with a melody, come with words and it’s there. There’s no way to explain it other than it’s just one of those God things, man. Not to get all super religious, but that’s how I feel it. I know it’s not me. That’s all I can say. It comes, and I give it to the people.

This article originally appeared in the Dec. 19, 2020, issue of Billboard.