Review: Ty Dolla Sign, Campaign

A mixtape worthy of this presidential election
Publish date:
dolla sign campaign.png

With a little over a month until Election Day, one can expect to see many aspects of our culture get political, and the music scene is no different. Thanks to Ty Dolla Sign, nee Tyrone William Griffin Jr., we have a trap soundtrack to carry us there. Unapologetically pro-Clinton, anti-Trump, Campaign follows the tradition of auto-tuned trap warblers like Partynextdoor and Future, mixed in alongside some direct comments on the state of the US government and election system.

Despite a full denouncement of Donald and pledge to Hillary, Griffin still makes known his feelings about the former First Lady’s own agenda. Campaign goes in on each of them, criticizing Clinton and her husband’s role in the increase of imprisoned citizens just as much as Trump’s own wildly unreasonable stances on minorities and immigrants. In the end, he bluntly puts forth Hillary as his choice, but not without addressing her own flaws: “All these niggas fuck with the KKK/But at least Hillary Clinton has the decency to lie about it.” (Ouch.) This, coupled with a scathing account of police brutality, “No Justice”, allows Campaign to stand out as a hip-hop project confident not only in its masculinity but also its politics.

Even with its electoral undertones, Campaign stays to true its hip-hop self, and promotes the party just as hard as political discourse. Griffin conveys such festivities in humorous, sensual, and even troubled ways, each to varying levels of effectiveness. On “R&B”, Griffin pays tribute to the genre which permeates his style of hip-hop, acknowledging its popularity among today’s crowd: “I made a playlist of all your favorites/let’s wake up the neighbors”. Meanwhile, the bouncing brag of “???”, featuring a slick verse from Quavo of Migos, definitely could ignite a dance-floor, though its lack of creativity causes it to feel like a joke more than a jam. And when the party gets to be too much, Griffin pours it out in the sorrow-drenched “Juice”, lamenting the pitfalls of fame and the women who seek him out for it.

Yet while the ‘campaign’ qualities of Griffin’s mixtape feel electrifying and fresh, the musical influence at many times relies too much on trap’s most common tropes. Porsches, popped pussies, and parties on the weekday abound in this project, and while they may be genre-appropriate they are not necessarily avant-garde. The fact that Future’s electro-gravel timbre on the title track sounds of now rather than of tomorrow truly feels like we’ve come full circle.

As a mixtape, I understand why Campaign sounds so derivative, but still I wish Griffin had pushed a bit further in terms of musical experimentation. Those possibilities come to light in the confessional “Stealing”, which places Griffin’s trap-toned vocals over a guitar-riff more typical of a singer-songwriter. The line “Stealing all these bitches’ hearts”, especially as it grows in the bridge to an electric wail in the vein of Bon Iver, actually comes across as endearing in its grief when Griffin lets it loose.

In the end, Campaign is true to its name: It’s appropriate of the time, full of filler, and runs just a bit too long. It’s not polished, but neither was any other campaign in 2016. C PLUS