Three separate people came up to me last night with stories about Ty Dolla $ign’s orgies; one was invited to hang out in his hotel room while Ty wolfed down a bag from Shake Shack and got some head on the side. (The offer was turned down because “Dude, no.” Also, “Why do you need me there?”) The other two said how casual a part of Ty’s life orgies are, like using a microwave. So when he’s humping the air, patting his crotch like an overstuffed hotel pillow and smooth-singing about “Two of my bitches in the club, and I know they know about each other,” it’s only natural to think to yourself, “Am I bad at sex?”
It was a night at Brooklyn’s Knitting Factory, put together by Scion. Two wristbands were strapped on at the door: a neon green one to drink; a second red one with big black letters, “This is a Scion Event.” Okay. That, and a sign on the door telling everyone they were being filmed, was the only real indicator that this was a capital-T Thing. Hannibal Buress was there, so was 40 Oz. Van and a bunch of white kids pacified by G-Pens.
One song down, Ty moves to the DJ set-up and drinks from a Grey Goose bottle like it’s Gatorade. “Y’all know YG got one of the biggest songs out now, ‘My N***a’…so I got to bring out my n***as.” It’s a poor set-up, but hey, why not. So now here’s Skeme, doing “T.O.” (which is as much a Problem song or a DJ Mustard song as it is his), and then Fredo Santana comes out to do his parts from “Jealous,” scrunching up his face like he’s taking a test. Moments later, one hand in his pocket, the other pulling tokes, he looks like he’s on the wall at a high school dance. In front of him are Paul and Big Ty, a middle-aged trumpet and saxophone duo who have joined Ty, wearing matching Union Jack berets and suits with sleeves rolled up. They’re loose, limbs akimbo, rolling around in step like the Grateful Dead bears. Fredo watches them, amused.
Ty’s headlining set lasted 20 minutes and then it ended, just like that, “Thank you so much, goodnight.” The DJs packed up their stuff. Not too long after, Chicago’s Vic Mensa came out. But no one goes to hip-hop shows to fill their organization needs. As short as it was, Ty Dolla’s show is fun to watch: he’s magnetic if not especially active. (That quota’s filled by Paul and Big Ty.) Ty is LA’s The-Dream, singing about women who come to the club without panties on, rhyming coke with smoke, sake with molly. It sounds like everything else, but nothing at the same time: familiar enough to be let in the door, strange enough to keep around. Where Drake falls in love with strippers and Hooters waitresses, Ty’s not obeying the signs that say “you break it, you buy it.”
On stage, he smiles one of those smiles you see in an AquaFresh commercial, a blissed-out Unabomber hiding behind expensive-looking glasses and under a black HUF hoodie. His dreads, long and loose, hang like Cuban links—too heavy to move much when he’s prowling the stage for “Irie” or “Toot It and Boot It.” They’re covered on top by a leather hat that exists somewhere on the spectrum between “not T-Pain enough” and “too Schoolboy Q.” He postures himself like Bono, foot on the monitor, both hands on the mic, but he doesn’t belt for the back row. He rolls his voice out like Fruit by the Foot, this growl that leaves money on the dresser and a note on the bedstand.
One night after Trinidad Jame$ rambled for a while during what was supposed to be a Converse-sponsored concert, a performance in which he noted how New York had lost its footing in rap culture, Ty Dolla said, “I’m not East Coast, I’m not West Coast…I’m just everything, man.” Few seemed to notice or care. Maybe because he’s in an entirely different conversation.
Jeff Rosenthal was not invited to Ty Dolla $ign' s hotel to watch him eat Shake Shack. With his brother Eric, he performs hip-hop sketch comedy as ItsTheReal. Find them on Twitter — @itsthereal
Read our interview with Ty Dolla $ign about orgies here.