Ty Dolla $ign's Sexy Music "Teaches Guys How to Get Pussy"

Ty Dolla $ign
Ty Dolla $ign
Photo by Danny Liao

Check out the rest of our 2015 music issue, featuring stories on Phora, Skeme and Andre Martel.


It's 2 p.m. on a Friday afternoon when Ty Dolla $ign remembers he didn't go to bed the night before. Well, not to sleep, anyway.

"Last night at 2, I called a girl. She drove to my house from near Riverside, so she didn't get there 'til 3," the 30-year-old singer and producer born Tyrone Griffin Jr. says in his sandpapery voice, marble-green eyes widening as he lays his head almost flat on the starched white tablecloth at Morton's Steakhouse. The ropes of his dreads obscure the Kylie Jenner–sized pout tattooed on his neck.

You can guess how his night went from there. "A movie," he says, grinning and ordering a Moscow mule, subbing Jameson for vodka.

"Movie" is Ty's catchphrase for occasions when his life turns especially cinematic — that night Kanye West took him to a party and he met Jay Z and Beyoncé, for instance, or when he flew to Mexico at the behest of West to work on nine songs, one of which was "FourFiveSeconds" with Rihanna and Paul McCartney. His fans might also apply the term to the fact that he needs a bodyguard now. Or that his bank account is so cushioned with revenue from songs like Chris Brown's "Loyal," which Ty penned, or his own "Or Nah," which went platinum, that he recently purchased a house in Long Beach outfitted with not one but two gyms.

There are plenty of other examples. When you're the hoarser-voiced heir to Nate Dogg's throne as the go-to male singer in all of hip-hop, every day is a bit like a movie.

That's especially true today, when he hardly walks a single step, instead floating on his hoverboard through ESPN's studios to film his Sports Nation segment, onto the elevator while previewing Airplane Mode, the 10-song mixtape he whipped up in one day last week, and across Morton's — much to the displeasure of the maître d', who tells him with a brittle smile that it might not be possible to glide all the way to his booth. Ty's manners are impeccable — every interaction with the server includes a "please" or "ma'am" — so he obliges.

There's another part of Ty's life that resembles a movie, too, but it's less fun to watch. His little brother, Gabriel "TC" Griffin, has been serving a 67 years–to-life sentence since he was convicted of a 2004 gang-related murder.

Ty's debut album, which will be released on Atlantic Records Nov. 13, is titled Free TC. Its cover art is from TC's vantage point, Ty's "Free TC"–tattooed knuckles pressed against a prison visiting room's glass partition. Ty, who maintains his brother is innocent, has been mentioning the case in his songs since at least 2008's "Ghetto," and he's announced that proceeds from the album's sales will go toward TC's appeal.

Ty Dolla $ign
Ty Dolla $ign
Photo by Danny Liao

It's a little weird, then, that he doesn't want to talk about it. He says he hasn't seen his brother in close to two years due to his own legal issues, then dead-ends the conversation by nodding at his phone as if someone is eavesdropping. "Movie!" he says in a sing-song voice.

Chatting about Ty Dolla $ign the party starter — or ender, as it were — is easier. From "Toot It and Boot It," the sleazy 2009 lullaby he co-wrote and produced that launched rapper YG's career, to his own lush, louche mixtapes, which send you woozily somersaulting through a codeine-purpled snow globe swirling with molly caps and Magnums, Ty's sexy music can spur the most conservative woman to skip panties and embolden the least game-having dude to try to take her home.

"One of my homies told me my music teaches guys how to get pussy," he says, taking a bite of sea bass while eyeing the double burger his bodyguard is squishing between its bun.

That's probably because lyrics such as "Met a bitch in the club, she fine/I fucked her in the car outside" seem very much based on true stories. Names of assorted singers and models are volleyed around the table as women Ty should date, but he shakes his head. "My problem is I'm not trying to wife a bitch," he says, earnest.

Copious "bitch" usage aside, he is concerned if his lyrics offend women — after all, he does have a 10-year-old daughter. A song on Free TC includes the refrain, "Horses in my stable that I can ride." When it's mentioned, he immediately asks, "You fuckin' with it?" Julie Greenwald, Atlantic's chair/COO, was not pleased with the metaphor, he says, before protesting, "But a woman wrote it."

Still, he cares more about the music than any accusation of misogyny. His father, Tyrone Sr., also was a multi-instrumentalist and singer, most famously in the funk band Lakeside. When Ty Jr. was 3 years old, growing up in South Central, his pop caught him plucking out the melody for a song. Ty now plays most instruments, excluding brass, and has a soft spot for strings and 1980s adult-contemporary sax solos. Buddies like YG and big stars like Kanye appear on Free TC, but there's also an acoustic song with Babyface and arrangements by the Benjamin Wright Orchestra.

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"I used Atlantic like I was supposed to," Ty says. "They'll give you the money, but you gotta know how to spend that shit. I spent all of it and some of my own money to make the strings happen."

His favorite feature on the album, however, is TC singing over a prison phone in "Miracle." That cost nothing, and everything.

Ty Dolla $ign
Ty Dolla $ign
Photo by Danny Liao

The cloud of his brother's incarceration hangs low. Maybe constant partying and songs about girls are distractions for Ty, a way not to brood over the possibility that his baby brother might never get out of jail.

Ty is hesitant to discuss details of his brother's case, because he doesn't want to hurt TC's chances of getting his sentence reduced or overturned. And now that he's famous, he's wary of lawyers overcharging him (his brother's first trial, he says, cost $100,000). Then again, his fame and its financial gains are what allow him to stay hopeful.

"That's why it's been this long. We didn't have the resources," he says. "It's fucked up if you don't have the money. But that's the game, that's how the cookie crumbles. Now I'm coming back to clean it up."

Check out the rest of our 2015 music issue, featuring stories on Phora, Skeme and Andre Martel.


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