Jeremih and Ty Dolla $ ign are undoubtedly the natural successors of the “R&B thug” figure who defined the R&B charts for most aughts. It seems obvious and harmless, until you remember that the ancestor of the term is R. Kelly, whose legacy is now permanently marred by his misdeeds. But that now instinctive aesthetic grimace is exactly why the careers of the two artists have been so refreshing – they’ve proven to be experts at analyzing the difference between irresistible charm and disturbing grotesque that song (and personal life). Kelly has almost always eliminated. The two artists often have the impression of singing In regards to their characters in love as much as they inhabit them. With Jeremih, deconstruction is above all musical, through the negative dubby and reflexive space that the Late nights the mixtape and the album were both exuding. With Ty, this manifests more often in lyrical details that elicit empathy for even his most shady stories, especially during last year’s career peak, Beach house 3. At MihTy, their first collaborative album, they teamed up with Hitmaka, a frequent collaborator, and created a project so fluid that you might not realize how at war it is with itself.
The sound of MihTy is blocker and brighter than the usual palettes of either artist, often reminiscent of the big hip-hop soul of Peak Puff Daddy and Jermaine Dupri – sometimes overtly, as in R. Kelly’s chorus of “FYT or the bass line borrowed from Mary J. Blige’s “Love No Limit” remix for “The Light.” To stand out, Hitmaka and co. bringing neon synth pads and a dash of vaguely Balearic electronic sparkle to the debates, avoiding deference in favor, oddly enough, of a chillwave-y evocation of 1990s R&B. The general effect of geometric instability the production is a woozy, classic golden cage in which Jeremih and Ty are unleashed to play ping pong against each other.
As a result, there’s something slightly anxious about the album, swinging lyrically as it does (often in the same song) between sheer fuckbook bluster and nervous reflections on the success – “You know this shit ain’t me / So you can’t blame me / If I act a little different these days, “Jeremih hums on the hypnagogic slow jam” These Days. “On stars like that, the MihTy The project exposes a central driving conflict that is classically hip-hop, with a twist: rather than negotiating the authenticity of the street, Ty and Jeremih instead unbox the post-famous viability of intimacy. The aforementioned “FYT” contains some of Jeremih’s best lines here, as her honeyed voice gently spits her reputation as a diva as well as her lover’s apparent lack of taste: “I’m in Neiman Marcus having fits / You think that you know high fashion / Just to take it off, baby. Ty, meanwhile, shows a more explicit neurosis, singing on “Perfect Timing”, “I wish I could take it back / Said some things I shouldn’t have said / I thought so at the time / I know I’m going too far. Her gritty ‘Meant it at the time’ seeps in subtly, until you suddenly realize it’s a clever reversal of the classic line: ‘I didn’t mean it, baby!’
Reading MihTy (and, by extension, the careers of Jeremih and Ty Dolla $ ign in general) as a critical look at R&B’s full-throated embrace of lust foremost – “My mind tells me no, but my body says yes. ! ” – is tempting, but it inevitably borders on some boring realities. Chris “ugh” Brown’s presence on this record is aggravating in a way that his appearances typically don’t, primarily because it’s harder to explain as just a hook for hire. When Brown delivers his salacious lines on “Surrounded,” it inevitably calls attention to the song’s incongruity with the savvy, winning self-awareness of the rest of the album. Following this track and some emotional one-note cuts in the middle (“New Level” and “Take Your Time,” both of which seem to be the result of overworking perfectionism), MihTy fails to shake the shared albatross from its lifelong creators almost make a classic record.
But in general, MihTy gently shines with a humanism that is both existential and licentious. The delicate closing triptych of “Lie 2 Me”, “Ride It” and “Imitate”, perhaps the three best tracks on the album, is instructive. The first is an ode to paranoia and loyalty. The second inhabits the anguish of exhibitionism and then lulls it to sleep. The third fears love loss with choral intensity and seeks to bargain. Each song gives the impression, at the beginning, that it could be a goodbye, or a hello, or a come. Each is truly the three.