An unwieldy record peppered with colossal highs...

Ty Dolla $ign’s sprawling, 25 track ‘Featuring’ is both a meta comment on the craft and also a mark of his full participation in feature culture. Sure, the title is a tongue-in-cheek observation – indeed, Ty has been known for his all-star features, right since YG’s 2010 single ‘Toot It And Boot It’ - but it comes to summarise both the benefits and drawbacks of extensive collaboration.

A record that moves from curious interludes to colossal, stadium-filling team ups, ‘Featuring’ doesn’t hold back. It’s the sound of Ty offering the whole truth, but in doing so, in attempting to grapple with its unwieldy mass, the rapper fails to assert creative delineation over this sprawling mesh of music.

That said, ‘Featuring’ is peppered with career highs. An immediate standout is Ty’s phenomenal Nicki Minaj collaboration ‘Expensive’, which feels like a chrome-plated smash, a succinct (it clocks in at 2.15) slice of hook-heavy hip-hop with a chorus to die for.

Club-focussed back-to-back pairing ‘Freak’ (feat. Quavo) and ‘Double R (feat. Lil Durk) offers a mid-album highlight, while ‘Lift Me Up’ is so 2k20 it hurts, with its state of the art production and sickly effects layered over Future and Young Thug’s guest spots.

Often, though, ‘Featuring’ is at its best when Ty Dolla $ign steps out of his comfort zone. Take the soulful ‘You Turn’ for instance, or the ultra-adventurous ‘Track Six’ featuring Kanye West, Anderson. Paak, and Thundercat, a song that defies expectations at every turn, a wild ride of lucid creativity that tumbles in torrents out of the speakers.

A record that sometimes struggles to sit still, ‘Featuring’ thunders between tender R&B and rolling trap workouts. There are also curious moments of left field intrusion, too - ‘serpentwithfeet Interlude’ shines the spotlight on an artist whose work usually exists in another sphere to, say, Nicki Minaj and Young Thug.

An often hit and miss experience, ‘Featuring’ exposes the vast creativity of feature culture, while also platforming its flaws. An unwieldy listen that still carries huge expectation, Ty Dolla $ign’s latest album holds nothing back – that’s its beauty, but also its deepest flaw.

8/10

Words: Robin Murray

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