Ty Dolla $ign Credit: Jory Lee Cordy

These days it feels as though the difference between a rapper who sings and a singer who raps is as negligible as the difference between a rap mixtape and a rap album; a lot of it comes down to attitude and self-identification. Take Tyrone Griffin, better known as Ty Dolla $ign, a singer who was included in XXL magazine’s “Freshman Class” issue in 2014—an honor usually bestowed only upon MCs (his compatriots included Vic Mensa, Lil Bibby, Lil Durk, and Chance the Rapper). Griffin can sing as smoothly as any of the best R&B vocalists out there, but he definitely expresses himself in the language of hip-hop; his flow and cadence match that of a rapper spicing up her style by mixing in a little vocal melody—though as much as I can get behind an MC giving singing a shot, I’ve yet to hear any rapper who can belt out bars as beautifully as Griffin. His second album, October’s Beach House 3 (Atlantic), takes its name from the mixtape series he launched in 2012 and carries on the tradition of its namesake (though unlike its predecessors, it isn’t available as a free download). Still, Griffin sings with a ebullience that seems free of the pressures associated with producing a big major-label album; on highlights such as “Droptop in the Rain” and “Dawsin’s Breek” he sounds like he’s performing only to fulfill his own desire to make music. It’s as if he’s made these songs as a personal elixir to fuel him through highs and lows, but fortunately he’s let the rest of us in on the fun.   v