The hierarchy within a crew is not often formerly advertised, especially within hip-hop, but based upon viewer and listener assumptions, bosses, underbosses, and capos are identified. Some are recognised based upon their musical impact – NWA had Eazy E (boss), Dr. Dre (underboss), Ice Cube (capo); some are identified upon their street stature – G-Unit had 50 Cent (boss), Tony Yayo (underboss), Lloyd Banks (capo); while others are a mixture of the two. Meek Mill is someone who sits somewhere in between an underboss and capo. Reason being is that musically he’s an underboss while his goon affiliations make him a capo. Either way he’s a decorated individual.
Under the guidance of Rick Ross, the buzz surrounding Meek has been phenomenal. Whether you’re a fan or not, there’s no denying his domineering presence within the rap world over the past year or so. Following his acclaimed mixtape series – Dreamchasers, which is also the name of his budding record label – the Maybach Music Group emcee’s debut album has finally arrived and the time has now come for the boy to prove he’s a man, and the cub to prove he can be King.
Standing at 14-tracks in length, Dreams And Nightmares is a very hit and miss project. When on form Meek Milly is not the rapper to underestimate. However, his excitably loud delivery can at times grate against your inner tolerance to the point where the only option is hitting the stop button. Riding both ends of the aforementioned quality scale, the Maybach Music representer offers fans an above average project with below par moments.
Opening the album with the kind of introduction fans of storytelling have been craving, “Dreams And Nightmares” opens the door into Meek’s world. With his traumatic beginnings put on blast, as well as his intentions for a better life, the album’s introduction plays like a passion pit of street tale assortments.
Thanks to a combination of first-hand experience and one hell of a wild imagination, the young rhymer’s first attempt at mainstream success is strengthened thanks to a few key moments. One is the Drake-assisted “Amen,” where a detailed look in to the life of an up-and-coming superstar and his brushes with constant female attention, the catchy hook and ear-gasmic production, courtesy of Key Wane and Jahlil Beats, help create an anthem for those wanting to celebrate the good life.
Another of these key moment comes when Meek teams up with label boss Rick Ross, Nas, and soulful crooner John Legend on the nostalgically delicious success story “Maybach Curtains.” Recalling his struggles and strifes, Meek outlines the steps he took to make it to the top of the mountain. Nas’ verse is a nod towards Al Green and his mother’s cooking, amongst other things, with the connection between music, space and time more apparent as each bar offers itself to the listening ear, while John Legend’s powerfully emotive chorus lines stand out like Nicki Minaj at a square dance. Deep and meaningful; there’s no better way to describe the track.
Moments that spoil the anticipated LP include the money squawking “In God We Trust” – on which Meek sounds like someone who’s swallowed a ton of razor blades after a shot of vinegar – and the generically dull “Real N—-s Come First.” The fact that Meek Mill can drop an intricately detailed hood tale with crazy amounts of replay value like “Tony Story, Pt.2,” it’s slightly offensive that he’d waste his time, effort, and energy creating these throwaway cuts.
Teaming up with Mary J. Blige on the enemy focused “Who You’re Around” sees the Philly rhymer regain momentum. The saying, “Keep your friends close but your enemies closer,” has never meant more musically than it does on this occasion; name-checking the snakes who once meant something until it’s time to cut the grass, Meek gets up close and personal. Anyone who has ever been betrayed by someone close will without doubt feel this one.
More a compilation of bangers and clangers than a completely cohesive body of work, Dreams And Nightmares is probably enough to keep the youth of today satisfied until Meek Mill’s next mixtape is unveiled. His current popularity and work ethic will help him shift a few more units than the next man but at some point something’s got to give; and if it’s not the glamour and glitz in exchange for the incredibly descriptive street tales featured in everyday life, then he’ll need to step his game up in other areas to help him stay relevant.