Meek Mill – Dreams and Nightmares

Meek Mill – Dreams and Nightmares

royalT rating: 6.5 Crowns

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Meek Mill’s Dreams and Nightmares album falls closer to a nightmare than a dream. Brief moments of ingenuity and conceptual strengths are heavily offset by lackluster efforts and predictable cadences.

The title track “Dreams and Nightmares” summarizes everything Meek discusses on records. He adequately displays how a young male from the hood has dreams fulfilled by rap successes before the track takes a drastic turn for the worse. Understandably so, Meek attempted to draw stark contrast between dreams and nightmares and sufficiently succeeds. “Dreams and Nighmares” fails after angelic piano keys transitions to a devilish bass drop, and Meek begins shouting at maximum vocal capacities. His voice is already borderline and increasing the volume is far too intense.

The paradoxical title of “In God We Trust” leads listeners to believe it will be structured after his “dream” theme, but he proceeds to paint more pictures of destruction.  It seems like Meek fell in love with the title and felt obligated to include it on the album. Once again, thematically, Meek missed the mark, but displays a vicious flow.

“So for 100 keys, think what my click will do/ I’m talkin’ clappin toaster, bullets will hit ya roof/ They hit his body he went in shock, no Pikachu.”

Meek’s subject bank is painfully limited. He’s readily defined by monetary braggadocio statements, badd yellow chicks, drugs, and a team of shooters ready to do dirt. There’s nothing more to his lyrics. Given that he raps to the same cadence on almost every song, any one of his verses can be substituted for another with no notable difference. It ruins the quality of songs like “Maybach Curtains” and “Lay Up,” whose star studded casts anchor the tracks.

“Lay UP” or “Maybach Curtains” could have easily replaced “Amen,” “Burn” and “Young & Getting’ It” as radio singles. The feature power of Nas, Wale, Trey Songz and John Legend easily overshadow Big Sean and Kirko Bangz given the song’s industry sound.

One underrated facet of Meek’ style rests in his storytelling ability. Regardless of point of view, Meeks knows how to phrase, and stage events in a climatic fashion. He allows listeners to visualize words. Meek continues to develop the success of his Dreamchasers “Tony Story” with the sequel “Tony Story, Pt. 2”, and relays parts of his own tribulations on “Traumatized.” He discusses personal pain and addresses the man that killed his father with eerie distaste.

“Hope you hear me, I’mma kill you n***a/ to let you know that I don’t feel you n***a/ yeah, you ripped my family apart and made my momma cry/ so when I see you n***a it’s gon’ be a homicide/ Cuz I was only a toddler, you left me traumatized.”

Overall, Meek Mills project was less than admirable. Lack of versatility, incomplete theming, and a couple of poorly executed punchlines inhibits the maximum effect of his passion and energy. Ironically, his nightmare’s makes the album worth listening to, and his dreams weigh the project down with their ubiquitous placing. A listener can sleep on this Dreams and Nightmares project and not have missed much.

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Kendrick Lamar – Good Kid m.A.A.d City

Kendrick Lamar – Good Kid m.A.A.d City

Royal T rating: 9.5 Crowns

Kendrick Lamar tackles many objectives simultaneously on Good Kid, m.A.A.d City (GKMC). The project lands just short of flawless as it narrates a story filled with religious undertones, social consciousness, and the everlasting dilemma of a good kid confined in a hectic atmosphere. It’s a true boy-to-man tale from an honest, unfiltered first person point of view that’s raw and unapologetic.

GKMC’s strength rests in K. Dot’s effortless storytelling ability. His topics appear limited to drugs and struggle but it’s necessary to properly display poverty. He goes back to the root of hip-hop by painting pictures people can relate to even if they weren’t raised in the hood. His words put you in the moment and invoke images similar to the movies Boyz N the Hood and Menace II Society. He opens up and makes himself completely vulnerable hoping to benefit others with enlightenment.

“The Art of Peer Pressure” is one of the songs that does this best. Kendrick explains how he and friends committed a home invasion and nearly caught his first legal offense. He also draws parallels that explicitly point to differences in character when he’s “with the homies,” whether it’s acting violently or doing drugs.

Not only was he telling stories in songs, but the skits at the end of each track reiterates what may be missed in lyrics. They add cinematic substance and capture scenarios that the lyrics can’t because of the role that others play. Skits are equally important as lyrics because their stream of consciousness solidifies GKMC’s orderless story.

Kendrick’s mom’s van

K. Dot excels with his ability to incorporate just enough commercial value to engage new fans on songs like “B***h, Don’t Kill My Vibe” and “Swimming Pools/ Drank,” but it’s his desire to be different that sets him apart. He chooses not to over-ball and questions the perpetuation of raps common themes on “Real.”

“Should I hate them for telling me ball out?/ Should I hate street credibility I’m talking bout/ Hating on money, power, respect and my will/ Or hate the fact that none of that s**t make me real?”

The last song is the only wild card because it doesn’t fit the album’s theme and draws an anticlimactic ending. Since the song is titled “Compton” he could have used that to further the metaphor of a mad city. “Backseat Freestyle” is marginal because its redundancy and shallow thought contradict K. Dot’s goal, yet it does add context to what one of his skits describes. Other than that the album is lyrically advanced and thematically cohesive. Even the album artwork enhances the story.

“Good Kid” and “m.A.A.d City’s” back to back juxtaposition works extremely well in tandem. The positive and hopeful message on “Good Kid” is completely undone by deathly chaos and K. Dots fluctuating mental stability prompted by Angeldust on “m.A.A.d City.” These songs accurately summarize GKMC’s objective and are appropriately titled.

K. Dot fights the trend of loading his album with bombastic beats. Instead, he chooses beats that mold to the vibe of a given story. Seamless production and studio effects add integrity to songs like the extended portion “Swimming Pools” and “m.A.A.d City.” The relaxed, passion infused aura sampled from Janet Jackson’s “Poetic Justice” also deserves honorable mention.

GKMC’s numerous strengths greatly outnumber the few weaknesses. Bars filled with balling and badd chicks quickly fade, but the value of quality storytelling doesn’t, and for that reason Kendrick Lamar’s debut album will be revered in the heart of many as a classic.

2 Chainz – Based on a T.R.U. Story

Based On a T.R.U. Story album artwork

2 Chainz released his highly anticipated debut solo project, Based on a T.R.U. Story, as a G.O.O.D. Music member. This album succeeds his previous mixtape, T.R.U. Realigion, which garnered huge buzz and propelled 2 Chainz into rap’s spotlight. Since then, he has become a feature animal appearing on many major artists’ singles, mixtapes and albums.

Many wonder how 2 Chainz became relevant in rap. He may not have content that fans require from a lyricist, but the answer is pretty simple. He just doesn’t care! 2 Chainz’ delivery is more comical, bolder and more reckless than any rapper out, as seen on the brief intermission on “Yuck!”. He isn’t afraid to take a chance with his bars. Regardless of whether his punch lines register a direct hit, he delivers each line with confidence, style and vitality. If his energy doesn’t enhance punch lines, his adlibs definitely will. 2 Chainz’ “truuu,” “yeaaaauuhh” and “word” are commonly duplicated in speech amongst hip-hop fans.

The question he poses on the album’s second single, “Birthday Song,” is completely fitting.

“They ask me what I do and who I do it for/ and how it come up with this s**t up in the studio?”

Not only does that question allude to his recent success, but it also provides an example of the style and confidence previously stated. After all, he did rhyme “do it for” with “studio”, which at best could classify as a slant rhyme. 2 Chainz fearlessly stretches words, mispronounces them, and uses his southern dialect to appropriate rhyme scheme, as displayed on “Crack.”

2 Chainz even displayed boldness by stepping out of his bass heavy, southern, comfort zone. The song “I’m Different,” produced by DJ Mustard, takes a trip to the west coast and brings the jerky, groove style that has surged to the forefront of California music. Like the name of his song, “No Lie,” 2 Chainz is different, and very different at that. There isn’t another rapper that could say some of the oulandish things 2 Chainz does and maintain respect as a hit-maker.

“Extremely Blessed” highlights where 2 Chainz difference displays weakness. This smooth song features The Dream and directs attention to beautiful girls with banging bodies that guys would consider extremely blessed. 2 Chainz’ flow needs to be ratcheted down to parallel the song.

He may not have a smooth flow in his repertoire, but he did display a relaxed delivery on the track “Stop Me Now.” 2 Chainz successfully dialed down intensity while maintaining style and matching the sound of this more subtle, ol’ school sounding song.

“In Town,” featuring Mike Posner, fills the role of a sleeper track. As track 11 out of 13, it’s disguised in the back end of the album where average tracks tend to dwell. Once again 2 Chainz effectively allowed the instrumentation and tone emitted by Posner to dictate his energy level. This song has single potential.

Based on T.R.U. Story, definitely highlights all of 2 Chainz strong points. His hooks are catchy, he places adlibs in appropriate places, and he consistently delivered the erratic style that his fans have grown accustomed to. Although 2 Chainz constantly talks about Louis Vuitton/True Religion, big booty girls, and foreign cars, the albums’ sound displays an increased bit of versatility, which will be necessary for 2 Chainz to remain relevant as his solo career progresses.

The album also has well balanced feature selections: Lil Wayne, Drake, Kanye West, Nicki Minaj, The Dream, Mike Posner, John Legend and Playaz Circle’s Dollar Boy all make appearances.

Beat productions follow suit with contributions from: Drumma Boy, Mike Will, Bangladesh, Sonny Digital, Streetrunner, and Southside.

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Dom Kennedy – Yellow Album

Dom Kennedy embodies stylistic qualities often associated with West Coast rap, most notably, a nonchalant demeanor and flow pattern. Kennedy displays how he rose to prominence rapping in California with the Yellow Album.

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The Yellow Album’s overall sound takes root in west coast beats that promotes it’s listeners to bob their head to simple, yet composed basslines as a dulled snare maintains rhythm. Kennedy has found a niche in delivering lines, followed by a one second pause or “uh” before he delivers the next bar. Often times he repeats the line before progressing to his next rhyme. “So Elastic,” “Gold Alphinas,” “5.0/Conversations” and “P + H,” concisely summarize how Kennedy plans to assert his identity in the rap game.

Yet, the mixtape offers more than slow, relaxing tracks for cocktail sipping as you unwind and close the night of partying. His tracks “Girls on Stage,” “1:25,” and “PG Click” quickened tempos forced Kennedy to show more rap versatility. In comparison to other tracks, his style becomes more fluid and greatly

contrasts his signature, segmented bar after bar delivery. By matching the
Nevertheless, Kennedy speckles wit and clever lines sporadically throughout the Yellow Album. Some of his lines generate laughs or resonate for a few seconds as the elaborate metaphor registers and sinks in.pace of the beat Kennedy transitions smoothly from one line to the next without the aid of a pause or unnecessary adlib. Kennedy needs more tracks like this!

One of the most impressive facets of the mixtape actually rests in what’s absent. Normally rappers overload songs

with references of blasting guns, violence, and endless boastful lines asserting their superiority to assumed haters, but it seems like Kennedy refused to do so. Instead he simply depicts his life as something enjoyable as he reaps the spoils of approaching stardom in rap.

Overall, the Yellow Album’s uniqueness plays a key role generating a favorable review.  Although Kennedy opts
to rap with a pause after many of his lines and it sometimes comes across as elementary, stylistically he’s developing a lane that will make him readily identifiable on tracks. Additionally, the minimal amount of violent bars is something rap can really use. It’s refreshing to hear bars that neglect an over utilized component of rap.  Kennedy’s beat selection is equally impressive. His variety of beats tap into moods of excitement and relaxation, which makes his music more relatable.

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Tabi Bonney – The Endless Summer

There are more things to love than hate about Tabi Bonney’s fourth, and most recent mixtape, The Endless Summer.

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Bonney gains instant momentum and credibility as a rapper by asserting a style that runs unparralled to any major artist. Instead of hopping on machine synthesized, trunk pounding bass lines, Bonney chooses more mellow and relaxing beats with genuine instrumentation from bass guitars and a variety of other instruments. This bodes well for the mixtape because his beat selections enhance the title of his work, The Endless Summer. Many of his songs have a Caribbean summer’s tropical, laid back and relaxing feel coupled with bars that bring endless heat.

Bonney’s style is what’s most impressive about the mixtape. Apart from the fact that he possesses a voice similar to old-school rapper Slick Rick, Bonney proceeds to narrate situations with thorough topical verses that consistently use both internal and end rhyme. Unlike many current rappers who recklessly oscillate between topics, Bonney sticks to the concept of each track by developing his analogies with diverse, witty wordplay in each verse. His songs “Senior Year,” “Hang Glide,” and “Parachute” provide excellent examples.

“I don’t need that attention/your girlfriend like no he didn’t/I don’t need no Martin Lawrence and Pamela rendition/but anyways we can kick it, just no real commitment/and I hope you’re in shape if you plan on goin’ the distance,” he flows in his track “Parachute.”

Yet, high praise sometimes warrants criticism. Bonney should work on different delivery methods. He has capacity to become more versatile with how he raps. His flow pattern could use more vocal variation, which would add character and individuality to his thematic tracks.

Overall, Tabi Bonney gains points for style, instrumentation, content, and bar structure. He loses points for conceptual redundancy, (tracks “Parachute” and “Hang Glide”) lack of flow variation, and the evident fact that he still has plenty of room to grow as an artist.

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