Making the leap from mixtape rapper to major label star is a tricky thing, but Meek Mill has succeeded with his MMG/Warner Bros. debut, Dreams and Nightmares.
In the two years and a lifetime since Mill signed with Rick Ross' Maybach Music Group, he has been perfectly positioned to carry on Philly's rap torch. He started off on the right note, logging major hits with "House Party" and "I'ma Boss." His Dreamchasers series spawned more hits and further solidified him as a legitimate contender for Rookie of the Year.
Mill deserves all the attention he's been getting. He's a bruiser rapper from the icy streets of Philadelphia. He's not as versatile as, say, Kendrick Lamar, but he's one of the most exciting new voices in rap. He was second only to A$AP Rocky on this year's "10 to Watch" list, so personal expectations for Dreams and Nightmares were reasonably high.
Like the artwork (a gold watch secured by a handcuff), the album oscillates between "Dreams" and "Nightmares." Tracks bleed over from one end to the other without any clear purpose. For instance, the braggadocios "Young and Gettin' It" gives way to the heart-wrenching "Traumatized." The best moments, however, are the ones where his dreams and nightmares crisscross. "Polo & Shell Tops," which features the line "I remember nights I used to sell rock, posted on the corner like a mailbox/First class ticket to a cell block, just to get some Polo and some shell tops," is a standout.
Mill is a confident and capable lyricist. He's a storyteller with a knack for the vivid: "Swisher in his mouth while loading his 4 pound/Feeling like he dead there ain't no remorse now/Getting high and he thinking 'bout kicking in doors now/Momma and little kids get on the floor now," he raps on "Tony Story Pt. 2." His high-pitched articulation never wavers, and neither do the glossy beats.
The music sticks to Rick Ross' production template: dense, bloated, robust. The signature MMG sound is also accounted for on songs like "Maybach Curtains," "Believe It," and "Rich & Famous." Those beats are interchangeable with anything on God Forgives, I Don't.
The effort, though impressive, is limited. Mill has what it takes to carry an album, but his mixtape sensibilities sometimes get the best of him. For every "Tony Story Pt. 2," there's a wet log clogging up his flow. "Shawty bad as my son is" is akin to the cringe-worthy lines found on those 2 Chainz mixtapes no one's heard more than once.
The point of a dream is to escape your nightmares. With Meek Mill, it's not clear he's figured out the difference, yet.Top Tracks:
- "Dreams & Nightmares"
- "Polo & Shell Tops"