May 22, 2012

Jonah Bromwich dreams of electric Meek.

Between the Killer Mike and Ab-Soul albums, I’ve been on black radical sabbatical, but I’m returning to the mainstream for a moment — a shift from fiery personalities/righteous anger/interesting albums to the distinctly un-radical new mixtape of Messr. Meekus Mill.

Dreamchasers 2 isn’t half bad. Whenever Mill is spotted a colossal beat, say like the one on “Burn,” his collaboration with Big Sean, or the awesomely hyper “Flexin’” or the Fugees sampling “Ready Or Not” or the remix of “House Party,” he comes through with digestible rhymes, riding the beat and griping about disloyalty and new cars and turning heads and the like. He gives the agreeable impression of a man who is unsurprised to find himself suddenly rich and in the company of hyper-sexual pop divas—even on the songs that reflect on the “ashy” part of ashy to classy, Meek Mill starts out by making money.

What’s more, Meek can rap. He’s got a thin, loud voice and can ride each beat he’s handed here, never falling behind or sounding outmatched by any of his competitors as far as technical ability goes. In recent years, we’ve faced down a glut of rappers like Gucci Mane and Lil B with outsized personalities and minimal traditional skill. Mill is the opposite: nice rapping but a black hole where his character should be. Even on superficially good songs like “Flexin,’” he takes pleasure in the corniest of lines like “If you ain’t talkin about money than you aint got no sense” or “I don’t chase no bitches, I just chase my dreams, we ride around so dirty in this whip that’s so clean.” He has a nice, overflowing pot of clichés to reach into (rap is like cooking crack, he’s stunting and everyone’s hating) and no sense of subtlety whatsoever. See “Everyday” when Meek punctuates “I make a hater want to kill himself” with “#suicide.”  Even for hashtag rap, that’s just idiotic.

So it’s never really surprising when a guest steals the spotlight with a little charisma, as Kendrick does effortlessly, with just his voice and a Jerome Bettis punchline on the otherwise empty “A1 Everything.” Big Sean owns “Burn” by virtue of his views on how anyone who graduates high school should be rewarded and even Wale manages to resemble a shade of his former self on “Take U Home.” By my reckoning, Meek manages to be interesting on exactly one song on DC2, the startlingly soulful “The Ride” on which he defends himself to the local DA.

But for the most part, things remain boring — never more so than on “Use To Be” the chorus of which is probably meant to be poetic but ends up completely nonsensical, and verses that could evoke some pathos end up sounding like what people who don’t listen to rap think rappers are all about. The conviction in Meek’s voice goes a long way in selling a song, but these aren’t tracks that stand up to scrutiny. And they’re not meant to.

DC2 is an MMG product, and it delivers on the MMG brand promise. Rosenberg is right: Rozay owns rap right now, and everything with his stamp of Rawseproval is going to be accepted by the masses, crash the datpiff server and rack up numbers for middling henchmen. And even your snarky reviewer, when hearing the best of these songs in their natural environment, the middle of a DJ set, is going to abandon his support of the finer things in lyricism and chant along. On MMG, interesting lyrics and interesting rappers are, for the most part, beside the point. The point is wiling out, and Dreamchasers 2, despite its many shortcomings, has the songs that it takes to make you do so.

ZIP: Meek Mill – Dreamchasers 2 (Left-Click)

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