Will Hagle quit eating Chicago dogs in summertime ’06.
Dreezy is a 22-year-old rapper-slash-singer from 81st street, operating on the fringes of the music scenes that’ve surrounded her growing up in the Chicago. Elements of all the South Side’s hip-hop stars—from Common and Kanye to more contemporary drill artists—are detectable in her music. Her debut studio album, No Hard Feelings, was released on July 15 via Interscope Records. She may be the most well-rounded, fully formed embodiment of everything great about Chicago hip-hop.
No Hard Feelings falls into many of the traps that major labels keep setting for themselves. There’s a loose narrative structure about old and new suitors that plays out over a series of skits, culminating in one called, “Sean vs. Jamal.” The album is maybe too long. It definitely drags towards the end if you listen straight through, losing the energy of a front-end track list that begins with the “Wake Da Fuck Up Intro.” The lead single, “Body,” is straightforward pop R&B. Its Jeremih feature feels like it could’ve sprung from an organic collaboration between like-minded Chicago singers, but it also reeks of Schoolboy Q “Overtime”-style label construction.
Straightforward pop R&B, however, is kind of just what Dreezy does. Or at least it’s what she does when she’s not rapping. Though her talents expand to both realms, she rarely meshes the two on the same track. Some songs, like “Body,” are sung throughout. Others, like “Spazz,” are indifferent to melody.
Her 2014 mixtape was entitled Schizo, and almost-title track “Schizophrenia” hints at the meaning behind that name with lyrics about “anger, depression, frustration, isolation, [and] deception.” But it could just as easily speak to her ability of seamlessly switching between the two forms. She sings the chorus of “Body”—“I’m about to catch a body in here, baby”—with none of the “I’m going to kill someone” subtext those words might usually imply. But the turn of phrase has undertones of subtle menace that might slip past those unfamiliar with the more aggressive aspects of her catalogue. Therein lies her attraction: she’s simultaneously sweet and street. And a split personality, when both ends are operating at the same level, can appeal to everyone. The polished nature of this LP indicates that Dreezy is pining for such mass appeal—no sale of soul necessary.
Even as Chicago’s scene flourishes locally, few besides ‘Ye and Chance have been able to make a consistent impact on a widespread, mainstream level. At the risk of discrediting the Jamila Woods and Joey Purps of the city that have helped make the scene so great, Dreezy might have the highest potential to achieve where many others have faltered. She alone possesses the level of versatility, likeability, and major label support capable of rivaling or even exceeding Chance.
Because the world is more Milo Yiannopoulos than Justin Trudeau, and we can’t reboot Ghostbusters or elect a president without the scum of the earth pushing against us, it would be remiss of me not to mention Dreezy’s gender. She is, obviously, a woman. That shouldn’t, obviously, matter. But it makes sense that she’s had to duck comparisons to Dej Loaf, who joins her on “Serena,” from her EP From Now On, which was produced entirely by Metro Boomin & Southside. It makes sense she’s been linked to Nicki Minaj, whose “Chiraq” she remixed to attain viral fame.
The best tracks on No Hard Feelings, though, prove that Dreezy deserves to be mentioned alongside rappers—women, men, Chicago exports or otherwise—of every tier. “We Gon Ride,” which features Gucci Mane, surpasses 2Chainz’s “Dedication” in the “seemingly random songs about friends” department. “Wasted” is “Marvin’s Room” with a pulse. “Spazz,” if you have a pulse, is impossible to get out of regular rotation.
There are too many middling tracks on No Hard Feelings for it to fully push her over the edge, but even those have their high points. “Worth It” is better than Fifth Harmony’s but not quite as good as Young Thug’s. The Terrace Martin production of “Afford My Love” accentuates the best aspects of Dreezy’s voice, even if a Wale feature clogs up the latter half.
The main thing that elevates even the album’s lesser tracks is Dreezy’s irresistible likability. She sounds wholeheartedly authentic, whether she’s serenading through songs or spazzing out with a crushing flow. No Hard Feelings helps, but it wont be easy for Dreezy to establish a place for herself in an industry that so often compartmentalizes artists and genres (especially those from Chicago). She’s a little too much of everything, even though that also makes her her own thing. But the most promising artists are the ones that can only be compared to others in terms of talent, but never to anyone else in terms of style. That’s Dreezy.