The first part of Meek Mill’s career was all about proving to Rick Ross that he was good enough to ride with the Bawse. The second part will be proving to the world that he doesn’t need Rick Ross to make it. After Meek’s deal with T.I.’s Grand Hustle label fell through Ross saw the same drive to succeed in the Philly native that TIP did and soon enough Meek was playing the young protégé to Wale’s established vet as part of the unstoppable Maybach Music empire. Ironically for a rapper who made his major …
DJBooth Album Review
Just how dependent on his Bawse is Meek? Is his success because of Rick Ross, or did Ross only speed up Meek Mill’s inevitable rise to the top? Is he ultimately a role player on the MMG team, or a solo star in the making? These are all questions that will start to be more firmly answered when his debut solo album Dreams & Nightmares is released this summer. But in the meantime, Meek’s dropped off a brand new mixtape (and by “mixtape” I mean “album that’s free”), Dreamchasers 2, that should provide at least some serious clues about what lies ahead for one Mr. Robert Williams.
If Meek is to become a force both in the streets and on the charts as he clearly intends he’s going to follow Ross’ formula for widespread appeal. Tupac Back was nice, but he needs something radio DJs can play during traffic jams. Take U Home is Dreamchasers 2’s most obvious bid for some attention from the proverbial ladies, going so far as to sample 1984 club hit I Wonder If I Take You Home by Lisa Lisa. The results are decent, but Meek just doesn’t sound at home on such a lightly bouncing cut, unlike his trackmates Big Sean and Wale. Take U Home is easily the album’s “softest” offering; the next closest would perhaps be Face Down, although the track’s far more aggressive and booming, and not-at-all-coincidentally much better. Ultimately, the cuts that best balance Meek’s attempts to walk the line between feeding the streets and feeding the radio are Amen, which you’d have to actively fight to not enjoy, and Burn, which Big Sean plays no small part in transforming from an outright banger to a punchline driven exercise in flow. Regardless, if there’s a breakout offering on Dreamchasers 2, one joint that MTV Jams will fall over itself to play ten times a day, I don’t hear it.
That’s not to say that Meek doesn’t have a big hit in him, I’m sure the MMG machine is hard at work making sure that happens for the album, but there’s just no disputing that Meek truly stands out on raw, uncut bangers like the darkly booming Flexing and the Bawse assisted Erryday. However, what Meek has that Ross doesn’t is an ability to delve into some serious narrative rap that feels like he truly spent time shivering on Philly’s January corners. Anyone who doubts Meek’s claim to be an emcee should be forced to listen to Use to Be, which finds him chronicling his extremely unlikely rise from inmate to rising rap star. It’s a gritty track that’s impossible to ignore, and the same goes for the aptly named Real: “I used to get high, just to get by / couldn’t deal with my reality was livin in a lie / sometimes I asked God are we living just to die?” There’s no fronting on honestly and lyricism like that, and it’s tracks like Real, Big Dreams and the Fugees inspired Ready or Not that prove Meek has the rap ability to stand on his own two.
So where does that leave us? Frankly I don’t know. If the past two years have taught us anything it’s that Ross’ MMG network has mastered the art of promotion in 2012. Couple that with Meek’s already proven track record and his very real ability and it’s hard to see him failing, but how big can the man get? Is there really a superstar inside the new generation of Philly’s finest? We’ll just have to wait and see…and play Dreamchasers 2 in the meantime.
DJBooth Rating - 3.5 Spins
Written by Nathan S. on 05/9/12
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