Philadelphia’s Meek Mill has gained a devoted following via his mixtapes and guest verses over the past couple of years. His buzz extended from the streets to the rap blogs to the mainstream rap press and culminated in a record deal with the Rick Ross-led behemoth Maybach Music Group. But it remained to be seen whether Meek Mill could maintain his own identity or if signing with MMG would result in music that sounded exactly like his labelmates’ material.
Unfortunately, too many of the 14 songs on “Dreams and Nightmares” bleed into each other. Standouts like “Traumatized,” “Maybach Curtains,” “Young Kings” and “Tony Story Pt. 2” are the few tracks that allow the listener to suspend belief and focus on Meek’s strengths — his ability to paint pictures with lyrics, punctuated by his high-energy delivery. When Meek is forced to go away from his natural Philly-influenced street delivery and make MMG-style, club-centric speedboat music, he instantly becomes a mediocre, dime-a-dozen scream rapper yelling bars over repetitive trap beats.
Another problem with this album is the production. The standout songs previously mentioned are also the lone ‘change of pace’ tracks on “Dreams and Nightmares.” Whether the producer is Rightrydas Productions, Jahlil Beats or Cardiak, the beats sound like carbon copies of one another — and of previous MMG releases. Producer Boi-1da turns out to be one of the record’s shining stars by default, since he produced two of its four best songs.
“Dreams and Nightmares” essentially sounds like a rehash of previous Rick Ross, Wale, Stalley and Gunplay material, down to its thematic choices. This is especially disappointing considering that Meek Mill could’ve potentially added a new introspective, lyrical but still aggressive voice to Maybach Music and widened its appeal. Unfortunately, Meek Mill’s Philly sound was drowned out by repetitive production, predictable club bangers, tired themes and an overall lack of imagination.
Ultimately, “Dreams and Nightmares” is more of a nightmare than a dream, even with high-profile guest appearances from Nas, Mary J. Blige, Rick Ross, Drake, John Legend and Trey Songz. While there are flashes of brilliance, Meek Mill’s album was undone by the fact that his label and handlers tried to make him fit into their already-established aesthetic rather than letting his uniqueness shine. In the end, there was too much Maybach Music and not enough Meek Mill. Once again, the music industry’s bottom line trumped any real musical creativity.