Meek Mill, ‘Dreams Worth More Than Money’ [ALBUM REVIEW]
Album of the year debates are always an entertaining conversation and the best part about them may be the predictions made in anticipation of a hot release. One darkhorse in the race for best rap album of the year is Maybach Music Group's own Meek Mill.
Signing with Rick Ross' MMG imprint in 2011, Meek dropped his debut album, Dreams and Nightmares, in 2012, earning a No. 2 on the Billboard 200 chart. The project stamped him as a budding star with a knack for making hit records. While the album was well-received by critics and fans alike, it was more successful due to the sum of its parts rather than the whole, leading some critics to knock it down a few notches in comparison to more cohesive works by peers like Kendrick Lamar, Drake and J. Cole.
After being derailed from working on his follow-up LP due to a parole violation that landed the rapper in jail, Meek was released after serving five months and resumed work on his sophomore album, Dreams Worth More Than Money. The result: one of the more intriguing LPs of 2015.
Featuring a star-studded lineup of guest talent and producers, Dreams Worth More Than Money looks like a blockbuster release on paper. Being that his classic "Intro" from Dreams and Nightmares was the album's most memorable moment, the opener on Dreams Worth More Than Money had to live up to its predecessor. However, "Lord Knows," featuring the plodding vocals of newcomer Tory Lanez and Meek reflecting on his incarceration over a sample of Mozart’s “Requiem in D Minor,” is a solid opener but fails to live up to the expectations and falls a bit short.
Listen to Meek Mill's "Lord Knows" Feat. Tory Lanez
While the journey starts off a bit rocky, Meek quickly steadies the ship with the spicy Swizz Beatz-assisted number "Classic," which may bring to mind the Clipse and Cam'ron's collaboration, "Popular Demand (Popeyes)" sonically, but is far from a jack. Differing from anything he's rapped on to date, "Classic" finds the Philly spitfire talking heavy over obnoxious boom-bap, nimble piano keys and ad-libs courtesy of Swizz and R&B crooner Jeremih, which compliments Meek's braggadocious slick talk.
Future makes an appearance on "Jump Out the Face," and waxes poetic on cars, gaudy jewelry and vices before Meek connects with his significant other, Nicki Minaj, as well as Chris Brown on "All Eyes on You." The two love birds exchange lyrical vows and pledge their allegiance to each other, but the song isn't a far cry from previous Omeeka tracks like "Buy a Heart." She also shows up on "Bad For You," this time sticking to the hook while he hints at the fact their union was more serious than they may have initially let on.
Meek continues looking inward on "The Trillest," displaying more depth that was missing from his debut album. "And yeah, I've been losin' touch with my family, it ain't the same / I should've gave my sister some money, but I made it rain / I should've hit the crib with my son and played a game / But instead I ended up at the jeweler to make a chain," he raps.
Listen to Meek Mill's "The Trillest"
He reunites with Drake on the much ballyhooed "R.I.C.O.," which disappoints given it features two of the hottest artists in the game at the moment and could have amounted to so much more. On the Boi-1da-produced "Ambitionz," he mines from the catalog of 2Pac, which could be viewed as a cheap move, but the MC pulls off the flip admirably, opting to pay homage in spirit rather than imitation. This is certainly one of the more potent offerings on the album. Things get more interesting on "Pullin' Up," which features the Weeknd and a boastful Meek seemingly taking shots at Minaj's ex-boyfriend, Safaree Samuels: "Soon as he slippin, I’m making you mine."
A Meek Mill album wouldn't be complete without a helping hand from mentor Rick Ross, which finds him on the eventful "I Been." The track benefits from a hard-boiled soundbed courtesy of producers OZ and SykSense and Meek and Ross' deliver solid verbal volleys. However, Ross outshines his underling. The album reaches its climax on the Danja-produced heater, "Stand Up," with Meek going for a triple double with a barrage of swift bars over the superb soundscape from the former Timbaland understudy.
In contrast with its intro cut, Dreams Worth More Than Money ends on a magnificent note via the Diddy-assisted offering, "Cold Hearted." Meek gets introspective over the solemn production, baring his soul on the track. He's more than capable of delivering heartfelt recollections of the street life in addition to his sometimes cliche topics on record.
Dreams Worth More Than Money is an upgrade from the rapper's debut LP and is devoid of any outright clunkers that get the skip-button treatment. The project, though packed with solid songs from top to bottom and a cohesive effort, ultimately features the same old Meek as far as subject matter goes. Many of the songs sound like rehashed versions of the material heard on Dreams and Nightmares and the endless loosies released over the past few years.
With all of the momentum an artist could ask for and the attention of hip-hop populists, Meek Mill had the chance to deliver a street classic in the vein of what a Jeezy's Let's Get It: Thug Motivation 101 meets Beanie Sigel's The B. Coming would sound like. Instead, he created Dreams and Nightmares on steroids with a few more bells and whistles. That's not a bad creation, but he just misses the mark in terms of crafting a truly great opus.
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