It’s difficult to listen to particular veins of hip-hop when you’re not a die-hard fan. For having liked stuff like the new P.O.S. and Death Grips records, Meek Mill’s full-length debut for Maybach Music can be a jarring juxtaposition. Granted, the general idea is the same, but Meek tells a different story at times that can be just as haunting – a life on the streets where the everyday occurrences could seem like pure terror to some – while musically sounding much more akin to those sounds of rappers heard much more often on the radio waves. However, through some usually vivid imagery, occasional bragging and a handful of guest spots, Dreams and Nightmares proves to be a solid first outing.
Singles “Amen” and “Young and Gettin’ It” paint two very different pictures for this record – at least musically. And that in itself seems to be a common thought when listening to this record. While at times much of this record features piercing synths and mechanical beats, “Amen” is a fairly mellow track musically in the wake of a bubbly piano line, while “Young and Gettin’ It” has the club written all over it. If by some reason these are the first things you hear from the record – which it is by all possibilities plausible – then going through the album front to back puts these songs into an interesting position in terms of cohesion.
The piano introduction of the title track has an interesting tone as Mill spits about everything in his life in the lead-up to the track’s dark turn for a dreary melody and punching bass. Somehow this track hints at more than you’d think about where this disc will go – whether it is the trap-rap leanings of “In God We Trust” and “Believe It,” where in the latter Rick Ross does some of his strangest vocalizations I’ve heard, or the less aggressive sounds of “Who You’re Around” and “Maybach Curtains.” The issue here becomes whether or not the music of such restrained tracks can rightfully complement the intensity Meek shows lyrically through much of this record. It’s not completely off in left field, but at the same time the music and flow just don’t seem to always click together, exposing the one real flaw this disc can have at times.
Aside from that though, Dreams and Nightmares doesn’t hold back in Meek’s storytelling abilities while making some not-quite-on-point production decisions in terms of tuning in on that energy he brings to his raps. But for a first outing in terms of a commercial product, Meek Mill does enough to impress even a casual rap fan such as myself without forgetting to keep things fresh as the disc goes on.