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Dreamville – D Day, Album Review

Dreamville and DJ Drama join forces and bring back the feel of the iconic Gangsta Grillz mixtapes.

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Coming off the major steam of their well-received compilation record: Revenge of The Dreamers III, which dropped back in July of 2021, one of hip-hop’s most formidable alliances come together once again to reaffirm their reign on today’s sprawling Hip-Hop landscape with “D Day”. While many of their contemporaries have notoriously fallen out of the frame of mainstream Hip-Hop, some which include TDE, A$AP Mob, and Brockhampton, Dreamville has been adamant about making it known that they are on a united front all with one single goal in mind: to thrive for the long run.

Replete with their homebase league of some of today’s brightest stars in contemporary music: J.Cole, J.I.D., EARTHGANG, Cozz, Lute, Bas, Ari Lennox and Omen, the eclectic collective teams up with legendary DJ Drama to revitalize the glory and nostalgia of his iconic Gangsta Grillz mixtape series. Known for Drama’s awe-inspiring and oftentimes humor-infused ad-libs, the series is chiefly responsible for bolstering the catalog of some of the hottest artists amid the early 00s: Lil’ Wayne, T.I., Chris Brown, Jeezy, Pharrell, Fabulous, Meek Mill and much more. Given its unparalleled reception, it’s a figment of Hip-Hop lore that will always be remembered for cementing a lasting imprint on the culture.

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With their annual Dreamville festival being two days after the release of “D-Day,” the timing of this drop couldn’t be any more opportune in theory. However when it comes to matters of reality, the timely nature of its release doesn’t salvage the spotty and tepid nature of its quality.Although there are sprinkles of bright spots across the record, the impromptu posse project fails to live up to the high expectations Dreamville has set over the course of its stronghold on the game, akin to, the pristine legacy of DJ Drama’s beloved Gangsta Grillz panoply.

While many of its artists, including head huncho J.Cole, have established a proven track record of producing quality music shrouded in poise and intention, the delivery of this project comes off as directionless with evident lack of purpose across the board.The record’s opening track: “Stick” kicks things off on an explosive note with high-octane instrumentation and frenetic energy straight out the gate from Kenny Mason and J.I.D. After taking a considerable hiatus, Harlem’s own Sheck Wes returns on this track duplicating the same vivacity and vibe from his breakout track: Mo Bamba, which dropped back in 2017. Out of all the verses Cole delivers on this record, this one is arguably, his most lazily delivered and the least memorable.

On a much brighter note, less commercially salient members Lute, Omen and Cozz maximize their verses on the sleek, hi-tempo posse cut: “Starting 5,” putting a significant magnifying glass on how adept they actually are. If anyone were uncertain about their impact, they illuminate it here and across their respective tracks on the project. Eccentric duo EARTHGANG provide some of the brightest moments on this record with their two tracks: the groovy, head bopper “Everybody Ain’t S**t,” and lo-fi, sinister “Ghetto Gods Freestyle.” Members Olu and WowGr8 truly tap into their versatility, illustrating that they are legit lyricists who can hang with anyone in the industry.

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O.G. Dreamville crew member J.I.D. spearheads his own clinic with some fierce, ever-poignant lyrics for his couple of appearances on the record: “Stick” and “Barry from Simpson.” Despite not putting out his own body of work for quite some time, the ATL-bred wordsmith fully vindicates his place as one of the supreme rhymers among the collective and evidently on D Day. Elder statesman and supreme leader of the collective J.Cole delivers a mixed showing, fluctuating between sublime and casual level rhymes. Seemingly unconcerned with critical reception, Cole utilizes his myriad cuts as practice rather than formal performance.On “Freedom of Speech,” the North Carolina Hip-Hop behemoth playfully juggles snarky, tongue-in-cheek epiphanies addressing the sense of disillusionment he has felt as a celebrity. Through his humor-infused bars, he reaffirms his penchant for the no-frills, everyday aspects of his life.

Gliding over the same instrumental as Drake’s “Pipe Down,” Cole embraces introspect on “Heaven’s EP.” which made its debut as a single prior to D-Day’s release. On the track, Cole reflects on a number of his inner meditations: the contemporary landscape of Hip-Hop, his counterparts, grappling with self-doubt, and his rarefied status within the genre and coming to terms being an “aging” rapper. On the inverse, Dreamville’s X-factor Bas evidently has been laser focused on executing his latest four track EP: “[Bump] Pick Me Up,” which dropped on April 15th, rather than providing high quality content for this project. Teaming up with fellow NYC rapper A$AP Ferg on “Lifestyle,” his single appearance feels like an unpolished replica of their previous collaboration: “Boca Raton” instead of something fresh and remarkable.

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Lone R&B artist and sole female member of the rap-dominated group Ari Lennox makes a brief appearance on the record with two mid-level cuts: “Blackberry Sap” and “Coming Down.” In lieu of any considerable effort to make a significant impact, her participation feels hollow, perfunctory and merely for the sake of being featured in any capacity.All things considered, Dreamville’s “D-Day: A Gangsta Grillz Mixtape” isn’t a bad record per se. There are noteworthy moments that exist on this project that are outstanding with areas that are worthy of adding to your rotation. On the contrary, to declare it a “great” project would be a grave misnomer. The burgeoning Hip-Hop collective missed the mark at times on here and there’s ostensible room for improvement. Perhaps, they’ll recognize their shortcomings and get it right next time.

Dreamville – D Day, Album Review
Production
8
Songwriting
5.5
Substance
5
PROS
Solid Production
Some Bright Moments
CONS
Lack Of Direction
Lackluster Lyrical Performances
Subpar Quality
6.2
MIXED

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