Album Review: Big Baby D.R.A.M.WonkeyDude98 Mini-Description: In my twenty-third album review, I get myself scathed in the wild madness of D.R.A.M.'s debut album -- and I kinda love it!
Best Songs: "Cute", "100%", "WiFi" ft. Erykah Badu, "Misunderstood" ft. Young Thug, "Password", "Change My Number", "In A Minute/In House", "Cash Machine", "Outta Sight/Dark Lavender"
Worst Song: "Broccoli" ft. Lil Yachty
I don't care about the border between mainstream and the rest of the world: in 2016, hip-hop was a complete heap.
In 2015, there were hip-hop veterans and even some new acts who delivered a ton of awesome albums. B. Dolan, Kendrick Lamar, Lupe Fiasco, Doomtree, Ludacris, Death Grips, Run The Jewels (I don't care what anyone says Meow The Jewels is amazing), Dr. Dre, and Uncommon Nasa all dropped stellar albums deserving of acclaim. 2016 hasn't exactly brought that in the same way.
I'll give credit where it's due: I've definitely really liked the albums from anderson.paak, Death Grips, Kendrick Lamar, Aesop Rock, and Open Mike Eagle, and the new Run The Jewels album is still left, but...that's a short list. The day before Halloween as I write this.
That's just the lesser known: the mainstream is at a rock bottom. Say what you want about the 2000s, at least they brought a lot more opulence, volume, groove, and energy to their production! For the most part, it's a bad sign when a Future ripoff (Desiigner, not discrediting him) and Young Thug are better than the majority of all popular rap. I mean, we're expecting to deal with Young M.A., Amine, Lil Uzi Vert, Kodak Black, and Rae Sremmurd for the rest of the year? Yikes.
But there's always that one bright spot, and that's been with up-and-coming MC D.R.A.M., who got success as massive as himself (I'm sorry) with his breakout single Broccoli, which I thought was pretty decent. D.R.A.M. brought a lot of energy and charisma to his chorus and bars, with an elastic flow that made real skill look easy, and some of the best, brightest production in hip-hop that charted within this year. But yeah, there's no way around the fact that Lil Yachty completely ruined that song, but it's still enjoyable in its own right.
With that, you can tell I was looking forward to this, and it's not like we're getting much better at the tail-end for one of the worst years in popular music, so what did we get from Big Baby D.R.A.M.?
Well, in a way, exactly what I expected. While this isn't quite one of the best albums of this year, it's certainly great, and, for about maybe the third time I can say something like this in 2016, Big Baby D.R.A.M. was a ton of fun.
And to see that, you need look no further than our frontman himself. The album cover (puppies!1!!1!11!1!1!) describes his persona perfectly: a giant, plushy, huggable, adorable ball of fuzz. His vocal style is very hard to pinpoint exactly; the closest I can think of is Fetty Wap (the bright spot of 2015), but in this regard, D.R.A.M. just slaughters him because he doesn't need an excess of autotuned warbling to be cutesy and bubbly. His rapping in his lower range is already pretty solid bringing a bouncy, slippery flow that ricochets off anything, but what really grips me is his singing. For a mainstream rapper, his high-range singing is meaty, naturally vibrant, and incredibly soulful (maybe even beating out Adele and Sia in this manner), and it helps when he adds on the incredible multitracking. He somehow makes all of this skill look so easy. It helps that he has a ton of predominant charisma and wit that he always brings even at the most shallow of this album.
That's why a lot of the guest stars really work for me. I didn't know it was possible to have good interplay within rapping in the mainstream, but Young Thug actually plays off D.R.A.M. pretty fantastically on Misunderstood, having a lot of the same eccentric, rubbery flow to him, and he actually stays on topic. As someone who, for the most part, despises Young Thug, that's a big plus. But the big surprise for me was Erykah Badu on Wi-Fi. I already knew from the first few songs that D.R.A.M. had quite the voice, but Badu manages to give him a run for his money by making the song just cheesy enough to be lovable from both of them.
That's also the reason why Broccoli is the worst song on this album, mainly because other than Mace In 97, Lil Yachty can't do anything right. Not only is he not as energetic or bright a rapper as D.R.A.M., he isn't even as good on a technical level, with his flubbed rhymes and rigid flow proof of a newbie. That's ignoring him talking about turning the club to Columbine (uhhhhh... WHAT?!?!?!?!?) and an incredibly awkward reference to Fifty Shades of Grey and Hulk Hogan. If only there was a version without him, because then no song on this album would be less than good, which is a shame.
Lil Yachty is also a perfect parallel showing why the instrumentation and production on this album is gorgeous. This is less of a trap album and leans more towards funk and soul, and it's awesome. While this does contain trap elements, unlike most trap, it's nowhere near dark or colorless. There's songs for bumping to, there's songs for chilling out, and then there are songs to just gaze at and adore their beauty. In the lattermost category, we have probably the best song here Misunderstood which has a piano line that continually splits and merges continuously throughout the song, and builds up to some truly awesome guitar crescendos.
And speaking of piano, D.R.A.M. really does know how to give them a lot of universal energy, and they're surprisingly complex on a compositional level, like on In House, 100%, Cash Machine, Dark Lavender, Password, and especially Broccoli.
And it's not just the piano, everything here is great on an instrumental level. The two-part liquified soul guitars on Monticello Avenue and WiFi that returns on Change My Number, the dirty bass wallop and the playful electric flute (one thing I can congratulate Yachty for) on Broccoli, the beautiful organ and string swells on Sweet Virginia Breeze, the insane hip-house groove on Outta Sight, the cushion of electric organs on Cute (song could have been way better without the airhorn though), the springing layers of synth on Get It Myself, and the thumping grit of Workaholic all build to a very fun, bright experience universally.
And now we need to get to lyrics, which would normally be where an album like this falls apart, but rather this album tries to stand on its two hands because its legs were cut off. Mostly, it reflects the tone of the sound very well. There are so many ridiculous moments that would be awful without a livelier performer. Prime example is Cute, where D.R.A.M. falls in love with a girl on Instagram, and then stumbles upon himself when falling head over heels for her, all the whole choosing her like a Pokemon.
Or WiFi, which despite being a cheating song, is still made lovable by the premise being mere asking for WiFi, or the simple love songs 100% and Sweet Virginia Breeze.
And then there are the songs that tell us a bit more about D.R.A.M. himself, like the self-explanatory Get It Myself and Workaholic, but especially Broccoli, where D.R.A.M. talks about being minorly annoyed at a club, before saying that all he ever wanted was every game they made on Sega, and how fame has given him an appetite for a salmon bagel on a square plate. Not details precisely substantial or impressive, but reveal D.R.A.M. as way more childish than on first glance, at least until he says that he gave himself self-esteem at age 5, but also remembered to respect other people too. That's way more intelligent and benevolent than what one would expect.
The song that really shouldn't work as well as it does is In A Minute, where D.R.A.M. talks about all sorts of semi-raunchy bravado, like getting his girl sparked like an owl or her sneezing on the penis. However, then we get to the second half In House, where he talks about his stress and how he can't even be there to do those things.
And then we get the just plain silly Password, where D.R.A.M. doesn't want a girl to guess his password and look through his pictures because of his past experiences with having done that himself, but then she ends up guessing his password: his name.
However, I'm not saying the lyrics always work. Monticello Avenue is a song where D.R.A.M. and a girl clearly have feelings for each other, but D.R.A.M. is just in it for the sex and won't call her back. Or Cash Machine, which despite still being a great song, really isn't much more than hollow bragging. Regardless, the lyrics are mostly still dopey and clumsy enough to be excused and it doesn't change how likable this album is.
I....kinda love this! It's not extraordinary or revolutionary, but in its own right is still solid and enjoyable album. D.R.A.M. shows a lot of promise in the mainstream and I'm looking forward to more, don't let me down like Fetty Wap did. For me it's a solid 8/10 and a definite recommendation. Looking for a blast? Check this out!
This is WonkeyDude98, and wow, did Kenny Chesney release an album?! Screw it, I'm doing Sufjan Stevens next, then I'll get to Old Man Chesney.
Tove Lo>>>>> Kenny Chesney
But, yeah 2nd best album cover if the year - ProPanda
Duh - WonkeyDude98
Change of plans: due to expectations for Cosmic Hallelujah, it will be pushed behind Angelic 2 The Core by Corey Feldman, which will come after Illinois. - WonkeyDude98