So, at this point in his career, it still seems like a pretty bold move for Atlanta’s B.o.B to name a mixtape Fuck Em We Ball, considering that he became such a mainstream music darling so quickly just a few short years ago with the The Adventures of Bobby Ray and last years Strange Clouds. But it also goes a long way to proving B.o.B.’s versatility: being able to go from spitting authentic ATL slang over bass heavy beats to singing harmonies and strumming guitars is no easy feat, even in today’s world of blurred and nearly non-existent lines between genres in pop music.
Fuck Em We Ball is a mixtape full of gems showing Bobby Ray at his diverse best, from the braggadocios machismo of “Champaign” to the delicate guitar licks and harmonized chorus of “Be There”. True, B.o.B. isn’t the most lyrically in depth emcee, but that doesn’t quite matter on tracks like “Fuck Em We Ball”, as B.o.B. rides the staccato filled beat to a tee, effortlessly weaving his way through the sped-up constant changes that the track presents.
Though Drake is seemingly lauded and criticized for being the pinnacle of the 21st century singer slash rapper, B.o.B. stakes his claim to the title throughout Fuck Em We Ball. Especially on the Snoop Dogg-assisted “So Blowed” Bobby shows off his signature chops by refraining from the rhymes for a moment and getting his R&B on. And joints like the aforementioned “Be There” and “Roll One Up” give B.o.B the space to do much of the same in the way of crooning.
Overall, is Fuck Em We Ball groundbreaking or mind blowing? Not by a long shot. It’s just a fun romp by a successful emcee bridging the gap between his recent pop music, VH1 Top 20 countdown accomplishments and his next full-length project. But judging from the diverse collage of good music found on this joint, fans can wait confidently for the next B.o.B. album while enjoying some of his best, most unconstrained work in a while.
Buzz and hype are at a dangerously severe all-time high in Hip Hop music. In the era of social networking overnight success, where mixtapes are more hotly anticipated than the albums they are supposed to promote, the buzz that surrounds the release of mixtapes, singles, and even album artwork, might be considered to be a bit out of control. And when the results of a proper, full-length project don’t live up to the hype machine that seems to build them up just to let them down, it’s all the more disappointing.
With Philly emcee Meek Mill, the buzz factor has been in constant overdrive since he was announced as being part of the label/music collective/crew/entourage known as Maybach Music Group, under the tutelage of everyone’s favorite C.O. turned crack rapper, Rick Ross. Along with a stable of emcees that include D.C.’s Wale and Ohio’s Stalley among others, Meek has seen his stock skyrocket and his pockets fatten with Rozay’s mentorship.
And musically, he’s released some of the most critically acclaimed and streets-approved mixtapes with his Dreamchasers and Flamers series’, as well as Mr. Philadelphia and other projects. Plus, with two of his singles in “Tupac Back” and “Amen” featuring Ross and Drake respectively, making so many waves both positive and negative, and being two of the most massively successful songs of 2012, Meek’s debut album, Dreams and Nightmares, is set up perfectly to be one of the most anticipated Hip Hop releases of the year. The problem is that all the buzz, hype and past success can’t make Dreams and Nightmares a better musical experience in it’s own right, and it ends up falling pretty flat.
The album starts out with the piano-driven yet bass heavy title track, then transitions to “In God we Trust” and “Young and Gettin’ It”, all three on which Meek sticks to his script for success thus far: semi-autobiographical street tales of slanging and selling, braggadocious rhyme stanzas about getting money and women, being dismissive of broke dudes and basically living the American Dream hood life of an up and coming rap star. Not until “Traumatized” does the listener begin to get somewhat of a glimpse into Meek’s struggles, as he details the deaths of family members that he once held so dear (“You ripped my family apart/and made my mama cry/so when I see you, nigga, it’s gonna be a homicide…”). Sadly, that’s the closest we come to getting to know who the real Meek Mill is.
The rest of Dreams and Nightmares pretty much stays in the same vein: there’s the aforementioned summer success story of “Amen” with Drizzy, “Tony Story”, a third-person account of revenge told in Meek’s trademark high-pitched wail at the end of each bar, and three songs featuring Rick Ross that also don’t stray to far from the path that Meek has created already: “Believe It”, “Maybach Curtains” and “Lay Up” with Ross, Wale and Trey Songz contributing to Meeks’ moment. Out of the three, “Maybach Curtains” is the most interesting, with a lush, grown-and-sexy soundscape that does more for the song than the actual lyrics, complete with a dramatically over-the-top yet suitable chorus by John Legend. But eventually, the rest of the album begins to veer into throwaway track mode with a series of forgettable songs like “Polo and Shell Tops” and “Real Niggas Come First”, ending on a pretty low note.
Meek Mill’s main strengths as an artist are that he knows to stay in his lane and that he feeds off of what he knows, playing it safe and sticking to the street rhyme fare that many fans seem to be craving again. And it’s served him well on his mixtape outings. But on Dreams and Nightmares, not only does Meek seem to rely to heavily on his successful mixtape formula, it also sounds like he’s already gotten a little too comfortable being part of the MMG family, realizing that the fact he’s connected to Rick Ross will translate into selling a good number of units. Though it has its moments of descent enough music, the end result of Dreams and Nightmares is an album that plays at best as lackluster and disappointing, and at worst bland and boring.
Sadly, it looks like the hype machine has claimed another victim. Hopefully Meek can get back to the basics of what made him so good on the mixtape circuit on his next project.