Since American hip-hop label Dreamville Records was founded in 2007, its collection of artists has expanded into a tight-knit group with their own varying levels of talent. Consisting of founder J. Cole, Omen, Bas, Cozz, Lute, Ari Lennox, J.I.D. and EarthGang, Dreamville announced in early January that a 10-day recording session had commenced for the label’s third compilation album and many artists would have a hand in its creation. After months of details slowly being revealed regarding the sheer amount of guests on the project, the compilation was released on July 5.
Being a compilation album, the flow of each song, theming and a consistent sound aren’t to be prioritized. This project is a collection of songs recorded over a 10-day studio camp Dreamville orchestrated, where it invited the guest artists to the studio to add their contributions. That being said, “Revenge of the Dreamers III” will most likely offer something of worth to the vast majority of hip-hop fans due to the tracklist’s variety.
This one hour and four minute album kicks off with the track, “Under The Sun.” The quality of this song is a good indicator of what’s to come. A sample comes in the form of the 1963 song, “If You Miss Me From the Back of The Bus” by Pete Seeger. Samples like this are utilized on a fair amount of tracks on the project. A surprise in the form of a Kendrick Lamar feature appears in the chorus, but his vocal delivery and brief appearance make the contribution disappointing overall. The combination of J. Cole, Lute and DaBaby on a song is unexpected but goes over well in the end considering they all deliver good flows that complement the beat well.
Songs on “Revenge of the Dreamers III” come in a few forms: a rap song that combines elements of jazz and drums on its production, an off-the-wall and trap-influenced banger or a forlorn R&B ballad that’s somewhat forgettable. Dreamville’s roster all flex their best qualities on the songs, such as J.I.D.’s lightning-fast flow on “Down Bad” and Bas’s melodic and lyrically-rich rapping on “Don’t Hit Me Right Now,” but they’re not always consistent with their quality. Their weaknesses shine when they rear their heads, such as Ari Lennox’s less-than perfect vocal delivery and range on songs like “Self Love.”
The best parts of this project come as a result of the artists letting loose creatively and stepping out of their comfort zone to deliver a truly wild rap performance. “Down Bad”’s production is well-mixed and offers a unique and enjoyable flow from each artist that works perfectly with the beat. “Wells Fargo” is by far the most entertaining song on the project with its insane production and eccentric vocal performances — namely from EarthGang and Guapdad 4000 — that make it a banger.
“Costa Rica” is a standout song in the tracklist mainly due to its unexpected guests. Soundcloud rappers Ski Mask the Slump God and Smokepurpp bring their bizarre flows and delivery to the song, which adds to its identity. Along with its Latin-influenced production, it’s sure to catch the listener’s ear.
While there are a fair amount of bright moments on this album, the forgettable and downright mediocre performances can’t be ignored. J. Cole’s lyricism hasn’t gotten much better as a whole, with cringe-worthy lines such as, “I wanna be your lover, your best friend, your Batman, Spider-Man” making occasional appearances. “Oh Wow...Swerve” is a prime example of insufferably repetitive beat choices that border on ear-grating and unappealing. With tracks like this sprinkled into the tracklist, it’s difficult to listen through the entire project without wanting to hit the skip button a few times.
Many compilation albums require the listener to dig through the tracklist to piece together their favorite songs and form their own version of an enjoyable project, and “Revenge of the Dreamers III” is no different. High points and substandard moments come together to form an album that’s, quality-wise, scattered. The enjoyment hinges on how much the listener is willing to search for the high points and disregard the poor parts.
Contact Julian Denizard at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more on the culture, arts and lifestyle of the JMU and Harrisonburg communities, follow the culture desk on Twitter @Breeze_Culture.