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.
At this point, can we really say anything else about the “beef” between Rick Ross and Young Jeezy that hasn’t already been said? Yup, it happened once again at a Hip Hop awards show. Yes, there were reports that shoves and angry glances were exchanges, gunshots were fired, and eventually the media hoopla went into full swing. So truthfully, whose to blame in all of this? Is it the artists and their tendency to let ego and misunderstandings override the fact that they are at a special show that’s supposed to be celebrating Hip Hop? Is it the media which tends to over hype and sensationalize the facts of what really happened? Is it BET that has probably said and will continue to say that they have no control over any conflicts the artists have that may spill over into the taping of the show? Is it the fans that, in all honestly, feed into the circus that many times surrounds these events? Is anyone even to “blame” at all, or should we expect this from the proverbial Hip Hop Awards’ show? And if we do, what does it really say about the art and the culture THAT we do?
This past week, the 2011 BET Hip Hop Awards was watched by millions, and actually received some critical acclaim for its diversity of acts, stellar performances from the likes of Lupe Fiasco, Erykah Badu, B.o.B., Rick Ross and Big Sean, and top-notch lyrical skills in what has become the shows main draw, the cyphers (where careers can actually be made and/or broken.) And I’ve got to commend the network for the good job they did on the Awards show (even though I’m not forgiving them for the years of horrendously horri-awful programming they’ve subjected many of us to for a while.) But what I saw actually got me to thinking about a conversation I had with a fellow entertainment professional a few months ago. In talking to said person, we began discussing some of the ideas we’ve had for companies, as well as some of the music, business and music business websites we follow on a regular basis. Ultimately, the conversation turned towards the following idea: Where are the sites that dedicated to the BUSINESS side of the hip hop music industry?
Seems like a fair enough questions when you survey the landscape of music business resources. And honestly, I’m sure there are a few of them out there that may actually do a descent job of covering both the entertainment side and the business side of hip hop music. But (and this is merely one man’s personal opinion) when it comes to hip hop websites, I personally can see why someone would think that there aren’t many resources out there to turn to get a better understanding of the business of hip hop. The person I was having this conversation with ultimately said that he believed the hip hop community could benefit from a website similar to, say, Hypebot, Artisthouse Music or Black Enterprise, just with more of a focus on hip hop music and everything that goes into the business of it.
Is that a valid argument? Would there be a market for a website/company like that to exist? Or would it contribute to the saturation that we’re currently experiencing in terms of online music outlets? We can give all of these questions a pretty big “MAYBE, MAYBE NOT…” But here’s something that at least does carry some validity: hip hop is a billion dollar musical juggernaut that isn’t going away any time too soon, and the more people who want to get involved in it know about the history of its business practices, the power brokers, the better off the music and the culture will be. Sure, we’ve got tons of great hip hop websites, blogs and online magazines that cover the music and the culture with great vigor and passion. But it’s becoming more and more important to see beyond the glitz, glamor, celebrities, gloss and posturing that many take at face value. There’s a whole machine that makes the engine of hip hop run, and its fuel comes from promotions, digital distribution, press and publicity, design, research and development, journalism, branding, social media, networking and entrepreneurship. The folks that control these areas are the REAL power players, and not necessarily those that you see on in the public eye all of the time.
Ultimately, there’s a whole lot more to the game than just the music. So, maybe it is high time for a major hip hop website that focuses on the business side of things to be brought to fruition. Only time will tell if the dream comes true.