Dreamville is a record label started by rapper J. Cole and friend/producer Ibrahim Hamad. They first got the idea back in 2007 when Cole was after a way to release his own music, and Ib had dreams to start his own label, with the 2 ideas culminating to form what would become Dreamville Records. They got their proper start a few years later, signing a distribution deal with Interscope Records in December of 2013 and making a big announcement in January of 2014.
On the same day Cole announced the signing, he also announced that he had signed another rapper to the label, Queens based rapper Bas. As well as that, Dreamville dropped their first installation to the ‘Revenge Of The Dreamers’ series, 11 tracks consisting mainly of Cole and Bas, but also several features from one of Coles frequent collaborators, Omen. In June 2014 Dreamville announced they had signed Los Angelos rapper Cozz to the label. In 2015 Omen was officially announced as a signee as well, and then in December of 2015 they dropped the second ROTD album. Along with the album came the announcement of 2 more signees, Charlotte rapper Lute and Washington singer Ari Lennox. In 2017 the Dreamville roster saw the addition of another couple of artists, the first being Atlanta rapper JID in February, and the second being Atlanta duo EARTHGANG in August. 2019 was the biggest year yet for Dreamville, with the label inviting a plethora of rappers and producers to a 10 day recording session in January for their third instalment of the ROTD series. The album dropped in July of 2019 and was their most successful group endeavour yet.
And that brings us up to date! On January 17th 2020 Dreamville released their deluxe edition of ROTD3, titled Revenge Of The Dreamers 3 Directors Cut. The album was announced about a week prior and was preceded by the release of 2 singles; Bussit & Still Up. The deluxe edition adds 12 new tracks to the original 18, bringing the total to 30 tracks. Although this is a deluxe version of a previous album, My Review today will be focussed only on the new tracks (see image below). I’ll be reviewing the ‘Album’ in 2 parts, firstly a track by track review which will just be my informal and unedited observations on each song as I listened through, and then afterwards I’ll comment on the album as a whole. Finally I’ll include some discussion questions and some links to listen to the album at the end. Enjoy!
Track By Track Review
1. Big Black Truck (ft. JID) – Real eerie beat, amazing bass, love it. Hook is strange but I like it, real different. JID murders this, ridiculous flows and rhyme schemes. Lots of enjoyable flows and deliveries. Great song
2. Still Up (ft. EARTHGANG & Reason) – Simple beat but I love the bass in this one too. Reasons verse starts a bit slow but gets more and more enjoyable as it goes on, lots of great flows. Both earthgang verses are fire too, each flow great and have some real solid bars. Hook gets more enjoyable each time. Real solid song
3. Outta Pocket (ft. Bas & Cozz) – interesting beat, love the main synth which sounds like this pitched up flute melody. Bass thumps again. Bas’ flow is decent, but has some real solid bars and rhyme schemes. Want sure about the hook at first but by its second appearance I fucked with it. Cozz rides the beat great, think he is the more exciting rapper on this one, love his flow and his delivery, spits some solid bars too. Another above average track
4. Late Night (ft. Cozz, Omen, Buddy & Landstrip Chip) – Cozz starts of the song real strong, with even more impressive flows and bars on display. Landstrip Chip sounds great on the hook, the r&b vibe he brings meshes great with the mellow beat. Omen has a super impressive verse technically, ridiculous rhyme schemes and a solid enough flow and delivery to pull it off. Buddy verse fits the track nicely and is quite good, but probably the least impressive of the 3 verses. Still an enjoyable track overall
5. Spin Move (ft. Bas, Smino, Saba & The Hics) – What the hell is this beat?! Sounds like something by Jpegmafia or 100Gecs. Saba is fire, a bunch of impressive flows and rides with beat with much more ease than should be possible. Bas comes in great, love his laid back flow too, even has a bunch of solid bars. Smino flows super smooth, lots of flows too, least interesting of the verses though, lacks the energy. Real pleasant subtle beat change, sounds amazing. The Hics sound amazing on their little outro, closes the song nicely. This beat is so captivating it’s crazy, so many layers. Amazing song
6. Bussit (ft. Ari Lennox) – Really polarising vocal performance from Ari Lennox. Song is a good vibe but lacks something. Beat is the most basic so far and the hook is a bit too repetitive. Verses are great though, and Ari sounds amazing. On the fence about this one
7. Passcode (ft. Ari Lennox, Buddy, Smino, Mez & Guapdad 4000) – Loved the singing from Buddy on his verse, sounds great but felt like it started the song on a slow note. Loved the little Smino hook, sounds amazing. Mez flows fantastically and fit the vibe of the song perfectly, lots of killer flows and bars too. Loved the transition from Mez to Ari, and Ari has a killer verse, sounds beautiful and she flows so smoothly. Guapdad outro was okay but a bit unnecessary. Will have to come back to this, song was a bit slow but everyone fit that vibe so well
8. Up Up Away (ft. JID, EARTHGANG & Vince Staples) – Banger. Eerie piano beat, is decent. Vince Hook is hype but the flows were average and the repetition was no good. JID is insane on this in every way, flows, bars, delivery, rhymes, this verse is literally good enough to carry the song. Vince verse is quite enjoyable, good verse but no where near as good as JIDs. Earthgang come through with a really solid performance, impressive flows and love the delivery too. Hook was more enjoyable by the end of the song. Good song with an outstanding JID verse
9. No Chorus (ft. Bas, Buddy, Guapdad 4000 & Dreezy) – Love the subtle build up in the beat, sounds amazing when the drums come in. Bas flows great and had some solid bars but nothing new. Buddy verse has this super solid, hungry delivery and high energy flows, all round a great verse. Guapdad verse is fire, has this real solid rap flow and some great bars tooZ Dreezy closes the song out excellently, love her delivery and she flows super well over the beat. Love the ‘No Chorus’ hook too haha. Great song overall
10. Disgusted (ft. Cozz & Childish Major) – Nice beat, has this New York vibe with boom bappy drums and these mellow synths and instrumentation. Like the structure of the song, but overall it feels like it’s lacking something. Cops and Childish Major have decent chemistry, but Cozz has much more impressive flows and enjoyable delivery in my opinion. Not a bad song, but probably my least favourite so far
11. Revenge (ft. Lute, Omen, EARTHGANG, Ari Lennox, Childish Major & Reason) – The Ari Lennox singing sounds great, but song starts off a bit slow. Doctur Dots verse is nothing too exciting. Childish Major verse is the same, not bad but not too good either. Lute verse is exciting! Some super enjoyable deliveries and impressive flows too. Omen verse is technically impressive but sonically quite boring, lacks exciting vocal delivery and flows. Reason has some great bars in his closing verse, but overall the verse didn’t really go anywhere. The beat was also fairly basic, sounded like some live jam session cypher. Average song
12. Still Dreamin’ (ft. JID, Lute & 6lack) – Real interesting vibe, hook is basic and repetitive but unique enough that it isn’t too bad. JID flows so so smoothly and still has ridiculously impressive bars and rhyme schemes, amazing verse. 6lack sounds just as smooth as JID, amazing chemistry. Has this mellow delivery and flows that sound great over this instrumental. Lute is another perfect fit, flows just as well as the others, and spits some amazing bars in his verse too. One of my favourite tracks, just such an amazing consistent vibe
Overall I found this to be an incredibly enjoyable collection of songs. I wasn’t expecting a lot of consistency in terms of overall sound or lyrical content, not only due to the fact this is a collaborative album by a label and a roster of others, but also because these were the ‘leftovers’ from ROTD3. Its also due to that that I wasn’t expecting a whole lot of quality, as I figure these would be the songs that were good, but not goof enough for the final album.
With all that being said, I was left thoroughly impressed by the quality of songs included in this ‘Directors Cut’. I feel like if the original was 30 songs long it wouldn’t have suffered any loss in overall quality, or if this were released as ‘ROTD4’ it would have been a decent standalone album. In the end though I’m glad this was named and marketed the way it was, lumping it in with the original ROTD3 helped carry on that amazing vibe of togetherness given off by the group that attended the original recordings sessions.
In the end I thoroughly enjoyed 8 of the 12 tracks, and am still on the fence about 3 of the other 4. The album had a lot of standout moments, the most memorable being the production on ‘Spin Move’, Omen’s lyrically dense verse on ‘Late Night’, Lutes impressive performance on ‘Revenge’, the entire vibe and cohesion of ‘Still Dreamin’, and all 3 of JIDs verses. Seriously, JID is easily the standout performer on this album, with 3 performances all of which I thought were outstanding at the very least.
In terms of criticisms I don’t really have too many. I thought Childish Major was the weakest feature on the album, with 2 forgettable performances. I thought Vince Staples could have come through with a better verse on ‘Up Up Away’ to match the energy of JID and Earthgang. And the thing that annoyed me most about this album was an observation I made at the end of my listen; this album has amazing performances from Dreamville members JID, Earthgang, Bas, Lute, Omen, Cozz & Ari Lennox, but didn’t even have a single verse from J. Cole! Just seemed strange, and a lot of songs would have sounded great with a Cole verse.
In summary though I’m just treating this as a collection of tracks, and with that being said I think this was a fantastic collection of enjoyable songs. With some great beats, amazing verses and memory hooks this album was a fantastic showcase of the talent of (almost) every Dreamville member, while also shining the spotlight on other Up and comets such as Guapdad 4000, Saba & Smino.
Or you can listen to it for free on YouTube here!
My favourite songs were ‘Big Black Truck’, ‘Still Up’, ‘Outta Pocket’, ‘Late Night’, ‘Spin Move’, ‘Up Up Away’, ‘No Chorus’ & ‘Still Dreamin’.
What was your favourite of the 12 new tracks?
What was your favourite verse?
Thanks For Reading!
– Shan –