After a much-anticipated wait, it’s here. In January, we saw the polaroids and grainy Instagram stories of so many producers and artists in the studio together. Spectating through our screens, it almost felt like a party we weren’t invited to. Dreamville continued this exclusion and anticipation with all their artists turning their avi’s on social media yellow last month.
A week before its release, Dreamville broke the fourth wall and invited us into their intimate creative world. Their production spanned 10 days recording, producing and writing. Singers and Rappers were like fiends for a beat and eager to create anything. Throughout the 30-minute doc, you can’t help but marvel at the creativity, togetherness and harmony of all the artists.
These collaborative projects have long since been a part of J. Cole’s catalogue. After all, this is the third Revenge of the Dreamers. Usually, J. Cole utilises in-house talent but this time he stretched beyond Dreamville’s parameters and enlisted the help of outsiders to collaborate with notable Dreamville artists. It’s like a gumbo of your favourite artists and producers. With so many artists coming together from varying subgenres of rap, you’d think it would sound odd, but it works – like really works. It’s not the often odd compilations DJ Khaled throws together, there’s intention with every song. A perfect example is Ladies Ladies with JID and T.I.
The album is best listened to the first few times without looking at the tracklist. Purely because you’re tempted to listen to songs from artists you know. With most songs having an average of 4 features, it gives the album a sort of ‘open for a surprise’ element, you just never know who is going to rap the next 16 in your ear. Whether you need Ari Lennonx’s soft croon or Earthgang’s skippy flow, there’s something on this album for everyone. Surprisingly, J. Cole very much takes a backseat, every so often interjecting with a verse. Perhaps he wanted to give shine to less mainstream artists. It was refreshing to hear from Dreamville alum like Cozz, Lute and Omen and even more refreshing to hear the growth in JID, Earthgang, Dreezy and Ari Lennox – standout rappers on this album.
ROTD3 is best appreciated after a few listens. On the first few listens it sounds like the tracks leap into each other as opposed to blend, most probably due to the array of genres. But your ears naturally settle into a rhythm and the project then sounds slightly more cohesive. The album is good, maybe even great, but I wouldn’t put it as a contender for album of the year. But I don’t think that was the album’s aim. Its aim was to bridge the sonic gap between artists and producers, give them a space to create and make an album. And the Dreamville team did just that.