Album Review: D.R.A.M, ‘Big Baby D.R.A.M’
Written by Conor Battles on November 6, 2016
Photo Courtesy of pitchfork.com
Scribed by: Conor Battles
Album: Big Baby D.R.A.M
Release Date: October 21st
It’s very important to Shelley Massenburg-Smith that you know how happy he is.
The 28-year-old rapper and singer, better known as D.R.A.M. (Does Real Ass Music) has a knack for finding the positive in anything. He made his debut in the music game as the unfortunate victim of Drake’s biggest success last year, accusing the 6 God of ripping off his single “Cha Cha” in the production of “Hotline Bling.”
In an ironic twist of lowkey vengeance, Massenburg-Smith ended up stealing the summer-song limelight from Dreezy this year by teaming with eminent mumble-rapper Lil Yachty for “Broccoli,” a song so widespread and incorrigibly catchy that it doesn’t bear any further analysis here. In essence, the track encapsulates everything there is to say about D.R.A.M.’s sound: saccharine bubblegum-trap underscored by jazzy melodies and soulful hooks. It’s an engaging, largely untapped niche in rap music.
On his debut full-length, Big Baby D.R.A.M., the biggest problem is that this sound, as exuberant and enjoyable as it is, drones on, uninterrupted, for fifty minutes.
The production is a pleasant blend of bright, vibrant pop songwriting supplemented by intense, minimalistic trap beats. The merging of video game-esque plucked synths and heavy, punchy 808s on “Cute” is perhaps the best example of this eclectic mixture, but the two sounds blend together unexpectedly well. That said, there are a few scattered moments of dissonance on the album where this formula begins to break down, like the slowed-down chopped-and-screwed funk of “Change my #.” On the whole, there are few albums that sound like Big Baby D.R.A.M.
While the unique production is the most immediately noticeable element of D.R.A.M.’s sound, his rich, smooth vocals remain the most consistent. While D.R.A.M.’s rapping leaves something to be desired (to say nothing of Lil Yachty), his R&B crooning is top-notch, as seen on highlights like “Sweet Va Breeze” and “Misunderstood” and his hooks are often the strongest part of the track. Of course, the presence of the legendary Miss Erykah Badu on “WiFi” can be seen as a ringing endorsement from one of the genre’s all-time greats, and stands tall as one of the album’s high-water marks.
D.R.A.M.’s biggest misstep on Big Baby D.R.A.M. is that there is simply too much of a good thing. There is a noticeable lack of real quality control here; the tracks have no real sense of cohesive flow or greater design. As a collection of upbeat club-banger singles, Big Baby D.R.A.M. succeeds – to call it an “album” is a bit of a stretch, though. Fifty minutes of this sound in one session is perhaps fifteen too many, but when taken in piecemeal, this is a solid debut, and that’s something to be happy about.