CD Reviews

Dreamchasers 2, Control System, R.A.P. Music

Philly Trap Music

Meek Mill Dreamchasers 2 (Maybach Music Group)

As part of Rick Ross’ Maybach Music Group collective, much is expected of Philadelphia’s Meek Mill. He took a back seat to Wale and Rick Ross on the crew’s collaborative album Self Made Vol. 1 but realizes that he needs to make his presence felt. His Dreamchasers 2 mix tape does just that, even if it is bolstered more by the guests than himself. Guests Drake (“Amen”), Big Sean (“Burn”) and Kendrick Lamar (“A1 Everything”) all shine on the first half of the project as Meek holds his own on “Ready Or Not.” After that, however, everything tapers off as songs such as “Lean Wit It” and “Racked Up Shawty” backslide into cliché trap music. The sampling of Lisa Lisa’s “I Wonder If I Take You Home” on the Big Sean and Wale-featured “Take U Home” comes off entirely too cheesy. He regains his footing toward the end of the mix tape on the boastful “Real.” Meek Mill has the potential to be a star, he just needs to avoid being shown up on his own project by guests. ★★★☆☆

Street-Conscious West Coast

Ab Soul Control System (Top Dawg Entertainment)

Ab Soul of Top Dawg Entertainment has long played the background while his label-mates Kendrick Lamar, Jay Rock and ScHoolBoy Q have shared the spotlight. But with his second full-length album, Control System, Soul takes a step into the spotlight. He’s equal parts conscious and street as his narratives weave between the struggles of women in a male-dominated society (“Double Standard”) and weed-laced anthems (“SOPA”). It’s a perfect balance though as he is able to navigate both paths well. “Terrorist Threats” finds Soul alongside Danny Brown and Jhene Aiko rhyming about growing up trying to lead the straight and narrow path. When paired with Kendrick Lamar on “Illuminate,” the dynamic duo lyrically shines over the smooth production. Ab Soul can even kick spoken-word poetry well and demonstrates his talent on the album’s closer “Book of Soul.” You’ll be hard-pressed to find flaws on Control System, which proves that tabs should be kept on this California talent. ★★★★☆

South-Meets-NYC Rap

Killer Mike R.A.P. Music (Williams Street Records)

Dirty South MC Killer Mike joining forces with New York indie producer El-P may initially sound like two puzzle pieces that don’t fit. But this is one of those musical marriages that should have been done years ago. Killer Mike’s aggressive rhymes and El-P’s spaced-out hip-hop production are beautifully blended for the album R.A.P. Music, which is chock-full of unapologetic viewpoints and politically charged rhymes. Mike’s hefty voice sounds at home over El-P’s dense production. He rips the Reagan administration a new one on the simply titled “Reagan,” tears down the boys in blue on “Don’t Die” and dissects the trappings of fortune and fame on “Ghetto Gospel.” If the rumbling “Big Beast” featuring T.I., Trouble and Bun B doesn’t sell you on how great this album is, then you just don’t know good hip-hop when you hear it. ★★★★☆

Suggested Next Read

What to Expect When You’re Expecting


What to Expect When You’re Expecting

By Tribune Media Services

(PG-13) ★★★☆☆ Assorted couples cope with pregnancies planned and unplanned, adoption, and the epic change coming to their lives. It’s wafer-thin, but it has plenty of laughs. What’s surprising is how touching this film manages to be. Director Kirk Jones and the screenwriters found real pathos in adapting author Heidi Murkoff’s pregnancy bible. The ensemble cast includes Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Lopez, Elizabeth Banks, Anna Kendrick, Dennis Quaid and Chris Rock.