The Lowdown: J. Cole and the artists “invited” to the recording periods have been teasing it for months, and now it’s right here: Revenge of the Dreamers III. A product of North Carolina’s personal J. Cole and his label, Dreamville Data, the album is flushed with artists from a variety of prominence. This spirit is an excessive departure from Cole’s earlier three albums, which function no artists apart from himself. Maybe a results of Cole’s change of criticism with Lil Pump, this file goals to be one thing Cole isn’t recognized for: enjoyable. Aligned with the motto of Dreamville, which claims to be “the label of the related age,” Cole has introduced collectively mounds of expertise to create this intensive file.
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The Good: Initially, trying on the 18-track file might be staggering. The checklist of options is intensive, with lots of the most recognizable names in hip-hop and others pretty unknown, so trying to digest the lineup in its entirety is an awesome feat. However with the opening observe of the primary observe, this concern is partially assuaged. “Below the Solar”, the product of J. Cole himself, Lute, and DaBaby, is a simple pay attention: it’s held down by a gloriously soulful pattern and intensified by Cole’s relentless circulate. For a listener, it’s like waking up within the morning and stretching deeply: It warms us up for the expansive journey forward. It’s additionally his most distinguished presence on the entire album; on it, Cole not solely workouts management but in addition units the usual for what the next artists ought to try to realize. And whereas it could be exhausting to observe Cole’s efficiency, DaBaby, a breakout star this yr, manages it. The beat and his cadence primarily maintain arms, navigating the observe with ease. This mixture of voices could be sufficient to create an exception tune, however as an alternative, Cole takes it a step additional with a shock look from the beloved Kendrick Lamar. It’s probably the most purposeful and polished tune on the album.
We don’t actually hear from Cole once more till the top of RotDIII when he slides into “Sacrifices” and inhabits the identical function he’s been in for the previous yr: a redeeming function. Simply as he did on 21 Savage’s “so much” or Anderson .Paak’s “Trippy”, Cole displays his uncanny potential to each elevate and seal collectively a tune. Nevertheless, we do hear from a rare quantity of male artists on Revenge of the Dreamers III, a truth Cole — and the better hip-hop trade — has been criticized for previously. This file, nevertheless, owes many profitable moments to the small, however very vital, feminine presence. Whether or not it’s Ari Lennox on “Bought Me”, DaVionne on “Sleep Disadvantaged”, or St. Magnificence on “PTSD”, their verses solidify and diversify what would in any other case be a monotonous undertaking.
The Dangerous: There are moments on Revenge of the Dreamers III the place skepticism is inevitable: The album’s goal turns into unclear. Perhaps that’s as a result of it’s exhausting to disassociate this album fully from Cole himself, contemplating it’s so carefully tied to his success and but not a Cole album in any respect. In reality, he’s virtually omnipresent; his vocals aren’t even remotely probably the most current on the file, however you possibly can really feel his affect. Truly, the album doesn’t actually belong to anybody — it’s a collective possession held collectively by mutual respect for the craft. This doesn’t fully translate right into a listening expertise, although: The transitions between songs aren’t formulated, and though lots of the tracks are individually robust, they don’t construct off of one another. The position and number of tracks is seemingly random: Why is “MIDDLE CHILD”, a observe with no options that sharply contrasts the remainder of the file, on there? Or take a look at the fourth observe, “Swivel”; positive, it has a slot on this file, but it surely’s truly listed as a single from EARTHGANG’s upcoming solo album. It’s right here that the file begins to appear like extra of a promotional undertaking than an precise album.
Consuming the album as an entire is nearly exhausting: There’s so many shifts in vitality and tempo all through the entire thing that it’s at instances all-consuming. And whereas it’s clear that the conglomeration of artists is having enjoyable, it sometimes will get taken over by this boys’ membership vitality. There are moments the place the tracks exert a way of chaos — and never at all times in a great way. For instance, the 11th observe, “Costa Rica”, is proof that piling on well-known artists doesn’t equate a well-executed tune. However let’s face it: making a cohesive album is an excruciating job for a person artist. On Revenge of the Dreamers III, there are 34 artists at work — oh, and 27 producers. So it’s not precisely shocking that it lacks focus.
The Verdict: If Cole’s better goal was boosting the profession of his prodigies, he succeeded. Revenge of the Dreamers III factors out the apparent: the entire takeover of DaBaby, the simple powerhouse that’s J.I.D., and the melodious and irresistibly real Ari Lennox. However Cole has additionally achieved the anti-Drake: As a substitute of being a fan of artists whose expertise reaches in numerous instructions than his and subsequently exploiting their sound for his personal profit, Cole has offered the last word platform for underground artists to succeed.
Important Tracks: “Below the Solar”, “Self Love”, “PTSD”, and “Sacrifices”