Meek Mill is an anomaly in the internet era, a genuine slow-burn rap star. For nearly a decade he toiled in his hometown of Philadelphia, evolving from aimless and endless street corner freestyles as a teen to producing polished studio tracks, perfecting his manic nasal wheeze and building a genuinely organic local fanbase in the process. By 2010 he was close to a legend in his hometown, without an ounce of national press or presence. It took a cosign from Rick Ross, who signed the rapper to his Maybach Music Group imprint to make him look like a national rap star. Within an hour of its release Monday, his Dreamchasers 2 crashed the internet’s two most prominent mixtape sites. (The bigger of the two, Dat Piff, says the tape got two million downloads in 24 hours, though these numbers should be taken with a grain of salt.) And, yet, for all of its buzz, it’s a strangely understated effort.
Released last summer, the first Dreamchasers installment — also his first with MMG — was largely inconsistent, with Meek willingly and sometimes awkwardly squeezing his spastic scattershot style into the more seething and deliberate aggression of the MMG template. His Ross-assisted hit “I’m A Boss” was so seamless in its transition that Meek himself went almost unnoticeable, while the solo “House Party” found a comfortable (and infectious) middle ground between the two styles. Still, the tape’s finest moments were its quieter ones. Jarringly positioned between Maybach riot music, tracks like the murder ballad “Tony Story” found Meek displaying an eye for detail-oriented street storytelling that not only exceeded the talents of every other rapper in his crew, but also those of most in his generation.
The second installment finds him fitting into the MMG mold more consistently, creating a more fluid listening experience but dulling his actual performance in the process. Their assembly line seems intent on churning out flatly solid efforts, the type of tapes that blow up Twitter timelines one day then fade from memory the next. There are a couple interesting production risks taken within — Key Wane’s playful gospel chop of “Amen,” Beat Billionaire’s warped bass revival “Take U Home” — but mostly its constructed with the same 70/30 split between rolling trap rap 808 aggression and tactless, faux-grandiose sentimentality that defines much of Ross’ own work, including his recent Rich Forever.
And where DC1 was mostly inhabited by fellow Philadelphians like veteran Beanie Sigel and longtime collaborator Mel Love, DC2 rolls out a lineup of celebrities and industry-anointed prospects that pretty closely mirrors Rich Forever as well: Drake, French Montana, 2 Chainz — rappers who are on there just so the track listing can say they are. The barrage of guests isn’t without its high points: Big Sean, who appears twice, enters “Burn” clumsily but eventually lands at a blindingly well executed double time flow, and Kendrick Lamar makes a welcome appearance on “A1 Everything,” absorbing all of Meek’s anxiety and reflecting it through his own West Coast lens. But it all starts to gruel by the tape’s second half, particularly when it rolls around to a wholly unnecessary (and year late) “House Party” remix on which a disparate lineup of aging punchline wizard Fabolous, perpetually imageless MMGer Wale and frat rap favorite Mac Miller are only united in their complete confusion over what to do with such a spastic beat. (Fab slithers around with his usual calm, while Wale and