Meek Mill’s ‘DC4’ Is An Exhibition In Cinematic Trap

If you’re gonna throw a distorted 808 under a sample of the sacred choral lines of Carl Orff’s “O Fortuna” – you better have a good fucking reason for doing so. Well, the latest installment in Meek Mill’s illustrious ‘Dreamchasers’ series might just qualify as such a reason.

Following the release of his chart-topping sophomore LP, ‘Dreams Worth More Than Money’, Meek’s career took a spectacular tumble. A highly publicised beef with pop’s favourite rap star culminated in ‘Back to Back’ – Drake’s blistering, Grammy-nominated diss track, and ‘Wanna Know’ – Meek’s tepid response. Needless to say, Meek took a gargantuan L, while legal issues, disparaging rumours and further beefs with the likes of Game directed additional streams of piss towards his already dwindling bonfire.

Nevertheless, this year, Meek’s been quietly curating a comeback: With ‘DC4’s numerous delays, Meek dropped ‘The Prelude’ – a heady collation of trap bangers and big remixes that served as a defiant refusal to fade into post-beef rap obscurity, scouring a portion of the stubborn dirt off his DC chain. Cuts like ‘War Pain’ and ‘Ricky’ provided the unapologetic ferocity that made us love Meek in the first place, instantly reminding the listener of ‘Lean Wit It’ and ‘Flexin’ from ‘Dreamchasers’ tapes gone by.

Sonically, ‘DC4’ is a logical progression from its predecessor: The project expands on the prelude’s ominous, symphonic trap themes – punctuated occasionally with the shimmering cocaine-whores-to-marble-floors stories that we’ve come to associate closely with the MMG clan. ‘DC4’, then, with its diamond-studded cast, is fundamentally an exhibition in cinematic trap; the punchy, Scorsese street music pioneered by MMG label host – Mr Ricky Rozay – with his triumphant, brass-laden banger ‘B.M.F.’. The tape, however, is by no means ground-breaking, and is somewhat blinkered in terms of content: Meek rarely strays from the lyrical themes that forged his notoriety, probably leaving some listeners feeling a little short-changed by the heavily anticipated project.

The opener, however, is straight barbell music: Ethereal echoes of ‘O Fortuna’, click-clacks and thumping bass lead the way for Meek to go dumb: “Sell a lotta dope / Dodge a lotta cases / Stickin’ to the basics”. In these opening bars, then, lies the tape’s conceptual strategy: Sticking to what he knows. Naysayers and Drake-dick riders alike may ridicule such an approach, however, when Meek’s potent bark is teamed with equally powerful soundscapes, the energy is irrefutably coherent; if it ain’t broke – don’t fix it. Tracks like ‘Blessed Up’, ‘Lights Out’, ‘Way Up’ and the Tory Lanez assisted ‘Litty’ all follow a similar blueprint, giving a firm nod to the MMG/Lex Luger glory days, while demonstrating that Meek’s still got some gas left in the tank.

One of the biggest problems with the tape, however, is the sheer number of features. Meek rides solo on only five of the project’s fourteen tracks, giving an extremely generous amount of air-time to his thirteen collaborators; teaming up with Drake’s enemies and affiliates alike, it is easy to lose Meek amongst the chaos. This, in turn, creates a more pressing issue: Meek’s guests often steal the show. On the indisputable banger, ‘Offended’, Young Thug – along with his signature, infectious adlibs – offers one of the coldest verses of his career, immediately diluting any attempts by Meek to garner attention. Similarly, on ‘Difference’, Quavo’s triplet flow slips so uniformly into the hypnotic drum pattern, that Meek’s verse feels somewhat jarring by comparison. It doesn’t help that Nicki absolutely kills her verse either on ‘Froze’– perhaps re-triggering some callous sniggering of “You ain’t even the best rapper in your relationship!”

Moving forward, it seems the tape’s artistic peaks manifest when Meek eschews the trap production. Cuts like ‘Shine’ is a classic (yet perhaps too formulaic) MMG rags-to-riches story. StreetRunner’s glossy production and Meek’s jubilant bars encapsulate perfectly the ecstasy of a man who – against all odds – gained everything: “I get chills every time that Lin(coln) confetti hit us.” Perhaps, the highlight of the whole project, however, is the third instalment in Meek’s ‘Tony Story’ series – a reminder that chilling, East Coast hood tales are still firmly a part of his repertoire. Pared-down piano riffs and lo-fi, boom bap production set the tone, while Meek provides a gripping, lucid account of the harrowing endeavours of Pauly following Tony’s death – stay tuned.

The project draws to a close in a similar manner to how it begun – with a bang. Wraith-like choral lines flutter as the late Lil Snupe delivers some contextually poignant bars: “My number one goal is to get up out the hood.” The sixteen provided by the deceased Philadelphian certainly fires Meek up too: Roaring over muddy bass and tubular bells, Meek’s energy is instantly reminiscent of the unforgettable track ‘Dreams and Nightmares’.

Considering where Meek currently stands publically and artistically, ‘DC4’ was an extremely important chess move. There were highs and there were lows – but ultimately Meek plays it safe: He moves his pawn, while protecting his queen.