A testament to D.R.A.M.’s charm and wit.
Big Baby D.R.A.M. is a debut album for an artist who’s already on the rise. With a certified double platinum single in “Broccoli” already under his belt, D.R.A.M. is among a slew of recent artists riding the positivity wave. Out to prove that “Broccoli” and his first hit, “Cha Cha” weren’t ceilings but stepping stones, his first full-length is a joyously paced house party with D.R.A.M. as emcee and guest of honor.
Ostensibly, D.R.A.M. occupies the same optimistic B-boy stance as his collaborators. With names like Lil Yachty, Erykah Badu, and Young Thug gracing his opening salvo, it’s safe to say he’s got the blessing of hip-hop’s sunshine branch. D.R.A.M. doesn’t meander in abstractions or mumbles. His aim is much more down to earth, off the Hennessey, with a radiant and contagious musical energy.
D.R.A.M. makes no bones about how far he’s come. His natural baritone barrels and tumbles as he chronicles having to go “get it himself” on the opening track. He quickly transitions from self-celebration to reaping the rewards of hard work, and that’s a smart choice.
A lullaby chord is the backbone to his second single, “Cash Machine,” where he admonishes, “I ain’t talkin’ to you broke bitches/ I got money now.” D.R.A.M’s soul steams through the trap drums, his voice jumping from John Legend to Jeremih. With multi-track harmonization, he invigorates his lyrical simplicity with rich, nostalgic texture. Motown and Blaxploitation power his aesthetic inspiration with dramatic effect on tracks like “Change My #.” He effortlessly weaves a cloud of harmony, complete with call and response projections about trying to avoid a persistent ex-girl. His voice is a thick syrup until the third verse, where the leader opts for an offbeat rap hopscotch. Though he’s a much better singer than rapper, his flows get the point across cleanly.
Vocal intensity isn’t lost in all the delight. D.R.A.M. sings like he’s always grinning. But that grin isn’t without a sense of rootedness. “WiFi” and “Sweet VA Breeze” are dimly-lit strokes of romantic angst, the former made powerfully legit by Erykah Badu’s wavering tonal poetry. D.R.A.M. recognizes as much—he announces her voice to the mic and praises her femininity with embracing harmonies. It’s a fun one-off featuring a similar concept to Badu’s earlier work, But You Caint Use My Phone. When the overwhelming boastful positivity can get too thick, it’s nice to fall back on downtempo tracks.
The album can get excessive. “In a Minute / In House” comes off like a droning mess of petulant sexplay. While “Password” is thematically similar to “Change My #,” the doubling back of cloud connectivity is sobering. D.R.A.M. understands that all our interactions from casual sex to serious relationships are now dictated by technology. But the electronic additions to his otherwise traditional R&B style are usually a benefit, not a hindrance. Big Baby D.R.A.M. works because it feels like a realistic reflection of where D.R.A.M. is today. It’s a self-referential joy ride that begs us to take note of our accomplishments, even when those around us might not totally get it. “Misunderstood” is a soul-rock anthem with Young Thug’s eccentricity blasting D.R.A.M.’s purity into aggrandizing declaration. As long as he “knows himself,” he can trust himself, and that feeling is inspiring enough to throw a party.
Big Baby D.R.A.M. is an early victory lap for an artist still solidifying his unique perspective in a wave of care-free music. With a few bangers in his back-pocket, it’s is a testament to D.R.A.M.’s charm and wit.