Meek Mill’s greatest strength, his intensity, is also his greatest weakness. Listening to one of Mill’s better individual tracks from any of his recent projects, it’s hard not to be swept up in the energy and passion of his flow. He frames his tales of street life and violence in the same space as a big-budget Hollywood action movie, with huge, booming beats and his noisy, shouted rapping style. However, this same energy means that any of Mill’s albums are necessarily challenging to get through, just due to the sheer exhausting bombast of them, and DC4 is no different.
Meek Mill has had a pretty rough couple of years. Last year he released Dreams Worth More Than Money, which was a solid album, but failed to really stand out in the banner year that saw To Pimp a Butterfly and Summertime ’06 released a few months from each other. Furthermore, he ignited a widely reported beef with industry-leader Drake, who comfortably trounced Mill with a combination of sheer popular dominance and effortless cool. Drake has never cared about rap’s rules or traditions, which makes him the polar opposite of Meek, who is all about authenticity.
The Meek Mill sound is essentially a huge, Lex Luger-esque beat matched to a high-energy rap about gang life. Mill shouts just as much as he flows, and on standout tracks like Blessed Up and Litty, it’s invigorating. Much of the first half of the album sounds like it should be soundtracking some sort of car chase, and Mill’s lyrics lend the music a grit it wouldn’t otherwise be afforded – “if you do not f**k with the gang, don’t act like you do”. He’s hardly a poet, but his blunt threats and boasts lend themselves well to this widescreen rap experience. The problem with DC4 comes when one realises the mixtape is 14 tracks and 55 minutes long, which is about twice as long as Mill’s style is tolerable.
If DC4 ended after the 7th or 8th track, it would be an extremely solid, energetic EP, since the first half of the tape is where much of the quality is concentrated. Blue Notes would actually make a great closer, since it changes up the formula with a slower, guitar driven sound. Unfortunately, the 7 tracks that come after it feel like more of the same, all consistently loud and bombastic, climaxing with Tony Story 3, which really does just feel like being shouted at for 5 minutes. Mill hides some interesting lyrics in the track, but his flow has such a remarkable lack of dynamism that it’s grating, and feels like a culmination of Mill’s ever-present problems.
DC4’s main problem is that it doesn’t feel like Mill has learnt anything from the feedback to his previous projects. Reviews of Dreams Worth More Than Money largely said the same thing: that whilst Mill’s sound is fun and exciting, it becomes tiring due to repetition and poor quality control. Whilst his contemporaries mine new and interesting territory, Mill has let his sound stagnate. Mill has so much potential as a rapper, but he’s too indebted to his cacophonous style to show it.