After being signed by Jay Z, out-pacing Yeezus and making Nas "Proud," it's safe to say that J. Cole's dreams are coming to life in front of the world's eyes. And now the North Carolina-born MC is looking to pass on some of that shine to a few up-and-coming artists of his own with a new label home at Interscope for his Dreamville Records and the imprint's major label debut mixtape, Revenge of the Dreamers.
The 11-track compilation, which Cole dropped Tuesday (Jan. 28), just before his 29th birthday concert at Madison Square Garden, showcases Dreamville's team of verbal assassins — Cole himself, Bas, Omen, KQuick and the soulful Treasure Davis — opening with hard-hitting, slightly reworked 2Pac classic, "Ambitionz Az a Ridah," an intro reminiscent of what one may find on a Cole album.
Next up is Bas, who wastes no time demonstrating his ability to spit V12 fast flows while also eliciting empathy with street-laced, thought-provoking lyrics like: "From the city where n----s turn a penny to a 20/But when the penny turn, friends turn to enemies/And semis turn into memories/Lick shots, n----s burn like the Hennessey/The city got problems, the city's so Godless, I watch it all burn like it's heresy."
Elsewhere, the notably grittier Omen shows a different, more laid back side of himself on "Henny Flow," talking mostly about the changes in his life since Jermaine Cole put him on. The beat is a mellowed out flute-heavy groove that offers a harmonic canvas for the visceral Omen to paint a picture of impending wealth and success.
Bas and Cole tone it down a bit as they connect on the psychedelic "Lit," which traces each MC's respective journey from ashy to classy over the melodic track, while Grammy-winner KQuick puts it down on the hook.
On "May the Bitter Man Win," Cole does his thing while introducing his smooth-with-a touch-of -rasp singer Treasure Davis, who does a lot with a little, opening up about her internal conflict in choosing between two men.
The highlight for Cole came on the title track, whose pounding piano made for a feel-good flow similar to that of Talib Kweli's "Get By." Cole does not mince words, declaring himself king with rhymes like: "I'm in a zone this year/It's all fire, n---a check my attire/Ya worst fear's confirmed, your reign at the top has expired this year/No application, I'm higher this year."
Though Dreamville's Revenge has moments of laziness (like "B-----z"), it's an overall win. Like Jermaine himself, his artists seem to understand the need to create a good song in addition to being apt lyrically. While it's still too early to tell who's got real star power, Cole just might wind up bequeathing that Roc chain to one of his artists someday.
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(Photo: Roc Nation)