Album Review: Mello Music Group – Helpless Dreamer

Mello Music Group – Helpless Dreamer
Mello Music Group: 2010

Filled with more than a few slow, rainy day tracks over sleepy beats, the new disc, Helpless Dreamer, from Mello Music Group certainly is mellow. That said, while it’s geared more for lyrical purists than a party, the collection contains a few gems. But it’s got some flops as well.

Beginning with Stik Figa’s Oddisee-produced “From the Top”, this 13-song compilation has plenty of soul-searching, “I do it for the love/my fans” moments. Another example of this is Kenn Starr’s “Official”, which features sure-footed, confident rhymes over a subtle, almost subliminal drum beat.

Another track that grows on you is “This is it”, which features yU. This one aims to remind you why you fell in love with Hip-Hop to begin with – and it hits its mark. Elsewhere, Oddisee and Toine’s “Different Now” tells the tale of how true love can change one’s perception of importance over a bass-heavy beat and soul samples.

“Don’t Sleep” is the typical “don’t miss out on us” track we’ve all heard before. While the lyrics from Invincible and Finale are a step above average, there’s really nothing new here, save for some creative cutting. In the same vein of over-done song themes is “Black Rose”, which features Has Lo, a track about some crime involving mistaken identity or something that’s just too slow and boring to follow or finish.

The last track of note is Fresh Daily’s “For the Win”, a quick little piece with an uptempo beat and lyrics about the emcee’s champion status.

Overall, Helpless Dreamer is a suitable album with just a few missteps – kinda like a pair or warm wool socks with just a few small holes in them.

★★★☆☆
3 out of 5
[audio:http://potholesinmyblog.flywheelsites.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/01-From-The-Top-Feat.-Stik-Figa-Prod.-Oddisee.mp3|titles=From The Top Feat. Stik Figa (Prod. Oddisee)]

6 thoughts on “Album Review: Mello Music Group – Helpless Dreamer

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  1. Yeah, I thought this was almost non-stop fire, reminded me heavily of Quannum Spectrum — a compilation that winds up being even more than the sum of it’s parts.

  2. I’ll have to disagree with the reviewer on this one… Helpless Dreamer is definitely a good one… Better than most albums this year…

  3. I’ll keep it short. Good compilation, Oddisee beastin.

  4. Art Washington|

    Actually, this is a lazy review. I don’t feel I learned much from it other than some cursory thoughts. I mean, I don’t want to know about someone’s taste, I want to know about the album. And yeah, I get it that 99% of people have ADD and can’t read but damn, if you’re going to review it, then do it. I mean use the rewind button and catch the lyrics, this isn’t disposable by any means. Allow me to get long winded, because I really liked the album and seeing as my classes are done for the day, why not:

    “From The Top” is an Oddisee & Dunc produced track that starts off with a complex emotive mix of pain and hype. The production is shared by DTMD producer Dunc (who was also on Diamond District’s “In The Ruff” producing “The Shining”) and DC star Oddisee. The beat is a potent mix of layers combining piano, strings, and bass lines. Stik Figa is a Topeka, Kansas rapper (home of Brown v. Board of Education), this where the title of the song “From the Top” (Topeka) come from. The creative word play and unique timbre of Stik Figa’s voice are refreshing and heartfelt, starting the project off very strong.

    Birds & Bees is a classic Diamond District track some may recognize from Oddisee’s “Odd Spring”. The track sounds as though it has been cleaned up and mastered though if I compare it to the download version on Odd’s website. yU, X.O. and Oddisee go in over the Oddisee produced beat and offer some enlightening lyrics. yU being perhaps the biggest highlight. “Y’all be wanting big shit to happen with a quickness / seems like true is almost taboo / But a home cooked meal is better than fast food / you give a fool a jewel, he’ll prolly pawn it”. The whole track has wisdom as well as being flamby.

    Official is a Kenn Starr track over producer Just Wright who I am not familiar with and could not find previous credits for. Kenn has been making a few tracks here and there since his late 2006 debut album “Starr Status”. Kenn’s subject matter seems to have matured as he takes the beat that inspires inner demons of sorts to a new level. Kenn takes on those who doubt his resolve and resume – noting that he is official, which is beyond a doubt: he offers crisp delivery and articulation, vibrant word play, and passionate unaffected delivery. Fellow Low Budget teammate Kev Brown introduces the track to offer his credentials to just how Official Kenn Starr is. As a side note Kev Brown recently has been rumored to have tracks on the new Busta Rhymes album – big news making him fit the intro even more. The beat is powerful and has a hint of hurt wrapped in it, but it does lack in production brightness – though it could be a genuine banger if the recording quality was as sharp as “Different Now” or many of the other album tracks.

    “This Is It” is a new yU joint that Slimkat 78 produced. Together the duo is known as The 1978ers and for those familiar with their work on “Before Taxes” you will not be disappointed. Slimkat handles the production like a pro with upbeat piano and the perfect soul sample bellowing “mmmmmm” in the background. The mix is beautiful, adding the perfect blend of ad libs, samples, and timing. yU, as usual, delivers more than you expect in the lyrical category: “Workin’ this hard as a job / usin’ my art as a guide / prophets in mind / yes I gotta survive / cause this is it”. He takes words that most emcees can’t string together into rhyme patterns and somehow makes them click.

    “Different Now” is the best song on the album from a technical stand point. Oddisee is on the beats and the rhymes with his “lil homie ‘Toine” who is from the group DTMD (with producer Dunc who I mentioned above). The opening sample is slow and moody with a soulful statement being sung in the sample, “Little signs of distance”, hinting at the songs theme of maturing without beating you over the head. Meanwhile Oddisee talks over it to explain how things change as you grow. Suddenly the beat drops and Oddisee’s trademark drums and synth strings kick in to great effect. Oddisee spits to perfection and offers a deeper lyrical content than ever before: “She practically handed me the ass / but I could care less / because she lacked class / The fitting of her dress would had me at 21 / it’s funny son, just a few yrs older and more revealing is less appealing / and I’m more into shoulders and other subtleties”. Then the young ‘Toine of DTMD jumps in to offer “My heart’s my instrumental / so the ventricals just carry the sensible /but I’m still cynical / I cheat on revolutions for part time solution / but the vision aint confusing / I just keep it movin / … everybody’s a pimp seducing a percentage from your units” – The kid brings heat! The track is a highlight for sure.

    The soulful production of Apollo Brown shines on the melancholy “Home Comes First”, a down tempo track featuring a sampled hook that sings “Home I know comes first”. Kenn Starr turns it into a sentimental ode to Maryland and Low Budget. Detroit emcee Finale discusses being on the road, bad women, and the place he calls home. “No matter where I go, and no matter what I do / Home I Know comes first”. The pairing work remarkably well over Apollo’s brand of production.

    “Judas Priest” is another soulful Apollo Brown beat that leans to the slower side with bent horns and a straightforward drum pattern. Buff1 & Magestik Legend give wordplay heavy performances about back stabbers and disloyalty.

    “Don’t Sleep” is a ridiculous up beat Black Milk production that was first featured a number of years back on a Black Milk MySpace beat tape. Apparently MMG picked it up and put Detroit emcee Invincible on it with frequent collaborator Finale. Invincible’s flow proves why she is perhaps the strongest female emcee out. Finale lays the work ethic call and response hook “Got a lot of work to do / so don’t sleep / got be alert to move / so don’t sleep…. Cause you know what happens is you snooze… so wake up! “ To which Invincible replies “Wake the fuck up” then the ever deft DJ Romes cuts up Invincible “Don’t you ever doze off the set of RoboCop”. The track is a bounce friendly banger.

    Then the rain clouds come in again on the Has-Lo joint “Black Rose”. It is a pure storytellers track that requires patience and an appreciation of narrative arc. Has-Lo creates a noir style rap joint centered around a black tie affair in which a man is trying to seduce and take home an elegant woman. Meanwhile detectives break in to interrogate the dinner guests and arrest Lady Cashmere’s accomplice. We learn she had been planning to steal his valuable catalog of art works. The setting is well made, the pace is indeed slow, but for fans of creative storytelling that steps outside the normal boundaries, Has-Lo is on it.

    The compilation drops into a short instrumental interlude, also from Has-Lo, before jumping up to the title track “Helpless Dreamer”. Apollo Brown shows here that his production is not all soulful slow joints, with the fast paced horn filled Blaxploitation style beat that would make Black Dynamite & Black Belt Jones proud. This one is on some Don Shit as Roc Marciano points out. Roc Marci gives a performance about the hustling lifestyle reminiscent of The Firm with Dre’s phone tap and Nature going in dirty. Roc hands the baton to Diamond District’s X.O. and the energy jumps up a notch: “Dreamin’ and I’m Dreamin’ and I’m dreamin’ / tryin to fight off a demon”. X.O. spits with an airy stylistic flow that is everything you could want in gully track — and with lines like “Jail Break Ni**as faces like iPhones” the message of this one is clear. Finally London emcee Tranqill takes control of the mic and delivers a grimy gray skiy verse about London’s hustler scene and his place as the up and comer: “ struttin like wee bae, the fellas call me ebay “ Why? Because dude is “tryin to get myself out this public housing”. The track is definite heat.

    Then Fresh Daily comes in over some pimp pimpin drums to strut with creativity about going “For The Win”. The track, along with the album, has an air of hunger that is ready to take the crown.

    The final track is a short 90 second instrumental from Oddisee called “July 27th, 2010” that showcases some things I haven’t heard from Oddisee before. The beat is distinctively Oddisee’s but has a more pop sensability that definitely could catch a wider audiences attention. Keys and synth drive this one over a thudding drum pattern that offers change ups from beginning to end, unlike many other producer’s monotonous loops. Oddisee is clearly ready for some big time moves.

    The album is not perfect, but it is the definition of solid. And for having such a wide variety of producers and emcees, it is surprisingly coherent. The presentation is nice and 90% of the album sounds crisp as hell (10% has too much compression and other minor flaws). Fans of Oddisee and Apollo Brown should love Helpless Dreamer and most other Hip-hop fans should be able to find a solid chunk of tracks that suit them.

    Lyrics: 92%
    Beats: 86%
    Arrangement: 85%
    Mixing: 85%
    Mastering: 85%
    Cover Art: 92%

    Overall 87%

  5. What about the up beat title track with Roc Marciano, XO & Tranqill – I love that joint! Or the somber Home Comes First from Finale & Kenn Starr over Apollo – which is a highlight to me. All good, appreciate ur taking time to review! Big up to Potholes for calling it like they see it! Always appreciate ur listening!

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