Lil Dream is an emerging Washington, D.C.-based rapper. Since debuting in 2016 with the single “RBB” (featuring acclaimed Maryland rapper Rezt), his skills have earned him exposure on both national and international levels. He stands out in having gained support from Grammy-nominated artist GoldLink, as well as a unique identity within the hip hop scene, entering the turn of the new decade with the EP, 86 Nights.
Even though Lil Dream has imprinted 2020 already with a full-length in Sink or Swipe, I found it necessary to revisit the release that marked his transition period. The EP’s title is a take on the 56 Nights mixtape by DJ Esco and Future, a fitting illusion given how Lil Dream would present his future longplays in mixtape form for the remainder of 2019. However, this EP has a more personable approach involved, as its title ultimately pertains to the length of time he had spent in incarceration.
With that in mind, I was impressed by the EP’s opener, “Wipeout.” Its instrumental is somewhat lo-fi, with a contrasting airy guitar sample setting the additional dominant vibe alongside the bass-filled percussion. There’s an interesting disjointed, yet fluent subtlety to Lil Dream’s lyrical delivery when paired with guest dopeSMOOTHIES. The feeling is almost as if they’re representing jumping in and out of a hallucination, one frame of mind conscious and direct, the other tepid and subdued. On the track to follow, “Benz Truck,” Lil Dream shows that he’s not afraid to implement a tinge of humor to offset the seriousness of the situation, in the form of introductory speech bites spoken by the character Navi from the Nintendo 64 game, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Beyond that, the song centers on a type of dwelling on spirit-stunting moments, all pertaining to heartbreak, and the lingering somber mood that persists over time. Once again, Lil Dream makes use of his delivery in a gradual sense, which benefits the EP’s pacing.
From the third and fourth tracks, “Trust” and “C.D.G.,” there seems to be a relevant connection dealing with the conflict that arises during the progression of an artist’s career. As the transition occurs, the beats also shift from a kind of murky, textural, and uncertain vibe to one that is blunter, and more hard-hitting. Considering the difference in length of the two tracks (the latter only about half as long), there’s a solid, complementary level of focus maintained within them. I enjoyed how the final song, “Blow Ya Day,” closes out the EP with a humorous, and, to an extent positive tone. Admittedly, there isn’t that much else to say other than it rightfully adds a lighthearted twist to an otherwise grim and unpredictable thematic focus.
Overall, 86 Nights is a decent expansion into EP territory for Lil Dream. Many of its tracks may lean toward the short side, but he doesn’t shy away from a well-utilized presentation. Lil Dream’s take is rather refreshing, in that he chooses to recognize more so how rhythmic subtleties – rather than negative, projected lyrical clichés – play an active role in discussing not only his incarceration but any resonant low point in anyone’s life.
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