Evan Dale // Dec 30, 2019 

2019 was defined by a number of unique and largely unexpected creative happenings. The West African Cultural Renaissance took the world by grip introducing each and every artistic nook to the fashion, the photography, the cinematography, and the music of Nigeria and Ghana-centric origin. The result was an explosion of culture sourced from West Africa itself, but also a diasporic cultural merging with Europe, the UK, North America, the Caribbean, and elsewhere. Afrobeats, Afrofusion, Afrofuturism, and Alté all became phenomena reaching far past their West African origin. 

 

A particularly 90’s-reminscent wave of R&B – both in fashion and in music – returned the scene – or at least a piece of it – to a time come, gone, and come again. Artists like VanJess and Devin Morrrison blurred epochal lines with their debuts, drawing with them an affinity for a sound recaptured. 

 

And the return of the rap syndicate, at the hands of a number of acclaimed projects brought together some of the world’s most celebrated hip-hop names with some of the most underrated and yet to be heard. The result was a collaborative scene the likes of which – even in the internet era to this point – hasn’t been seen before. And the projects to come out of it were absolutely game changing. Spearheaded by a duo of projects – Chicago-centered Pivot Gang’s You Can’t Sit With Us & New York-based Beast Coast’s Escape From New York – that set the wheels in motion, the syndicate exploration and subsequently music at large, peaked in the Summer. 

 

J. Cole’s Dreamville label got together and brought with them open invitations to some of hip-hop and R&B’s most notorious names of the past, present, and future. And after a ten-day camp run, the result was Revenge of the Dreamers lll

 

As far as a list like this is concerned, Revenge of the Dreamers lll isn’t really fair. Even putting aside how great of an album it is; how through its hour’s length, there isn’t a second wasted; how it curates a balance between the lyrical and the melodical; the low-fi and the hyphy; the anthemic and the thought-provoking; the hip-hop and the soul; the names that pull it together leave it unparalleled by any project of 2019 or any year before it.

 

There is the casual list of Dreamville’s own team: J.Cole, Bas, JID, Ari Lennox, Lute, Omen, Cozz, DaVionne, Mez, and Doctur Dot & Johnny Venus (EARTHGANG). 

 

There are the featuring artists sourced from outside the Dreamville walls: hyphy hip-hop lord, DaBaby, TDE’s REASON, established producer-vocalist-rapper, Childish Major, SoundCloud experimentalist, Guapdad 4000, LA energy bringers, Buddy and Vince Staples, one-of-a-kind lyricist, Smino, and guitar-wielding R&B force, Mereba.

 

There are also the veterans that offer their own services to a studio full of hip-hop and R&B’s next generation. T.I. delivers a classic verse on Ladies, Ladies, Ladies. Ty Dolla $ign brings his sunshiny wave to Got Me. And even Kendrick Lamar – though uncredited – helps introduce the album’s opener, Under The Sun

 

From top to bottom, Revenge of the Dreamers lll is more stacked than any delivery from Good Music’s collaborative project run or the Khaled-era, 9-names-on-the-track, mega-squad anthem. And that’s all due to the process and the times. With an exact due date holding all the artists to quick creative work and the combative, competitive atmosphere so much talent in one space naturally brings, each track on Revenge of the Dreamers lll is refined. Each track has been trimmed down and produced to perfection without a second unfit for such a project. And at a moment in time where the rap syndicate has made such an unexpected yet welcome comeback, having Revenge of the Dreamers lll as its irreplaceable blueprint ensures that the movement for collaborative projects like it is sure to roll well into the 2020’s.

 

The power of collaboration – perfected in quantity and quality – make Dreamville’s experiment what it is – a masterpiece and the best album to be released in 2019. 

 See our Comprehensive List of 2019's Best Albums here: 

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