The American Dream mixtape (released on July 30th of 2015), by the Harlem Rap group Dip- Set (which consists of Juelz Santana, Cam’ron, Freeky Zekey and Jim Jones), is the equivalent of what you would hear turning on your radio for seventy seven ingratiating minutes to the most serviceably mainstream station imaginable at any given time of day. This isn’t wholly surprising as Juelz Santana and Cam’ron rose to stardom in the late 1990’s with their catchy, radio friendly hits (most notably Cam’ron’s The Commodores sampled “Hey, Ma” from his 2002 effort Come Home With Me) but there is hardly a moment, outside of the many various filler skits thrown haphazardly throughout in a failed endeavor to give this sonic mess some sense of consistency, that doesn’t scream of an imitation of the sound, style and anti-intellectual lyrics (the content is especially conformist and provides, perhaps, the best example to back this statement up) that the foursome also commonly known as The Diplomats is desperately following the temporary trend in an exceedingly desperate endeavor for continued Pop appeal.
Every skit in its massive thirty track arsenal is just another extraneous, and artificially raw, equivalent of a bit from a Gangster film, leftover pieces from a stand-up comedian’s monologue and the songs found herein never wavers from the same sex, violence and repetitive hook (the most complex of which might have two lines at the most) formula that has proven a recipe for commercial success but, also, ingredients for an artist to enjoy no more than his or her fifteen minutes of musical spotlight.
It begins on a surprisingly beautiful note with Kiyah White belting out ear pleasing vocals on “Intro” and the effect is so unexpected and different that I found myself wondering if this was actually Dip-Set and not something else entirely that I had stumbled upon. Alas, it is all to no avail as misstep after misstep occurs from here on in with the deplorable collection of Rap clichés that is “I’m so Sorry” (featuring equally pedestrian verses from Sen City and Lil S$S) down to Chinx’s “How to Get Rich” (with indecipherable from any other song production by the usually intriguing Riot Squad). By the time track eight, “We Hustle”, comes with a guest spot from Lil’ Wayne we only sigh in defeat and think to ourselves that of course they would have him thrown into the mix given that the audience Dip-Set is going for here are the same ones who seem to get any inkling of excitement on any occasion he announces a new project.
The only creative element to the emceeing capabilities and the cringe-worthy, routine and ringing with the generic tin of a Future or Troy Avenue song production cannot be found on the mixtape itself. What small bit of imagination utilized in this gargantuan waste of both artist and listener’s time is that the effort is broken up into a Side A and a less obviously conventional, twenty-six minute Side B (even on most digital platforms).
On one side this brings the promise of an old-school vibe immediately to the table, and it can be also easily discerned that this is also a mixtape that is comparable to the days when double disc collections (such as The Notorious B.I.G’s Life After Death and Tupac Shakur’s All Eyez on Me) only gave us twice the reason to get excited, that just makes the usual content immediately noticeable with titles like “Pistol Ring” (which has the quickest glimpse of life from a guest spot by Styles P), “Gangsta …”, (which does sport some surprisingly solid scratching and a focus more on lyrics than the rest of the mixtape by Dave East), Patrick Ewing’s “Strikkly Stakkin”, “Corner Boy” and “Click Click Click” (all of which are dull, lazy escapades in terms of lyricism and overall construction and give you precisely the mundane elements you’d expect from such songs and refuse to break away from it for even the briefest duration) all the more of a tremendous letdown.
Even the trademark R&B turns it takes with the dedication of a working man forced to plow through what needs to be done to get his paycheck and leave the scene, are equally standard issue tracks concerning sexual attraction and no more like the second to the last tune on the A Side: “She Got It” (with equally uninspired and careless production by Hollywood) as well as “Perfect Girl” which comes immediately afterward (which wastes some genuinely soulful singing from Faith Evans and a soothing melody for a regurgitation of exactly what you would expect subject matter wise from a tune with such a title).
This could’ve been an opportunity to bring some variety, or at the very least an attempt at sentiment that the largely emotionally hollow majority of this mixtape presents, but the approach to these songs is just as much of scratching off an invisible list of ingredients for mass culture consumption that the various attempts at supposedly ‘hardcore’ rhyming elucidate throughout. It just makes the whole project reek even more with a sense of carelessness and quickly crushing under the weight of its own ineffectuality, ego (exemplified by the eye-rolling idiocy present in 1 Shot Deal’s “I Love me More”) and crass futility.
Fans of Cam’ron and the rest of the crew composing Dip-Set will find disappointment in how little the group whose name is erected on the mixtape’s title is used. This, like far too much of modern Rap, is mostly a platform for a plethora of other artists (mainly fellow New York representatives) to take up space with the occasional glimmer of wordplay from the usually likable, but practically indiscernible from all other persons on this hopeless exertion, Juelz Santana. Jim Jones and Freekey Zekey offer nothing new and, in turn, have the easiest time blending in with the rest of the crowd. It isn’t just the rappers themselves which have the problem but, the music as a whole, and it is one of many reasons why little here seems to stick, linger in the mind as the catchiest radio tunes (which is obviously what they are going for) do and it makes the totality of the American Dream mixtape all the more forgettable and makes one wonder why, besides a quick buck, emcees like Cam’ron, who have proven that they know how to make jams which are enjoyable and have the Popular music appeal they are going for, even tried.