Review: ‘D-Day: A Gangsta Grillz Mixtape’ delivers strong tracks

By Sherrie Williams, Apr. 26, 2022

Dreamville Records released its fourth collective album, “D-Day: A Gangsta Grillz Mixtape” on March 31. The mixtape’s strong start brings out my extroverted personality, and I can say most of the album will be my favorite with exceptions of tracks “Blackberry Sap” and “Hair Salon.”

The label was founded by rapper J. Cole and manager Ibrahim Hamad in 2007. Their signed artist roster features Bas, Ari Lennox—the first and only woman signed to the label— Cozz, Omen, Lute, JID and EARTHGANG.

The album opens with the track “Stick” featuring JID, Kenny Mason, Sheck Wes and Cole. The song makes for a “rager,” with a banging and explosive beginning that reflects the album cover and title. During the bridge, DJ Drama says, “talkin’ about festivals, I’m thinkin’ more like invasions.” When this line came up, I immediately made a reference to the second, in person, annual Dreamville Festival held from April 2-3 at Dorothea Dix Park in Raleigh, North Carolina.

It is lines like these that make me, a listener, feel like change or intent is up to me and not what anyone else says. I believe this is what Cole wanted to do with his label too and the way he wants to promote up-and-comers and those that differentiate from other artists.

The mixtape goes onto the second track, “Ghetto Gods Freestyle,” with EARTHGANG and 2 Chainz. The song’s addicting rolling and hard beats, 808s, make it catchy from the beginning to end. The adlibs of “yeah” sounds and the beginning of the third verse, rapped by Chainz and Drama, makes for listeners to hold onto, remember and have fun with.

Courtesy of Stephen Leonardi

“Starting 5” with Lute, Cozz and Omen is another one of my favorites not only because of the incorporation of the old, jazzy hip-hop sound but because of the head-bopping chorus. The simplicity and repetition of the lyrics was also a factor in my enjoyment of the song.

The lyrics, “I turn nothing into something, water into wine” symbolizes the authentic grind of those who go into the rap game. The line flows easily off the tongue while also speaking hard truth for Dreamville artists.

Drama’s interlude was unexpected, and I gasped out of disbelief. It referenced the 2022 Oscars with the lyrics, “Don’t get Chris Rocked out your socks. Anything can and Will happen then watch me walk back to my seat. Keep our name out your f—— mouth.”

Mixtapes are known to sample over existing beats and “Coming Down” with Ari Lennox did just that over Rose Royce’s “I’m Going Down” instrumentals. Her voice serves as the sultry female artist addition to the project and label.

In the middle of the mixtape is Cole’s “Freedom of Speech.” In the one-verse track, he adds conversational responses that act as a light pause from the consistent flow, which I favor. I also enjoyed the outro shoutout to Cole’s manager and the record’s co-founder with, “Ib what up?”

To me, “Everybody Ain’t S—” with EARTHGANG hinted at a very light influence of E40 with the bass, snare-like sounds and chorus making it easy to sing along even on the first listen. There never is a dull moment throughout the song.

Cozz’s sample over The Notorious B.I.G.’s “Who Shot Ya?” added that hard, older rap vibe one would hear during the 90s that has been lost with mainstream music today. He highlights the authenticity of the 90s rap scene of people and himself that come from neighborhoods like Crenshaw to make it into the industry, and he goes after those who are talentless but in it mostly for clout.

With the mixtape being influenced by earlier rappers who had set bona fide standards, it closes with Cole’s softer “Heaven’s EP.” The lyrics illustrate the imposter syndrome he has at times. It reflects to him starting his label too with lyrics, “I’ve been questioning, second guessing whether or not I’ve got something to offer since I done eluded poverty.”

Dreamville Records was created to allow a space for youth with genuine depth of talents and sounds back into the music industry. The mixtape ends with the line, “Follow the leaders…D-Day, Dreamville” acting as a true closer of the project and motto reminder. These collaboration albums from Dreamville Records are something I continue to enjoy and repeatedly listen to because of the interesting adlibs, artists and their intention with their music.

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