October 1, 2016 saw the release of D.R.A.M.’s debut self-titled album, Big Baby D.R.A.M. D.R.A.M.’s real name is Shelley Marshaun Massenburg-Smith. He was born in Germany and grew up in Virginia. Appearing on the rap scene in 2014, he an EP, a mixtape, and a single (none of them charted) before releasing April’s smash hit “Broccoli,” which ultimately peaked at #5 on the Billboard 100 (#1 on the rap charts) and went double platinum, selling two million copies.
The cover art features Shelley with a big, friendly smile holding a dog. It does a decent job of setting the tone for the album. When a slow, vocally-driven intro track leads into “Misunderstood” Featuring Young Thug, a light, jittery piano loop accompanied with roaring guitar riffs affirm that D.R.A.M. has no interest in anything brooding or menacing. The instrumentation is fresh from a rapper like D.R.A.M. Vocally, he alternates between a difficult-to-discern mumble-rap and more conventional singing. Young Thug actually has a similar voice to D.R.A.M., and neither of them disappoint in their vocal delivery, which flows nicely and is easy on the ears.
Regrettably, the album takes a turn for the worse. “In a Minute/In House” manages to be both instrumentally bizarre yet uninspired. The same goes for “Monticello Ave” and “Wifi”. Laden with somber tones and more conventional songwriting, references to popular culture and D.R.A.M.’s pleasant vocals do little for tracks so forgettable.
The tone shifts back to the light and energetic production with “Cash Machine” and the album enters its most memorable stretch. D.R.A.M.’s blend of excitable, wonderfully executed, and catchy vocals, tastefully used drum loops and electronic noise, placed over a layer of pounding bass reaffirms Shelley’s position as cutting edge in his field. “Cash Machine” is followed by “Broccoli”, “Cute”, and “Outta Sight”- all maintaining the same strength. Of these 4 songs, the first 3 were the ones chosen to release as singles — a wise decision and acknowledgement that this is the more palatable section of the album, although “Broccoli” was the only track that charted.
Following the short interlude after “Outta Sight” the album returns to the more conventional songwriting. It’s largely filler and almost completely carried by D.R.A.M.’s vocals. The last leg of the album is nothing to write home about and generally forgettable. The bonus track is “Workaholics”, the only track on the album in which D.R.A.M. develops a more hostile tone to his competitors in the rap game, showcasing Shelley’s versatility as a songwriter.
In summary, Big Baby D.R.A.M. is likely to be carried by its hit single, Broccoli. The best tracks on the album are those which closely resemble Broccoli. D.R.A.M. plays with styles and tones that break from what’s worked for him but is largely unsuccessful. Massenburg-Smith’s future in the industry seems. Is D.R.A.M. a one hit wonder who will largely be remembered for “Broccoli”? Or will this album be successful enough to earn him a presence as a popular force in the rap game? There’s no way to tell but to give it time.
Note: Big Baby D.R.A.M. by D.R.A.M. contains vulgar and inappropriate language, and parental discretion is advised.