Dreezy Takes a More Rhythmic Approach on ‘No Hard Feelings’
Major label debuts in hip-hop are hard, no matter who you are. Dreezy, Chicago’s princess of rap, has already experienced unveiling a project under the umbrella of a major label but nothing as significant as a premiere LP. 2015’s From Now On EP, released via Interscope, was just a quick taste test of what Dreezy brings to the table -- consistently potent punchlines, R&B tendencies and a backbone tougher than the neighborhood she comes from. That EP, though, was only five tracks that were presumably her individually best. Now, her full album, No Hard Feelings, attempts to translate those same standout qualities but across a larger body of work.
Dreezy’s biggest strength really lies in her ability to bounce between R&B songstress and street spitter. Her self-aware, heartfelt melodies were the best part about her 2014 mixtape Schizo, but her flawless execution of the Chicago-spawned drill flow showcased on the remix to Nicki Minaj and G Herbo’s “Chi-Raq” arguably landed her the deal with Interscope in the first place. She really shines brightest when both are being balanced equally, which is why it’s discouraging to see that aside from a couple of tracks on this album, Dreezy puts the drill flows on ice.
No Hard Feelings gives more attention to the R&B side of Dreezy, which is featured on tracks like "Body," "Wasted," "Afford My Love," "Don't Know Me" and "Break the News." While her growth and experimenting with new sounds is welcome, showcasing a little more of the harder Dreezy fans have grown to love would have definitely kept energy levels higher here.
Lucky enough, we get reintroduced to raw rap Dreezy early on with “We Gon Ride” and “Spazz,” the former featuring recently released trap god Gucci Mane. Both cuts are issued as her ostentatious warning shots to any other MC thinking they can out-rap “the real street bitch.” Southside and TM88 pull out all the sonic stops on both tracks so that all Dreezy has to do is step up to the mic and lace the pocket with heat. “I might call your number like bingo/If you cash me out like casinos/Won't get in my feelings and he know/Could never play me cause I'm single,” she delivers. Mission accomplished.
That cutthroat delivery pops twice more on the album: once on the slay anthem, “Bad Bitch,” and finally on the LP’s best and closing track “Invincible.” Dreezy manages to seamlessly combine her slower singing with her most impressive rapping to date. “I’mma show the critics who they underestimated/Take over city to city and then might start real estating/I’m black and educated but I’m over dedicated/ You can imitate it but no bitch you cannot replicate it,” she rhymes. Her bars are delivered with such conviction that you might start questioning why Dreezy isn’t in your current list of top five MCs.
The remaining 16 songs (excluding all the skits) feature Dreezy at her more relationship-oriented singing-self. As much as her street style is appreciated, highlighting this side of her story does actually come from a genuine place. In an interview with XXL, the rapper revealed a few personal moments that likely had an impact on the creation of this project. “I lost my boyfriend; I’m not with him no more. I just really had to be independent. I always been independent, I just had to be about me.”
The previously released track “Body” with Jeremih, which debuted at No. 62 on the Billboard Hot 100, is definitely the song that has potential to take her to a more mainstream plateau. However, “Wasted” is a much more vivid piece of micro-storytelling about the imperfect dealings with relationships and alcohol. Wale’s help on “Afford My Love” is another high moment for the album. Dreezy catches a groovy harmony and rips above-average verses while Wale does the same, from the male perspective.
With No Hard Feelings, Dreezy attempts to find a happy medium between street rapper and silky songstress. Fans of her harder bars and grittier raps will be championing for the former while those looking for versatility will appreciate what she has to offer here when it comes to her sing-song flow. Either way, as the rapper puts it on "Invincible," she's more than ready to "show the critics who they underestimating."
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