Originally published at Passionweiss
The Dream can’t sing like Usher or dance like Chris Brown, but the music is better. In a genre harvested for disposable singles where performers adopt electronica-lite to crossover, Terius Nash is one of the few doing it differently. His songs are at times lewd, bitter and self-reflective.
On the Mobb Deep sampling “Cold” from last year’s Royalty: The Prequel EP, Nash’s lover dances to his contemporaries and he’s jealous of their audio seduction. During “Turnt Out,” Dream mentions forgetting to sing in falsetto and throughout “Lake Michigan” admits to being a jaded ex-romantic. Even lighter work like “I Luv Your Girl” and “That’s My Shit” aren’t innocent love songs, but transparent references to Lil Wayne’s relationships with his ex partners.
Among the assembly line ten-packs, The Dream conveys more than cliché. We’re not talking Shakespearean wordplay, but as 90% of mainstream R&B is more worried about consuming a refined carb than music, Dream’s imperfect personality is necessary.
Production is another of the self-proclaimed Radio Killa’s strengths. When Beyoncé and fellow hit syndicates aren’t tapping Nash's song writing with partner Tricky Stewart, his most interesting work stays in house. The majority of Dream's tracks aren't audio throwaways for a tweenage audience, but compelling finger-snappers.
His catalogue is an instrumental master class with drums that knock and synths that trigger your internal dancing machine. Terius’ first three albums twisted the influence of R&B demigods with simple romantic themes. Later work is darker and experimental as he hardened his subject matter after two divorces.
Not shy of exhibiting his influences, Nash is a music student. He’s paid tribute to R Kelly (“12 Play”), reworked lyrics from Ginuwine (“Ghetto”), channelled Prince (many tracks) and mimicked MJ (“Michael.”) Dream's also used enough of the "AY!" ad-lib to make even the most dedicated regionalist wish they were from Hotlanta.
Although his own influence is yet to be properly acknowledged, fellow singers undoubtedly pay attention and he's hinted The Weeknd listened to "Fancy" a bit too closely. Six track EP Crown was released earlier this month ahead of his July full length Crown Jewel. As with all Dream projects, there’s some tracks I’ll be listening to in a few months and some I’ll only return to occasionally. The aforementioned Royalty is the closest he’s come to a perfectly cohesive project with dynamic production, personal references, no unnecessary features and the most tasteful Outkast reference in recent memory. There have been concessions for radio and IV Play suffered from forced guest spots, but there’s rarely a release that doesn’t have a baby-making masterpiece.
As someone with a PhD in The Dream's music, I've listened to his full catalogue and made the below playlist with my favourite songs. You might want to leave a comment about how a song you like isn’t featured or turn your nose up at R&B, otherwise you can two step with the rest of us.