ALBUM REVIEW: Dream Mclean ‘Grayscale’

"...although many won’t know the 23-year-old for this slowed up, almost tranquil style, it’s refreshing to see him take risks on his long-awaited step into the limelight."

The most incredible thing about Dream Mclean’s debut album, Greyscale, is that it’s taken this long to finally reach us. Dream has been turning the heads of Annie Mac, Zane Lowe and MistaJam on Radio 1 alone for a stupid amount of years considering he’s still only 23, and he’s worked with Chase and Status for long enough to already have a sizeable catalogue of bangers. Frankly anyone who’s anyone in grime and UK hip hop knew Mclean was headed for stardom a long time ago and so Greyscale, despite its quite ironically dull name, had huge hype surrounding its release this week.

The decision to release the trippy, compelling video for the lead single ‘Pharoah’ recently was a masterstroke because the track typifies Dream better than any other on the LP, for the benefit of anyone still yet to learn of his presence. The combination of his lazy drawl and its potent beat make for a subtle, yet altogether memorable consequence. Bars like: “it’s not well, all these drinks in my cocktail, all these girls I’ve beat, all these beats in my hotmail” are practically the Regime member’s mantra and although not exactly game-changing, they’re true to his trademark laidback style.

‘Pharoah’, like much of Greyscale, offers a drug reference-filled window to Mclean’s brain, with his groans of “I think I’m fucking insane, lord” on the hook. The frequency of those references might frustrate rap fans, tired of their perhaps stereotypical nature, but on tracks like the Wallace Rice featured ‘Black and White’, it’s clear that the Colchester man couldn’t care less. That track, by the way, is also reminiscent of much of the album’s tone with regards to its dazed, finger-clicking pace. It’s certainly easy-to-listen to and although many won’t know the 23-year-old for this slowed up, almost tranquil style, it’s refreshing to see him take risks on his long-awaited step into the limelight.

If you’re looking for Dream to showcase his repertoire at a quicker tempo, fear not, for the second half of Greyscale showcases a definite change of pace and it’s there that Mclean comes into his own. The gutsy, bullish vibe of ‘Slut’, which sees our protagonist declare: “I was out in Europe for 7 days, ate (8) a German bitch till she said nein! (9)” Wordplay wise, that bar might only be put to shame by his “Andre feeling Outkast in a room full of 3000 Big Bois” on the Ibiza club styled “Hi-Fi”, which demonstrates what Mclean is all about: relaxed but altogether witty observations regardless of the tone of the track.

The tale of ‘Alice’, which is far from Disney’s “Wonderland” despite Mclean’s comparison, again sees drugs brought to the fray; with the Essex wordsmith telling us of a female who experiments with cocaine. “I said: ‘you can’t weigh love in grams’, she said, ‘but you can’” before then explaining she’s “gone too far”. At that point, every man in earshot will recall a memory of caring for a female too far under the influence; and that speaks volumes for Andre’s story-telling capabilities.

You’re also in for a treat if you’ve never heard the Chase & Status produced finale “Angel Dust”, which features the elegant hook of Delilah and Mclean’s powerful description of the effect coke has on him: “You got the best of me, the best of me, Taking my sight, you’re taking my senses, taking my breath from me”. It’s a radio ready track on an album that isn’t exactly bursting at the seams with them, so to place it at the LP’s climax really does end it on a high.

It’s ‘D.W.I.D’ that will deservedly take the headlines, though. Roping in long-time friend Professor Green and the mysteriously masked legend that is CASisDEAD makes for what should be regarded as nothing less than one of the best tracks of the year: some compliment considering what a spectacular year 2014 has been for UK urban music. All 3 rappers take no prisoners on the powerhouse beat, with Pro’s “feeling kinda saucy now that I’ve been on the condiments, dick in my hand, holding my rod while I’m fishing for compliments” summarising a humour-filled verse that just about takes itself seriously enough to be great. Watch out for Cas’s effort, though, which is by far Greyscale’s best feature.

Dream will continue learning from legends like Pro and Cas and will continue to be mentioned by DJs and trendsetters like Lowe and Mac, but the big question is whether he can continue to re-invent himself as he did to an extent on Greyscale. It’s also difficult to tell what’s next for him, simply because of how versatile he’s demonstrated he can be already and despite how easy it is to forget; the fact that he’s 23. One thing is for sure though: the wait for him to make the transition from Colchester estate to iTunes chart was an undoubtedly worthwhile one

Tom Rodwell

Tom Rodwell

Nurtured on heavyweights like Jay Z, Nas and Kanye, Tom is a huge hip hop fan. Having also since discovered grime music's charm and enjoying a taste which becomes increasingly open-minded, he has grown comfortable with music in widely contrasting forms.