J. Cole & Dreamville Records - Revenge Of The Dreamers (Mixtape)

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With "Revenge of the Dreamer," The J. Cole-led Dreamville quartet complete a picture of a solid vision, but none are yet greater than the sum of their parts.

In the Middle Ages, then-king of England William the Conqueror would gift his most ardent military supporters with fiefdoms to rule in appreciation of their prowess in battle. In a similar event, on January 29, 2014, Jay Z gave J.Cole of the Roc Nation Army a gift and a blessing. Foremost, the gift involved Jay “chaining” Cole with the former’s original Roc-a-Fella chain, thus blessing J. Cole with good tidings as his “fiefdom”–new Interscope Records subsidiary Dreamville–launched with the Revenge of the Dreamers mixtape. In being both a) emblematic of J. Cole maturing into a leading mainstream Rap superstar and b) featuring material wholly fitting into sounds typical of Clear Channel radio fare, it’s a mixed bag filled equally with promise.

Aside from having to hear the seven-month-old J. Cole and TLC duet “Crooked Smile” as the mixtape’s outro, Cole and his Dreamville cronies showcase easy manners and listenable deliveries on this compilation. Bas, Omen, Treasure Davis and K Quick are the first artists that have been introduced as being affiliated with Dreamville, and all deliver performances that don’t so much create fans for life, but exemplify excellence on the side of mainstream-friendly label Rap. As a collective, to compare Dreamville to Odd Future or Top Dawg Entertainment on either a content-based or creative level is an exercise in futility. This isn’t Rap steeped in the past or idealizing the future, this sounds like right now. Intriguingly enough, there’s likely a more sustainable market for that than anything else in pop music at the moment.

The Dreamville quartet all complete a picture of a solid vision, but none yet have that superstar quality of being greater than the sum of their parts. Omen shares a similar introspective storytelling style to Cole, but dissimilar to the North Carolina native delivers raps with bravado and verve. “Henny Flow” and “Motion Pictures” are his standout performances here, as his willingness to engage the listener with his personality shines through. Omen shows adeptness at handling a soulful track that will likely prove to be advantageous for any potential crossover aspirations. Bas and Treasure Davis are the “spitters” here, with hooks and choruses falling secondary to bar-for-bar lyrical slaughters. “Golden Goals” is an exhausting two minutes and 48 seconds, (the real takeaway quote being “100 ni**as yellin’ ‘New York back / I hear ‘em rappin’, they only setting New York back” being the most damning quote about fresh and relevant content in the “New York is dead” conversation) comparable to that moment when a caged lion is set free into the jungle. As well, Davis’ “May the Bitter Man Win” is a strange choice as the bitter and lovelorn tale presents limited reach for a mainstream debut. Similar to K Quick, Davis requires further development of an engaging presence and the ability to polish his tracks from rugged stones into uniquely attractive jewels.

J. Cole’s arrival as a mainstream hit-maker is certainly expected, and making key developments in execution. Certainly, the influence of mentor Jay Z is obvious in the diversity of voices from “above the fray” dismissal on “Lil’ Ni**az” (which features five mentions of his ability to earn money in batches of $250,000 in just under 90 seconds) to flawless and endearing pop-soul dominance on title track “Revenge of the Dreamers,” the reflective vibe of “Blowin’ Smoke” and the overconfident lothario on posse anthem “Bitchez.” Cole’s evolution to boss status though is a tale best told by a unique skill that he has added to his arsenal. He raps to the mood of the track with which he has been presented, and is gifted with the ability to bend the metaphorical tree of highbrow production and allow the masses to enjoy the fruit it bears. Notable on this mixtape is Cole’s move to almost become an anti-Drake in the sense where Drake explores his craft and is willing to take the extra risk, but Cole is growing in competence at laying in wait and approaching his craft with a patient eye and ear.

In 2013, Cole seemingly provided the anecdotal and statistical proof he could stand next to Rap’s heavyweights. He notched a top five placement with Born Sinner and, along with Miguel, was nominated for “Best Rap/Sung Collaboration” at the 56th Annual Grammy Awards. Musically, there’s nothing on Revenge of the Dreamers to change the minds of Cole detractors. But, now backed by four talented emcees on his Dreamville label, Cole may finally have the beginnings of the necessary firepower required to back up his audacious claim to the upper echelons of stardom in Rap music. If it’s once non-believers that were causing Cole angst, this body of work clearly illustrates that he’s certainly taken great steps to take “revenge.”


  • Anonymous

    The hip hop editors know so little about hip hop. Using irrelevant similes and metaphors and pedantic language to deceive people into thinking they know what they're talking about. How they can give this mixtape 3 stars is beyond me. It has more substance than anything that has come out in 2014. The verse in 'Lit' from J cole and verses in 'Revenge of the Dreamers' prove why he Jay z gave him the original roc chain.

  • Jonny Rosas

    Pretty dope cought me off guard when it came out

  • alexis

    Absolutely love... Dope!

  • JM

    didn't like it. i know it wasn't supposed to be much but still, just wasn't feelin it. i like the original crooked smile though.

  • meng srin

    Loy man som bn tor

  • Logan

    Good mixtape, can't wait to hear more from Dreamville

  • Anonymous

    J. Cole made another great project, I wish it had more stories throughout the Mixtape but it was excellent, and I cant wait for the full Lil Niggaz song.

  • wtf

    This mixtape sucked big time by J.Cole standards Friday night lights destroys this. His Homies are also very sub par nothing special probably end up like the st.lunatics where no ones cares and they don't even make music anymore really.

    • Anonymous

      I Kinda agree.. J. Cole still delivered but looking back at Friday Night Lights, it falls short like Kendrick lamar's height.. no disrespect to one of my favourites right now.. That point about his "homies being sub par" and probably ending up like St. Lunatics.. great point

  • liquidarmz

    Better than Average...It will see heavy rotation in the ride

  • workshop23

    I don't necessarily agree with this article, at all, but there are 2 huge mistakrs. 1. The version of 'Crooked Smile' at the end of the mixtape is the original version. Entirely different from the one featured on Born Sinner. Secondly "May the Bitter Man Win" is not a "lovelorn" song. The entire song is a metaphor about Cole and his "relationship" with the rap game. It's about how Kendrick took Cole's spot and Cole wants it back. Best song of the tape imho.Not a huge fan of a couple of the songs but I'd still give it 4/5

    • Phlash

      Haha, Kendrick took Cole's spot. Now thats funny

    • Ryan

      It is the original, it's just using the same sample. It's also the same sample 2Pac used for Str8 Ballin' way back (94 I think) on the Thug Life album.

    • dang

      That is not the original version because the instrumental is from paulwall and chamillionaires debut album Get your mind correct. and that dropped in like 03.

  • NinjaB

    I don't get the relatively low rating from HHDX after a mostly positive review... I would have thought at least a 3.5 or 4 based on the comments... and that happens to be in line with what I would give it too

  • John Mathis

    Good tape. Has its goods and bads but i like it. A nice little showcase of what dreamville has to offer

  • Kane

    J. Cole = KING OF HIPHOP

  • peezy

    Disappointed. Not my cup of tea. Cole got a bit complacent.

  • Anonymous

    Not feeling this tape.. Going to give it a third listen though.


    This tape is f'ing good, Bas and omen go in.

  • Anonymous

    Jeez, all this fuss over a mixtape. Not a album, a mixtape.

  • Teresa Mannings

    before I looked at the draft four $4417 , I accept ...that...my neighbours mother woz like actualy bringing home money in their spare time from their laptop. . there sisters neighbour has been doing this 4 only about fifteen months and recently paid the dept on there place and purchased a great Fiat Panda . straight from the source... www.Fb39.com Out of all the rappers... You assign a Lil Wayne song? My goodness. How fucked up is this world?

  • seth

    Great mixtape! Its a ColeWorld in Dreamville

  • Fletch Fletcher

    HHDX you have no business reviewing this. He released this in celebration of joining with Interscope its not meant to be scrutinized. Can't we just enjoy the music without someone having to criticize it?

    • LD51

      Whether or not that is a real DX reply I'm not sure, but THANK YOU. SERIOUSLY!!! I love J Cole, seen duke in concert, mixtapes, all that. But this is NOT a 4.43 (user rating). It REALLY is a 3 at best. If he (they) didn't want it to be scrutinized they should not have released it to the public! Back in the day people understood when they liked garbage (not saying this is, but a larger issue at hand), that is NOT A SIN. But just because you like the D+ horror shtick flick (it may be your favorite movie ever!) does not automatically make it a good movie, or contenders with the Godfather. We have been so brutalized over the centuries its like we can't take any criticism to ourselves or those we care about without having these knee jerk weak emotional reactions. We have to get stronger. There is no other way.

    • DX

      Nigga how the hell did we scrutinize this review? We didn't scrutinize shit. Every album can't be the perfect musical landscape of beauty and magical rainbows. Wake up. Opinions are what they are, and we're sticking to our guns. We're not going to kiss your asses and rate EVERY album a 4 or a 5. A 3 is a decent score, so deal with it.

  • wowzaa

    I could really bump to this. I just wish it was more deep. Like j. Cole and omen on "enchanted" or there "badness" track from warm up or even "mama told me I was special" but none the less still better than all the other whack rappers

  • Anonymous

    This was dope! J.Cole is just introducing his new artists in a special way. Bas and Omen have been putting out projects for a long minute. But once they get that decent production and marketing with this new situation, it's going to be a dope look. I feel like it's going to be Bas first (because of his Lit buzz) then Omen and then Elite and then Voli. I'm not sure if he messes with all them still like that but J.Cole definitely holds his crew down. I see Drake with OVO, Wale with BOA, J.Cole with Dreamville. These folks are setting up they starting 5 lol! Hip hop is like Bball I swear!

  • @tonybakercomedy

    This rating is too low in my opinion.

    • M

      the rating is too low the project was pretty solid. could it have been better? sure. but over all I fuck with it; I think thats were people fail listening to something once and giving it a review upon the first impression. Thats not how music is meant to to critiqued one listen isnt gonna give you everything. Now if you listened more then once and still dont fuck with it that becomes your opinion and everyone is entitled to love or hate whatever doesnt fit to their taste.

    • Marcus

      I believe that it's a rather fair rating, considering it's their debut album and all. We'll see what the future holds for these young dreamers. Until then, they should go back to sleep.