Dreams Worth More Than Money begins with Hip Hop’s most audacious sample of the year in Mozart’s Requiem in D. It then reappears after Meek’s voice blares in through silence as though come from behind a thick red and golden curtain. There’s an arrogance here, acceptable but pretentious, that personifies the Maybach Music Group. They are obsessed with antiquity, with lavishness, with kingliness. And, at times on this fourteen-track album, reveling in Meek Mill’s joy is exciting. However, for what this album brings to the table in terms of bravado and superb production it falls short at the center: at Meek Mill himself. An exciting, yet unbalanced offering, it offers a glimpse of an artist slowly improving his craft, with possibly the best being yet to come.

This album’s best single is “Check,” which intriguingly only features Meek Mill himself  screaming about how much he loves spending money at nightclubs over a Metro Boomin and Southside production. Ideally suited for popping 50 bottles at LIV in Miami on a Sunday night, that’s the last time we really get the Mill that many of his diehard fans have come to enjoy. Instead on his second studio album Meek’s all about attempting to showcase just how much he’s apparently developed as an artist in the past three years.

The best of Meek’s “improvements” are actually spotlighted here as a tale of familiar tropes from rap’s halcyon era of the 90s and early 2000s. OVO-affiliated producer Boi-1da crafts a swirling trap banger for “Ambitionz,” but that doesn’t stop Meek from deciding that this is the best time to indulge his love of Tupac as he screams “Ambitionz az a ridah” on the hook. As well, one-time Timbaland understudy Danja digs into the throwback machine and creates “Stand Up,” a track that bears a strong resemblance to Mobb Deep sampling Giorgio Moroder’s theme to the film Scarface for their 1999 duet with Nas “It’s Mine.” Throw in Bangladesh producing “Classic,” which features Swizz Beatz exhorting Meek Mill’s flow, and the Diddy assisted “Cold Hearted” and you’ve got a step in an introspective direction for Meek.

The modern age is here too and showcases one of the album’s most significant flaws. Much of this album is spent using guest appearances to elevate Meek Mill to a higher level of renown as an artist. Unfortunately though, artists like Drake, Future, The Weeknd, Nicki Minaj and Rick Ross seem to drown Meek out aurally, changing the sound of the album from his overt reliance on grandness to whichever sound suits the feature best. When placed on a track next to tough talker/screamer Mill, the finesse of their delivery excites while Mill’s presence wanes.

The best example of Meek Mill falling short is on “R.I.C.O.,” a track that has Swizz Beatz and Vinylz behind the boards for a punchy and off-kilter trap anthem. Drake’s featured here and says less than one bar into the track saying “the girl of your dreams probably is not a challenge.” That level of ostentatiousness is not quite the domain of Meek Mill, and when it appears on the album it sticks out like a shocking and exciting sore thumb, Mill unable to match his unique use of hubris.

The idea of blending Meek’s salty flow with the caramel sweet voices of both The Weeknd and Nicki Minaj is great in theory but falls just short in execution as Meek doesn’t necessarily have the educated and nimble wordplay of say, Blueprint-era Jay Z needed to meet his amigos halfway. On “Bad For You” co-captained by Nicki Minaj, the Ben Billion$ production hits a high note when Nicki coos “I’m a good girl but I want to be bad for you,” but that level of sensuality isn’t approached by Meek screaming “Surfbort, surfbort” in a clear homage to Jay Z’s Grammy award-winning duet with his wife Beyonce on “Drunk in Love.”

Meek Mill is 12 years into his rap career, has had hit singles with many of his album collaborators and is an artist whose sophomore effort falls short of taking him to the next level. On this album, he fails to consistently exceed expectations. When DWMTM is great, it’s because of the gorgeous production or due to a feature artist’s performance more frequently than when Meek takes the lead. Dreams Worth More Than Money is a slight misfire for Meek Mill, but enough is there the we think he can eventually achieve in his music the high he’s achieved in his personal life.