Since it’s getting close to Hallowe’en, I figured that I’d review one of the creepiest albums I’ve ever heard, 1995’s Dreamworld by Blackout.
Dreamworld is one of my favorite tapes to come out of the incredibly creative and prolific Memphis rap scene in the 1990s. Memphis rap is essentially run by different producers and beatmakers such as DJ Paul, Juicy J, DJ Sound, DJ Squeeky, Tommy Wright III, Blackout, and many more. Each has a particular style. On Dreamworld, Blackout opts for deep, muddy bass, broken-sounding hi-hats, and creepy wailing or tinkling synths. Thank’s to Blackout’s excellent lo-fi production, Dreamworld sounds exactly as advertised, but these dreams seem more like nightmares. I’ve listened to this album alone at night while walking down the streets, and felt legitimately creeped out while enjoying this great tape.
Dreamworld opens with a lengthy vocal sample from the horror film Tales from the Hood on “When I’m on That Dope”, in which a young man struggles to cope with the horrific things he committed when he was high. It’s a fitting intro for this album, and it’s easy to imagine south Memphis in the 1990s as a semi-lawless area, where hopeless young men trapped in the ghetto turn to crack cocaine to cope with their situation. Unfortunately, this just creates a grey area for many. Lying, cheating, and stealing are not only expected, but necessarily in this harsh environment. Google some photos of south Memphis at this time and you’ll see what I mean.
The album continues with a typical Memphis junt about smoking weed, but what makes this album great is not necessarily the lyrics, but the instrumentals. There’s a great high synth part that slides around during the verses. It sounds amazing.
Next is my favorite track on the album, “Mission of a Murda”. The best part of this song is when some rapper from Playa Posse comes in and raps at a fever pitch, “Toss and turn in my bed / Screamin’ demons in my head”. It’s a great song that’s one of the creepiest on this already creepy tape.
I like the next four tracks, but they’re not worth mentioning. Blackout continues to provide some solid rap tracks mixed in with DJ mixes. It’s common in Memphis rap for DJs to take a phrase or two from a song and loop it in every way possible over an instrumental.
“Midnight Murda” is my favorite DJ mix on here, especially the outro. The snares on this track hit hard, fast, and heavy. It kind of reminds me of N.O.D.’s excellent diss track “Tini Lame”.
The album closes with “Body Bagz”, which is sort of the light at the end of a very dark tunnel. Phased guitars and soulful saxophones play over this rap track and the album fades to black, completing one of the most consistent (and thankfully shorter) Memphis tapes I’ve ever heard.
Scott’s Spectacular Song Selections include: “When I’m on That Dope”, “Smokin Treez”, “Mission of a Murda”, “Midnight Murda”, and “Body Bagz”.