Review: Smoke DZA's "Dream.ZONE.Achieve"

 
73%

Editor rating

Golden: 4 Broken: 0
Unanimous

Audience rating

53 votes
88%
Review: Smoke DZA's "Dream.ZONE.Achieve"

Editor Rating

75%
Iva Anthony

Solid Project

Smoke DZA's latest effort shows off his storytelling skills even more.
6
2
72%
Philip Cheek

Smoke DZA sounds great, but...

DZA's sound is absolutely amazing on this record, so we can forgive him if the record starts to sound repetitive considering its length. The album has twice as many tracks than it really needs.
1
12
74%
Nicolas James

Errthang valid.

DZA hasn't exactly broken new ground here, but the lyricism and production are both on point, and his profound respect for the culture is ever-present. That being said, the project could've been more concise - I found myself drifting in and out.
4
1
71%
Rose Lilah

My thoughts are summarized: "Hmmm."

I had the mindset that I'd be fucking with this, but something is lacking from DZA as a whole. LP is too lengthy, so pair that with almost too-chill beats & unchanging flow = bored. A few tracks (such as "9Eleven", "Tropicana Roses") stood out.
6
5

Audience Rating

How do you rate this album/mixtape? Very Hottttt Hottttt Meh... Not feeling it Make it stop!  

Finally dropping the long-awaited "Dream.ZONE.Achieve", Smoke DZA proves that he can do anything he sets his mind to.

Smoke DZA fans have seen the Harlem rapper’s growth from his last few projects. He went from hard-hitting straight-laced lyrics in George Kush Da Button to a street storyteller in Rugby Thompson. Back with the long awaited and highly anticipated Dream.ZONE.Achieve, DZA sets out to prove that he has a lot more to talk about than just marijuana.

Inspired by his moniker, DZA’s latest project is broken up into three sections: dream, zone and achieve. The first third of the album focuses on the thought process of doing what you want to do. DZA steps into the zone, the actual hustle of making the dreams come true before finally achieving and reaping the benefits of all the hard work that was put in. DZA puts his hometown on the forefront with “City of Dreams” and channels Jay Z circa Reasonable Doubt in “Jigga Flow,” featuring NymLo. Joey Bada$$ turns out a mean 16 in “Fhvt Bvsturd.”

In a true dream come true collaboration, Cam’ron makes an appearance on “Ghost of Dipset,” a slow, soulful jam produced courtesy of Thelonious Martin that all Dipset fans will go crazy over. While Cam’ron raps about running into an old female acquaintance who could briefly get it before changing his mind, Smoke DZA is more serious:

"I play the block with the youngins/ Like a recruiter on any Martin Luther/ Acquainted with shooters, the randomous killings/ Is pure entertainment to a nigga that's brainless hands/ On the stainless, tryna get famous/ There's a war going on outside/ No man is safe from/ Be aware, get hit if you play dumb"

(Expect more from these two Harlem rappers, as they are expected to drop a joint project together later this year.)

When he is in the zone, Smoke DZA is in the ZONE. Songs like the hard-hitting “9Eleven” and “Hearses” with Ab-Soul fit right into this category. “I Don’t Know” featuring crooner Kobe is a beautiful song about the struggle DZA has with trying to leave the streets alone:

“Coke price to high it's like burglary/ Niggas can't get the connect so they fuck with checks/ Make it, cash it, find a few broads/ Gave him 2K got a 4K gift card/ The pot flow I just can't let go of/ Hard to stay out the dirt when you hand to hand with growers/ Even if I'm not physically attached in/ The mentality keep me trapped in”

A marijuana theme isn’t as prevalent as one would think with a Smoke DZA project but the Harlem rapper does touch on the sticky icky that he loves so much on several songs. He recruits two heavy hitters and smokers Wiz Khalifa and Curren$y for “Legends In The Making (Ashtray Part 2),” which served as the first single off of Dream.ZONE.Achieve.

Smoke DZA has gone on record to say one of his favorite songs off of the album is “Zone” featuring Pro Era’s CJ Fly and with good reason. He shows his hustler’s ambition in the smoothed out song:

"Fly like I'm on trapeze/ Bomber after bomber match me/ I'm in the game homie peep my stat sheet/ Amerikkkan Korruption, long live Capt. STEEZ/ 47 shift, nigga never quit, cut cloth from the thoroughest/ Urban terrorist, that low shit is embedded in me/ My old lady pushing 750, killing bitches delicately"

There’s no better feeling than working hard for something and then reaching that goal. In the last third of the album, DZA celebrates his achievements with “Tropicana Roses” and “Errthang Valid.” In “Maybe,” he seeks a partner to share his success with. And in “Achieve,” DZA exudes pride and a sense of accomplishment rapping on a Pete Rock beat.

No song sums up Smoke DZA’s drive for success quite like “Black Independence.” With J. Ivy providing some spoken word poetry, DZA laments about being an independent artist and why he prefers doing it his way than going the traditional label route:

“Independent as fuck, I own me/ Publish shit, merchandise, show money/ If I don’t kill my food I won’t eat/ You see all my moves, that’s all me/ Controlling my own destiny/ Knowing the value of my equity/ You gotta hold your turf/ They’ll try to give you what they want, nigga know your worth”

Smoke DZA has a knack for picking beats that blends perfectly with his voice and cadence. Continuing to work with Harry Fraud, DZA also recruits other producers from the Big Apple like Thelonious, 6th Sense, 183rd and V-Don to truly encapsulate that New York sound. Jahlil Beats, Cardo, Sean C & LV and other producers also make contributions to the album, making it an easy listen even when DZA lags. Dream.ZONE.Achieve should take Smoke DZA’s career to the next level. He does a great job of providing his fans with classic DZA while broadening his appeal to those that may have slept on him before.

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