By Sean Armstrong | Staff Writer
SonReal’s new pop-rap album One Long Dream is lyrically phenomenal, and that is kind of surprising to say considering it is a pop-rap album.
The problem going into the Canadian-born rapper’s latest outing is the sub genre. Pop-rap is something that frequently shies from greatness, be that it is a play-it-safe, easily-sellable sort of genre that all starts to sound the same after hearing it long enough. However, this album is an outstanding example of what there is to like about pop-rap, even if it falls into the same trappings of the genre.
What do I mean by that? Well, the immediately noticeable thing about One Long Dream is its commitment to a very simple formula: Take the name of the song and make that the chorus, take that chorus and repeat it continuously and then finally throw in a few verses that are snappy enough to cover up the clear-cut pattern the sub genre follows.
SonReal does this to a T. However, as much criticism as pop-rap deserves for being uninspiring and a creative cesspool, SonReal somehow has added a bit of hidden nuance to it. Sure, the subject matters are almost cliche for pop-rap and even rap in general, but SonReal still finds a way to dig out some hidden recesses of this widely explored genre.
Despite his pop-rap label, SonReal touches on a few thought-worthy values: hard work, perseverance and the value of difference. All of these are items of contention in American society today and therefore are relevant topics that many people can relate to from various perspectives — perspectives that are not always heard.
Now, of course, hearing all the sides is easier said than done, but SonReal seems to call out for the importance of understanding another person’s view in the song “Problems.” Echoing the chorus’ sentiment: “We’ve all got something to offer/ Everybody got a dream/ Everybody’s got a problem, not just ones you see/ Everybody’s got some failing, everybody needs to speak/ Everybody’s got some problems, not just you and me,” which is a sentiment that everyone can keep in mind, because everyone wants to matter and everyone wants to be useful in some facet.
However, what makes the album a true stroke of subtle brilliance is the opening track, “One Long Dream.” It’s more of a statement about the American Dream and subsequently the dream of any rapper, since the genre is an American original to work hard and have that pay off by gaining success.
Then, SonReal begins to list values almost like commandments. These are declarations everyone should follow in the long dream that SonReal lays out in his album where everyone strives to succeed.
This may only be a pop-rap album, which by all means could be ignored if it were only about the music and not the message. Fortunately, rap has never just been about the music; the lyrics matter just as much. While this album’s structure may be overused, it may just be the perfect breeding ground for a message of this type.
The name pop in pop-rap implies that it is popular, and because of that, people will listen to this album. So what better way to get an idea across to people than to have a large platform to shout the idea from? One Long Dream is more than just another throwaway pop-rap album because of the underlying meaning SonReal breathes into the sub genre.
While this album is not awe-inspiring and does not really tread any new ground for rap as a genre, what it does do is try to start a variety of conversations. For that, this album deserves at least one thorough listen.