AraabMuzik’s early career as a beatmaker for rappers like Cam’ron and other members of the Diplomats seems further behind him than it actually is. The Providence producer is now more than half a decade removed from his signature beats for those artists (“Get It in Ohio”, “Salute”); AraabMuzik (aka Abraham Orellana) has since rerouted his career trajectory, oscillating between rap beats and EDM production as he pleases. No matter what sounds he’s dealt with, though, there’s always been something forward-thinking about Orellana’s music. In the age of FL Studio and other popular software, his decision to compose with an MPC drum machine is an unusual one, more synonymous with the ’90s reigns of producers like Pete Rock and DJ Premier. His choice in hardware, however, hasn’t kept Orellana from establishing himself as an innovator in both rap and electronic production.
Araab’s debut album, Electronic Dream, came with a sound that encapsulated many of the electronic music trends of 2011. Now it’s 2016, and in both rap and electronic music, five years is a long time. Leading up to his long-awaited sophomore album, Dream World (which he originally intended to release around this time last year), it seemed that another album from Araab would be able to confirm whether or not he’s kept pace with his peers. Sure, he’s dropped numerous mixtapes, EPs, and remixes since Electronic Dream, but Dream World feels like a more significant release than any of those.
Electronic Dream garnered critical accolades thanks in part to its cohesive flow. Dream World, on the other hand, drastically shifts back and forth between ginormous bangers and smoother, quieter tracks. Some of it is sonically excessive, like “A.M.” and the aptly titled “Stadium House”, with overly familiar buildups and satisfying but predictable drops. While those songs are fine for what they are, they don’t present much evidence that Araab has his own idiosyncrasies as a producer, those quirks drowned out by the tsunami of synths and drums. Those idiosyncrasies have to come out elsewhere. Consider the hypnotic album opener “Adonis”, where Araab’s bruising drum programming and hypnotic sense of repetition shines. The same goes for “War Cry”, the album’s single most rap-influenced track without any actual rapping on it; Cam’ron’s arrogant bark would be perfect for it.
Better still are the album’s more spacious moments, which have the same sense of atmosphere that helped make Electronic Dream the success it was. The soft, ethereal “Mind Trip” takes vocals from Yuna’s “Lullabies” and reworks that song’s piano progression, ultimately ending with a track both hopeful and ominous. Elsewhere, the rattling but luxuriant “Faded” recalls Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy highlight “Devil in a New Dress”. Even without proper vocals, it’s virtually as evocative as Rick Ross’ imagery of burning joints and spinning vinyl. Later, “Chasing Pirates” features Massachusetts’ Raiche singing lyrics from Norah Jones’ 2009 single of the same name, but it doesn’t exactly feel like a cover. Instead, it’s an imaginative reworking of Jones’ song, with an addictive electronica pulse.
Considering that Araab has fans in both hip-hop and EDM circles to please, it’s no surprise Dream World is a more eclectic album than Electronic Dream, which came out before he solidified his current identity as an artist. As such, it shows his range of talents and why the artists in his rolodex of collaborators have been drawn to him. It’s also why Dream World doesn’t have the front-to-back playability of Electronic Dream. For the most part, though, these tracks have enough originality to further Araab’s run as a progressive producer and a consummate artist in his own right.
Essential Tracks: “Adonis”, “Mind Trip”, and “Faded”