Need the quick facts about an artist? Here’s a cheat sheet.
Who: Though Terius Youngdell Nash (aka The-Dream) is best known for his world-beating production work and excessive love of hyphenates, the R&B producer has a musical imagination far more nuanced than his work as a hit-maker suggests.
After a childhood spent perfecting his talents on a slew of instruments in Atlanta, Nash broke into R&B production by writing the song “Everything” for B2K. That coup led him to other production work, which eventually culminated in his penning Rihanna’s “Umbrella.” The ubiquity of that single led him to a hard-won deal with Def Jam Records, according to which he would produce hits for the label’s stable of artists, while also working on setting the groundwork for his own nascent stardom.
While the latter half of that equation has undergone a rocky development, Nash has certainly flourished in his role as a producer. His credits include Justin Bieber’s “Baby,” Beyonce’s “Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It),” and Britney Spears’ “Me Against the Music.”
At present, he has four solo albums, the most recent of which, Love IV MMXII, came out earlier this week.
The Sound: Borrowing the slippery production style of his singles, The-Dream’s solo releases make room for more in the way of structural experimentation. Both instrumental flourishes and tongue-in-cheek promises of concupiscent bliss make his R&B records some of the most engaging on the current market.
While his production work for other artists hews close to the rigid format demanded by radio pop, The-Dream’s own songwriting rejoices in a fluid conception of R&B. His overlapping hooks sometimes give way to chopped and screwed samples, electronic drum breakdowns, and grandiose explorations of self-mythology.
Even within a genre that looks kindly upon hushed lasciviousness, The-Dream’s lyrics stand out as notably shameless. The self-proclaimed “love king” croons, almost without variation, about his powers as a seducer and lover. So over-the-top are The-Dream’s lyrics that they betray a hidden sense of humor, spinning against the genre’s pouty seriousness.
Perhaps because of this predilection for the joyfully lewd, The-Dream himself has observed mournfully that, “I’ll never be a pop star, I’m too raw.”
Essential listening: The single that launched a thousand ships, Rihanna’s “Umbrella” stands out as some of The-Dream’s best work and one of the past decade’s finest examples of radio pop.
At its best, The-Dream’s solo material adopts a central image, then uses that image to explore the intricacy’s of Nash’s sole theme: seduction. “Make Up Bag,” from 2010’s Love King, provides a stellar example of this principle at work.
Perhaps the most well-known of The-Dream’s solo singles is “Dope Bitch,” another R&B track that builds itself around a rather straightforward hook, though in this case the chorus in question dispatches its business with tongue lodged solidly in cheek.