Originally published November 2009
Terius ‘The-Dream‘ Nash is, in his own words, a “factory”.
An average work day will see him go into the studio and pen as many as 15 songs; recently, a video was uploaded to YouTube in which Nash created two demos from scratch in just two hours. Nash attributes his prodigious rate of creativity to the work ethic instilled in him by his grandfather, who raised him while his mother would work as many as three jobs at a time: “My grandfather was real hard on me about working and just being busy. He was a mason here in Atlanta.” Nash waves his arm. “Most of the buildings here, he probably had something to do with.”
As his grandfather was to Atlantan masonry, so his grandson has become to the edifice of contemporary pop. You may not yet be familiar with The-Dream’s name, but you assuredly know his songs: he is the man who got Mariah to trill about Youtube (‘Touch My Body’), Beyoncé to start a dance craze (‘Single Ladies’), Ciara to compare herself to a McDonald’s bun while singing soprano (‘High Price’) and, most famously, Rihanna to raise her ‘Umbrella’.
“Love and money: those are the two things we wake up, we breathe in and we breathe out every day, and we try to get. It’s one or the other, there’s no in between.”
Artists from Mary J Blige to Jamie Foxx have queued up to get a piece of Dreamery; if anything, the added demand has prompted the man to raise his game even further. A solo album, Love/Hate, emerged at the end of 2007; its expansive, space-age blend of R Kelly, Prince and Babyface was noticed by few but acclaimed by those who did. It is hard to believe that Nash has any spare time at all, but it transpires that he is also a painter and sculptor – “50% abstract, 50% real life” – with his work displayed and sold under a secret alias.
2009 finds The-Dream stepping up to the summit of R&B by putting himself firmly in the spotlight. His second solo album, Love vs Money, is a high-concept opus based around those titular twin pillars. “Love and money: those are the two things we wake up, we breathe in and we breathe out every day, and we try to get,” states Nash. “It’s one or the other, there’s no in between.”
“I want you to be thinking: I love what he’s saying, but what is he talking about?”
Taking in ambition, seduction, rejection, recrimination and, finally, an uneasy validation, the album flings itself across the gamut of emotions with abandon, and sets this to state-of-the-heart production which ranges from pristine executions of current R&B radio trends to some of the most avant-garde beats on offer right now. Its singles boast rolling, generous synths, gliding 4/4 beats, tinkling music-box confectionery and glittering star cameos; its slow jams are both sensuous and hilarious, in the manner of prime R Kelly. Midway through, the album lurches on its axis with two lavishly arranged title tracks delineating the decline and fall of a relationship: on Part 1, all machine-gun beats and tectonic synths, The-Dream castigates himself for his material focus: “I am to blame – instead of loving you, I was making it rain.” Part 2 sees guilt turn into bitter recriminations over melodramatic orchestration and a stately, martial rhythm: “Didn’t hear you scream no when you was trickin’ off my money.”