Album Review: Dayon Greene Flexes, Develops on “Me”

The DMV might not yet be in the conversation as far as hip-hop relevance nationwide, but with albums like Dayon Greene’s Me, which showcases some of the area’s best talent, it certainly will be soon.

Me is a story of self-empowerment and growth. Greene, born and raised in the DMV, experiences heartbreak, sadness, questioning, and growth through confidence and self-assuredness on the album, which debuted on a Zoom listening session hours before its release.

The Greene Team, which includes Greene and his friends, manager, producers, and fans, appears to be blooming at the perfect time, with a creative album rollout amid a pandemic. The team’s enduring talent seems to go hand-in-hand with Greene’s personal growth, and watching him show off a project he’s clearly proud of with a team of committed and talented folks at his back proves his charisma goes deeper than appearances. 

He truly appreciates anyone that supports him — whether it’s working long nights with his team or hearing about fans that have been inspired by his music, Dayon seems to gain energy from folks showing him love, and he’s happy to give that back, sending endless love and validation to listeners on the Zoom session.

His personal growth plays out sequentially on the album, making for a digestible yet complex set of emotions that are relatable, introspective, and ride a series of high-quality beats produced primarily by himself and his good friend Jay Que.

Starting with more somber tracks about heartbreak and difficulty in close personal relationships, the first two full songs, “Order My Steps” and “Mary Go Round,” give the listener the background necessary to understand the source of his confidence and braggadocio later in the album. “Broke up with my girl / it’s hard to let new people in … I’m feeling negative don’t get me started / Cause my mind can go to a crazy place / That’s why I’m right here begging you Lord please keep mine safe.” 

“Order My Steps” is a prayer for guidance, detailing some of the issues he’s had as of late, including a harsh breakup and difficulty with his family. Dayon’s relationship with God is clearly important to him, giving a light into his personal life. He grew up attending church with his family and remains devoted despite currently not being able to observe in person.

“Mary Go Round” gives the listener an idea of this relationship that’s caused him a lot of pain, but has taught him about himself in ways he continues to understand. The track speaks on wanting to love someone more than you actually do, and how it seems like the physical aspect of their relationship was stronger than the mental. “How we supposed to love without the trust / How we supposed to feel with all the drugs?” The song’s concept as a merry-go-round plays out in the beat, with a satisfying horn presence and a kicking drum section. It took some time to move on from this relationship, but it appears as if he’s done so: “Time made me realize you ain’t really what I need.”

A piano beat paces “Post Mary,” a pivotal point in the album alongside “Pride Suicide/Foe,” two tracks that look at conflict in close relationships from the rearview. Addressing family issues and those with his partner, it appears as though he’s gained the clarity that he needs to be his full self, uninhibited by past harms and betrayals. This clarity manifests as an impressive run of songs that lasts through the end of the album.

After “Post Mary,” it’s the 2019 Washington Nationals: big hitter after big hitter. The six-track stretch from “Life Bid” to “Commas” is face-scrunching, head-boppin’, and hip-shaking, providing a memorable experience that’ll have you coming back for more.

“Life Bid” contains a swirling, bumping beat dedicated to those that rock with him. “If you rockin’ with me guarantee that it’s a life bid.” This echoes the sentiments from his listening session, another example of his loyalty to those that show him love. An electric guitar riff introduces the second verse, where he truly takes off preceded by the classic Pusha T “YEUGH.” The track cranks, and transitions smoothly into “We Can Make It,” with an outro that warns people not committed to The Greene Team; “it’s either this side of the fence or you’re on that side. Pick!”

We Can Make It” is a smooth, vibey track with a pair of introspective verses from Dayon. Lacking the bumping bass that many songs on the second half of the album have, it just takes a bit of a closer listen to fully appreciate. Co-produced by The Kount alongside Greene, ambient nature noises make this a perfect track for reminiscing about late nights in the outdoors.

Free” is both a head-nodder and a thought-provoker, with a self-loving, happy-go-lucky chorus: “I wanna be free / I wanna be me.” The drums on this track are snippy, and an expressive, upbeat guitar section provides an appropriate background for Greene exploring the freedom he has versus the freedom he’s striving for.

Ikits” (I Know I’m The Shit) was one of the tracks Greene seemed most excited to debut; hyping up the featured Eddie Vanz verse as one of the best on the album. And he’s right, the Kendrick-like high pitch on Vanz’s voice paired with compounding wordplay that piles up like Legos makes for an ear-grabbing listen. That said, one more strong verse could have made this one of the best songs on the album — it ends somewhat abruptly after Eddie’s verse. Still, the “I know I’m the shit” refrain is a great one to have looping around your head.

Big Steppa” feels like the product of all the work he spoke on earlier in the track list. It was reportedly the track most constantly on rotation during the creation of the album, providing energy for getting through the emotional difficulty of other tracks. A bass-boosted instrumental sporting a royal string section invokes a marching band, making it feel like Greene is strutting down the street with an entire orchestra behind him. But his flow is so confident and subdued, it’s like he doesn’t give a fuck about the fanfare — he knows he’s the centerpiece.

Commas” carries a similar feeling as “Big Steppa,” with a snapping drum kit and a focus on the money above fake love. “I don’t got time for the fuck shit I promise / Don’t talk to me if it ain’t bout the commas.” Fellow DMV rapper O-Slice drops in for the final verse of the album, keeping up that same “fuck you pay me” energy that Dayon started the song with. A piano twinkle and backing vocals fill the space with conclusive, assured energy, closing the album with the acknowledgement of how much he’s been through during recording.

Atop a flurry of head-boppin, groovy instrumentals, Dayon Greene’s life story can inspire anyone. There are few flaws on the album; you could make the argument there are some under-developed lyrics, and “Ikits” could’ve used another verse, but all in all, this is an album Dayon must be satisfied with, especially after dealing with all of the pandemic’s obstacles.

Whether or not you’ve been introduced to the DMV hip-hop scene, give this album a listen if you’re looking to better understand what it takes to step your career up a notch. Greene said on the listening session that he wants this album to be the one that brings him to the next level of recognition within the rap game, and the personal growth that it took to get there looks like it’s paying off.

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