Chicago-based beatmaker Otis the Great‘s twenty-two track opus is very aptly titled. The album, Lucid Dreams, lives up to its name. It sprawls across an entire history of music, combining funk, R&B, soul, jazz, hip hop, and old-school rap in one stunning fusion. I listened to this album while walking dogs on a grey summer day in Chicago, and I’m sure it’d provide the perfect soundtrack to any piece of life.
For me, as I walked the city streets, the songs gave new meaning to normal interactions. I passed people fist pounding on corners, trading cigarettes, walking their children, jogging, living their lives. Listening to this record while I walked through the streets of my city made me feel like I was living in some kind of hip hop fantasy dream.
There are no raps over these beats, making Lucid Dreams even more open-ended. I found myself coming up with rhymes in my head as I walked, listening to the lush arrangements and interesting changes. I felt like I was dreaming, but I knew I was in control as long as I followed where the music took me. Otis the Great samples some classic songs, but they are almost unrecognizable in the original way that he pastes them into one another. Few songs clock in at over two minutes, so as soon as you’re transported to one place, you’re immediately whisked away to the next part of the beatmaker’s imagination. The album never feels breathless or rushed, either. Every song segues into each other very nicely. And, it’s never boring. No track lingers too long, but instead just long enough to get stuck in your head till the next one comes along to take its place.
At the end of all twenty-two tracks, you’re left feeling like you’re in another world–much like a lucid dream. The songs don’t make you think too much, but they definitely make you feel. As I was blasting the second track, a jazz-influenced number called “Be”, I walked past another woman walking her dog. She said to me, “Good morning,” even though it was 3 in the afternoon, and then followed it up with “…or good afternoon or whatever the hell time it is.” And I thought to myself, “She’s under the spell of this music.” It takes you to a timeless, thoughtless place where you can just chill out and be one with whatever is going on around you. Time doesn’t matter when you’re listening to Otis the Great. All that matters is the propulsion of the beats, the emotion of the saxophones, pianos, and synths that sweep you up into this lush dream world.
Another standout track is “To Blind” which is a reworked loop of a beautiful hook. When it eventually hits the turnaround, the loop is allowed to flow through to its conclusion, asking us, “Are you too blind to see? Well maybe you do see me, or maybe you just don’t care.” And as I listened, I noticed I didn’t care. I was walking around in my own Otis the Great created fantasy world, and I loved it. This music seems new, and fresh, yet it also sounds timeless. There is even record crackling in each song, like you’re listening to your own dreams on vinyl. You never know where Lucid Dreams is going next, but it always feels familiar and right when it arrives. It feels like everything is supposed to be exactly where it is, even if it seems out of place at first glance, kind of like a dream. It’s all supposed to happen exactly how it does.
I feel like this is perfect meditation music, rumination music, or just good walking around music. I thought about a lot of things in my life when I was listening to Otis the Great, but it never took me to a dark place. It always kept me on the level, buoyed by the infectious rhythms and the emotional melodies and hooks. This is a record that you can really sink your teeth into. I feel like it reveals more to you each time you listen to it. But of course, like any good dream, you have to bring yourself to it. Allow yourself to get lost in this world, I think you’ll come out the other side the better for it.