Dream big 

Levi Miller's album shows youthful ambition

The title of Levi Miller's Dreams Into Memories expresses the overriding theme of his raps: ambition. Of course, that's an overriding theme of rap generally. Hip-hop is music for the struggle, and if the rhetoric of desperation sounds hollow in the rhymes of Drake or Kanye, it's still compelling to the young unknown. Here lies Miller's charm. When he promises to live life without looking in the rear-view, he sounds not innocent, exactly, but young in a recognizable way. He is coming up.

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The kicker is that he is coming up in Missoula, a town not yet known for producing rappers. This context makes Dreams Into Memories more impressive, even as it points to a missing element. By the standards of Missoula hip-hop, the production on this album is fantastic. Some of the bass hits are overdriven, but the beats sound bright and close compared to the muddy, distant tracks that dominate local rap. Miller's flow is strong, too. He rarely overstuffs a bar or reaches for a cadence he can't quite produce. But his lyrics express the themes of the genre more than his own particular circumstances. It's clear he's coming up. I would like him to rap more vividly about where he's coming from.

Levi Miller performs Sat., Feb. 20, at Monk's Bar as a special guest for the Illumni Soldier's Tour featuring Bibster, plus other artists. Doors at 9 PM. $10.

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