Not a whole lot is known about rapper/singer Dillan Grey. His SoundCloud account says he’s from Atlanta and the Internet says he dropped an EP titled Lust back in May. That EP featured only two songs — one of them being a standout, late-night intercourse plea from Painted Asylum, “Sin with You”. The other, “Diamonds,” didn’t make the cut but is still a decent song. If you have followed Grey up to this point, Painted Asylum definitely does not serve as a disappointment. Channeling his inner Drake, Dillan Grey surprised me with his versatility. The fact that he can switch back and forth seamlessly from rapping to singing and back to rapping impressed me. He sounds pretty damn good throughout most of this album.
Pyrex Pot mixes smooth, wavy synths and Trap snares to give himself the ability to shift his production between hard and gritty or woozy and infectious. As the lead producer on Painted Asylum, he complements Grey’s Swiss Army Knife approach by supplying the avenue for Dillan to purely do his thing. The lone featured artist, Filo T, doesn’t ruin either of the songs he’s on (which is about as much as one can pray for from a guy we’ve never heard of). However, “Can’t Give It Up” didn’t quite perform the way I would’ve liked. “3sum” was cool. As cliché or eye-roll-worthy as crooning about a ménage à trois is, I felt like both Grey and Filo T did a solid job detailing the fantasy behind the song. On “Can’t Give It Up”, I wanted Dillan to be a little more selfish. It’s a fairly personal song as Grey is describing his battle with drug addiction. Having to tell family members that you’re going to “give it up, cold” is a reality we all would like to avoid. Due to the most likely deep connection he has with this song, I wanted to hear him really snatch some spotlight and turn it into a ballad. I simply felt like he didn’t need Filo T singing the hook at all.
Grey hardly took any risks with his voice on this album. Maybe he’s not comfortable enough with his vocals to belt out his emotions or maybe he was just trying to let his homie sing some hooks for him. Either way, it’s not a big deal, seeing as this is one of his first albums. I merely hope he understands that it’s perfectly fine to experiment especially in today’s age of genre bending and blending. What the ATL product lacks in the vocal department, he makes up for with his grasp of melody matching. He best exhibits this on “Thumbin thru ‘Em”. His “on and on…” bridge caught my attention immediately. Finding the perfect harmonized vibe to a song is much harder than it sounds. And, to me, that is Dillan Grey’s greatest aptitude.
All in all, there is some raw talent on Painted Asylum. Grey can write songs moderately well and has passable bars. Addiction, sex, and a few hood threats (“Ain’t Got Shit” is the type of song that many might not take seriously from a dude singing to women) are what fuel this album. Sometimes it’s catchy, sometimes it’s pleasantly surprising, and other times it’s a tad bit typical. My biggest concern with his success moving forward is: There are plenty of good R&B/Rap crossover acts such as Bryson Tiller, Eric Bellinger, and Jeremih in the mainstream. That means there is little to no room for a guy with similar styles who hasn’t shown the ability to make a hit record. I’m not saying he needs to sell out for some airplay, but once he catches that right melody he needs to make sure he makes the most of it. Because there are hundreds of good artists out there, but only a few survive. With Painted Asylum, Dillan Grey has put his best foot forward. All he needs to do now is keep on walking.