Dreamville and Interscope Records teamed up with Michael B. Jordan and MGM to give Creed III its sonic heartbeat, and it was all thanks to yet another rap camp.
The J. Cole–anchored label is at its best when it works with peers and invites them into its world. In 2019, that was first evidenced with its Grammy-nominated album Revenge of the Dreamers III—a project in which it invited countless artists—including Young Nudy, T.I., Smino, and more—to join it in Atlanta for an intensive 10-day exercise in elite rap collaboration to put the project together. Now, it’s returned to recreate that magic.
Executively produced by Dreamville in collaboration with Interscope Records, MGM, Proximity, and Outlier, Cole and company came together for yet another rap camp to make the Creed III soundtrack, working for five days with more of their musical peers to create another special and cohesive offering. “It was similar. It just wasn’t as intense,” one of the first signees of Dreamville, Omen, tells Complex during a brief intermission at Dreamville’s wellness day in Los Angeles a week before the soundtrack’s release. “It was a little dialed back, but it [still] definitely has the vibe of like, ‘Okay, here we go again,’” fellow Dreamville member Lute added. “It was way more dialed back and more chill. There was no pressure this time around.”
Filming for Creed III began in late January 2022, but Dreamville’s rap camp for the film’s soundtrack actually took place last summer. The collective first tapped other artists in their sphere to source verses that would fit the film and then came together in person for a round of virtual recordings to finalize the project. Lute and Omen say they didn’t even know why they and their labelmates were gathering at first. It wasn’t until other collaborators like Ty Dolla Sign, Buddy, and more artists started popping up in the Santa Monica studio that they realized something special was happening.
“I literally thought it would be [just] us again,” Lute recalls. “That’s usually how it is when the team is back in the studio.” Instead, they were joined by a slew of different artists from different music backgrounds—from Ty Dolla Sign to Baby Rose and Big Sean—along with the entire Dreamville roster to string together a soundtrack that also sounds like a conventional album.
Although the five-day rap camp for the Creed III soundtrack was more laid-back than the rap-intensive environment of the 10-day camp in Atlanta for Revenge of the Dreamers III, some of the energy that was left behind from those initial sessions bled into this new body of work. “Some of the stuff that’s on the new Creed soundtrack [were songs] that we started at the Revenge of the Dreamers sessions,” Olu of EarthGang reveals. “It was like we had these ideas, and we couldn’t lose these pieces of time so we put them in the Creed soundtrack. Both of the [projects] came from us being in the moment at that point in time.”
The Creed III soundtrack doesn’t sound like a common movie tracklist. It has a life of its own that embodies the themes of the film like family and persevering through hardship, and the authentic personality of Dreamville. The songs are able to stand on their own outside of the framework of the film, like Ari Lennox delivering a beautiful performance on “Greater” that sounds like it could live on one of her personal albums, while visitors like Baby Rose steal the show on “Heavy Is the Head.”
“One thing [Dreamville co-founder Ibrahim Hamad] was telling us was [that] we didn’t want the songs to be tailored exactly to the movie,” Olu explains. “Because we want the essence of whatever y’all want to put into the songs to come out as well and then we merge it with the movie.”
Michael B. Jordan and Creed III musical supervisor and co-executive producer of the soundtrack Frank Brim also played a crucial role in collaborating with the artists in order to have the music reflect the tone and energy of the movie.
“Sonically, me and MBJ wanted the music to capture intimate moments of the film and balance them with the high energy you need to keep the audience excited,” Brim tells Complex over email. “At one point we laughed because the music was feeling R&B driven and we were like, ‘This is a boxing movie,’ but it was a great balance and told the story beautifully once we added the anthemic songs to drive the music up.”
In a very Dreamville fashion, Brim added that the artists’ main focus while at the camp was making the music and not the industry logistics that often clog the pipeline for collaboration like profit dividends.
“Everyone was so open to collaborating with each other and going with the vibe,” he adds, “and you don’t see that a lot in the industry because people are typically worried about splits and shit like that.”
Expansive rap camps like the ones Dreamville is now distinctly known for allow for collaboration and have resulted in surprisingly cohesive projects.
“It’s easy to draw the greatness out of other people,” Olu says. “It’s easy to see something that [others] do well, and not only draw it out but to also add to it in another way… We all come to [music] with a different approach, but we complement and encourage each other with our different styles.”
The end result of the intensive camp was a soundtrack with high-level production via the likes of Elite and others that can live harmoniously within the framework of Creed III but can also be bumped from the whip on its own. The project shows the power of Dreamville, and the Creed III soundtrack is the latest addition to its ever-expanding kingdom.