"i used to love to dream" is a mixtap/e/ssay that performs hip-hop scholarship using sampled and live instrumentation; repurposed music, film, and news clips; and original rap lyrics. As a genre, the mixtap/e/ssay brings together the mixtape—a self-produced or independently released album issued free of charge to gain publicity—and the personal and scholarly essays. "i used to love to dream" names Decatur, Illinois—the author's hometown—as a reference point for place- and time-specific rapped ruminations about the ideas of growing up, moving away, and pondering one's life choices. At the same time, the tracks attempt to account for moral, philosophical, and ethical dimensions undergirding unease about authenticity, or staying true to oneself and to one's city or neighborhood, as well as the external factors that contribute to such feelings. Using the local to ask questions about the global, "i used to love to dream" highlights outlooks on Black life generally, and Black manhood in particular, in the United States.
The tracks are presented along with liner notes and a short documentary about the making of the mixtap/e/ssay, and accompanying articles to provide context for the tracks for listeners both in classrooms and outside of them.