The Dreamer/The Believer marks the first time weve heard from Common in a while. Thats not to say hes been in hiding; in fact, weve seen more of the native Chicagoan than ever before thanks to high profile acting roles in film and television. (Common can currently be seen on AMCs Hell on Wheels.)
But Common has been relatively quiet on the music front. Perhaps thats a result of the less than enthusiastic reception for his 2008 effort, Universal Mind Control. It largely divided critics and fans and some questioned whether Common still the ability to make the type of hip-hop hes known and loved for.
Well, rest assured, he can still bring it. The Dreamer/The Believer is a stellar album. Produced entirely by his long-time friend and collaborator No ID, the album is a jazzy and soulful affair that celebrates success
1. The Dreamer featuring Maya Angelou: A-
Common celebrates his successes with this energetic ode to achieving ones dreams. The lyrics are flashywhens the last time you heard a conscious rapper boast about Ferraris, parties in Miami, and exquisite thick bitches?but supremely clever. Maya Angelou ends the song with a poem about the power and resilience of dreams. Dare to let your dreams reach beyond you, she says. A great way to kick start the album despite the recent disappointment expressed by Angelou for the song’s use of the N-word.
2. Ghetto Dreams featuring Nas: B+
Chi-Towns finest links up with the QB Streets Disciple for another paean to dreams. The songs title sums it up perfectly. Riches, women, fame, these are the things young cats in the ghetto dream of attaining. Though the song isnt the earth-shattering bomb wed hoped for from these two lyrical titans, it does whet the appetite for their rumored collaboration album Nas.Com. The production is top-notch, with No ID utilizing scratches, high-pitched strings, and beautiful sounding horns to create the songs sonic backdrop.
3. Blue Sky: A-
Common explores both of the albums themes (dreams and faith) on this inspirational, feel-good song. The MC recognizes and is thankful for his blessings, and he hopes that he can inspire others as well. Seems like a spiritual successor to Talib Kwelis Get By, and thats not a bad thing at all.
4. Sweet: A
How can I say this?/Fuck it Im the greatest/I am the A-list for all these great debaters. And thats how Common begins the nastiest, most vicious song on the album, which serves to remind both the listener and any potential competitors of his lyrical prowess. Hmmm, I wonder who some of those subtle verbal jabs are directed toward.
5. Gold”: B
Over a dope, old-school beat, Common rhymes about how he achieved his dreams by forging his own path and remaining true to himself. Writing my own scripts like Im Tennessee Williams, he says. The message: you dont have to sell your soul to get what you want out of life.
6. Lovin I Lost: B+
It sounds so soulful, dont you agree? Over a reverberant Curtis Mayfield sample, Common reminisces on his past romances. Never played a game/But I heard about them sisters, he rhymes. I see what you did there, Com.
7. Raw (How You Like It): A-
While the la, la, la hook can be a bit annoying, the old-school vibe of this funky track make it the perfect beat for Com to get his Max Julien on. He spits game so wicked, referencing fashion designers like Martin Margiela, Stella McCartney, and Tom Ford and kicking witty lines like, Bout to get that invite to a night over Egypt/She said, You rap?/Yeah, mummy/I’m Tutankhamun kicking and spending this rap money.
8. Cloth: B-
A unique concept: Common takes the phrase cut from the same cloth and applies it to a romantic relationship over the course of this track. Again, its a creative idea, but something about it doesnt quite work.
9. Celebrate: A-
Its exactly what youd expect a song titled Celebrate to be about and sound like. Common takes you back to Chicago, where he and his friends are together, having a good time, and celebrating the splendor of their lives. Another feel-good jam.
10. Windows: B-
A smooth, mellow track in which Common uses another well-known phrase (the eyes are the window to the soul) as the songs concept. It really takes on special meaning in the second verse, when the rapper speaks about his daughter and how hes determined to guide her through life the best way he can.
11. The Believer (featuring John Legend): B
Take em to church, Com! Another inspirational song, this one with much more of a gospel feel thanks to John Legends piano abilities and the ethereal choir singing in the background. Common knows hes been blessed, and his faith is unwavering. Oh yes, he believes: I know that God watches/From one King’s dream/He was able to Barack us.
12. “Pops Belief”: B+
Closing out the album, Commons father, Lonnie Pops Lynn, comes through with a nice spoken word piece extolling the virtues of faith. Life becomes belief/Belief becomes live/Live the life you believe/The American dream/The Black American dream/The universal dream.
Overall Grade: B+
Our Recommendation: BUY
Our Favorite Tracks: The Dreamer, Blue Sky, Sweet, Celebration
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