From what seemed to be a hiatus from Hip-Hop with no end in sight, Common is back to his roots with his 9th album, The Dreamer / The Believer. I’m not going to lie, I was a tad apprehensive about listening to it; I mean, it’s been a while since his last album, Universal Mind Control, was released, and that was a far cry from the earnest and self-empowerment from previous works. But I was surprised.
The album begins with the track, The Dreamer, with Common associating encouragement with dreams of Hip-Hop and his daughter. The track even features Maya Angelou, who recites a poem of the importance of being aware of one’s history. Other tracks feature Nas, John Legend and staying true to form, his father Lonny. They profess inspiration through childhood dreams and self-awareness in a culture of violence. Besides the optimistic tracks are sprinkled songs about get-loose lustiness. Sweet and Raw (How You Like It) especially talks about trolling the clubs in search of booty.
The entire album is a prime example of a “one-producer only” mentality. Created in conjunction with fellow Chicagoan No I.D., each track has beats derived in 70’s soul placed with pleading females singing the chorus, creating a feeling that you should bob your head rather than the foot-stomping bangers dispensed by his contemporaries. This comes as no surprise; many true Common fans will know that No I.D. has produced some of his earliest works.
With what seems to be the right tools to create a meaningful, successful album (Common’s poetic flow and free reign, the production magic of No I.D.), has this classic artist created something to be revered? Not really. Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice to see this album as an artist returning to his 90’s roots, but because of the monopoly of No I.D. tracks, it begins to sound repetitive. Part of me wonders what it would sound like if he had enlisted the likes of Kanye West or Cee Lo Green.
All in all, it is good to see Common back to his true craft, writing/rapping. This album seems to be a coming home, or reconciliation for him. It’s not Be, but on the plus side, it’s not Universal Mind Control! Let’s just hope his next album doesn’t fall short like this one did.