Remember Universal Mind Control? Yeah, me neither. But Common comes back with a possible album-of-the-year contender with The Dreamer, The Believer.
“How can I say this, f*ck it, I’m the greatest! / I am the A-list for all these great debaters!” Common lets you know on “Sweet” that he is again back in top form. Not that he really ever left, but there has been a couple of less-than-stellar albums over his nearly 20-year, 9-album career. During this time, Common has still remained in many fans top 10 or top 5 MCs lists.
After 2008′s very ‘meh’ Universal Mind Control, The Dreamer.. may be the Common album die-hard fans have been waiting for. Here you get a little of the familiar Common on songs like “Cloth” and “Lovin’ I Lost”, both are smooth and female-friendly, but with that slick wordplay, double entendre, and poetic flow he is known for.
“..I admit I had issues like Ebony, your Essence, your pedigree, your presence It’s more than clothes can say for you When I shop I gotta spend more than a day for you..”
In addition to this familiar Common, you also get a surprisingly aggressive Com, rarely heard outside of the infamous “The B*tch In You” and “Hungry” and “Stolen Moments” (from One Day It’ll All Make Sense.) This un-Common(see what I did there?) gets raw on tracks like the summer street banger “Ghetto Dreams”, featuring a dream pairing with Nas. That track increased the hype level for the album, and Com did not disappoint. He also goes in pretty hard on “Raw” and the angry “Sweet”, the latter of which is causing a tiny bit of buzz lately. Not because it’s a hot track, which it is. It is the un-Common-like profanity laden tirade against soft, sweet, singing rappers (Drake, maybe?) at the end. (Common kinda, sorta confirmed Drake as a target by way of not denying it in a radio interview.) No matter how you feel about it, it’s not a great look for Common. From a distance it just looks like an “older” MC provoking a younger, platinum-selling star. Not to mention borderline hypocrisy from someone whose career has MANY soft and sweet songs. See Electric Circus for example. Not a good look, moving on…
“..Tats on her back, looking all tribal
She know shoes, like she know survival
Well put together, she weathers the storm
Seen her brother die so forever she’s strong
Hear Beyonce’s song and she gotta perform
Whether f*cking or fighting: we getting it on..”
In between the edgier tracks, the album is balanced nicely with more relaxed efforts. On “Gold” Common shares an uplifting message about the staying true to yourself on the path to success. The aptly-titled “Celebrate” is another smooth, light, fun song that should serve radio well. Both “Gold” and “Celebrate” contain vocals from noted singer/songwriter James Fauntleroy, who provides either hooks or background vocals for half of the album. This helps to give the album a consistent
Another HUGE key to this album’s success is the production, exclusively handled by No I.D. No I.D. and Common last worked together in 1997, after he produced Com’s first 3 albums. After 14 years, their chemistry is still as strong as ever. Simply put, No I.D. LACED him with some if his best work to date. And he provides a variety of styles to perfectly match what Com is bringing to the table, which is rare when you have such a strong lyricist. From the progressive ”Blue Sky” to the soul-sampling “Lovin’ I Lost” to the head-banging, Primo-esque “Ghetto Dreams,” it is No I.D who gives this LP the extra nudge toward 5-star territory. Many seasoned MCs have failed when attempting to go “back-to-basics” or recreate the magic of their earlier releases. Common has succeeded(or surpassed) some of his earlier classics by creating something unlike his previous 8 albums. It’s different, but still evolutionary, and I think that allowed Common (and No I.D) to come in with new energy and make something special.
Resurrection? Maybe..charliedigital is guest contributor to MusicandModeling.com. Find his random tweets and re-tweets on hip-hop, black culture, and technology @charliedigital