If you are a more recent convert to COMMunism, then you may not be familiar with his rich history in the hip hop game. The Common (Sense) canon began in ’92 with Can I Borrow a Dollar and is continued with today’s release of The Dreamer/The Believer. While common boasts multiple albums, chock full of amazing songs, conscious content and history-making production, three albums stand out as “classic” albums: 1. RESURRECTION, 2. BE, and 3. THE DREAMER/THE BELIEVER.The Dreamer/The Believer (TDTB) is produced by Common’s fellow Chicagoan, No ID – the same producer who is responsible for 90 or so percent of Can I Borrow a Dollar, Resurrection and One Day It’ll All Make Sense. No ID’s growth as a producer is evident in each album, progressively, but due to the length of time between One Day… and TDTB, we get to see an immense change in the music. One thing to be noted is that though he has grown tremendously in how layered his sound is, he has not lost the warmth of the sample-based production that tru-school hip hop heads love.
The Dreamer is the opening track, and could not be any more inviting. The keys and female vocals are powerful, but very subtle and create a very dream-like landscape which Common and his listeners simultaneously inhabit from beginning to end. One complaint that must be made right out of the gates is the profuse use of the words “bitch and nigga”, which seem to more readily used on this album than previous ones – not that Common has ever NOT used the words in an album. With that out of the way, we are free to explore Comm’s growth, both as an artist, a human and an emcee. Common is as fluid on this track as the female vocals and the comforting instruments throughout. Some may “hate on” the SEE DOUBLE EM OH EN for having more extravagant tastes, but can we hate the dreamer for realizing the success that he has worked so hard to attain since before his first LP?
Maya Angelou shares a poem at the end of The Dreamer which affirms the theme(s) contained in the first song. Now, there has been some controversy caused by Angelou’s dissatisfaction with the track immediately following her poem, due to the sort of language that I mentioned earlier. The track that triggered her response is Ghetto Dreams – a track featuring Nas. This is this album’s The Corner, or The Game. The hard edge to the production juxtaposed with the The Dreamer and Angelou’s gentle voice, almost wakes the listener from his/her dream state.
Blue Sky takes the listener around 180 degrees – it is the most “poppy” track on the album. While this track does lull the listener back into REM sleep (metaphorically of course) with it’s minimal drums and etherial female vocals and instrumentation, it also feels like the purposeful crossover track. Common is not stupid, he has become very successful at finding new audience to appeal to and this track will do just that. Blue Sky is non-confrontational, and yet at the tail end it transitions to Sweet, the braggadocious, in your face, “you want it, come get it” track.
Drake felt as though Sweet took a jab at him, so he responded, as would be expected. Common clears things up in and INTERVIEW with Sway, and explains that track is aimed at whoever it invoke a response in. The two then discuss how healthy and important a little friendly competition among emcees is. The track is phenomenal and reminds you that Common may be more well rounded, but he can still go toe to toe with the dopest of rappers (reminded of the disses shared between him and Cube).
The silky Gold utilizes the same sample as the Game/50 Cent track, Hate it or Love it. No ID definitely used the sample a little differently and the instruments added to the sample are definitely softer that those in Game’s track. The track is a very socially conscious commentary, with a hint of introspection and self revelation. Common is honest, while not being condemning – almost like medicine that doesn’t taste THAT bad; the listener has to think, but isn’t given the impression that everything is so bad that it is beyond redeeming.
Lovin’ I Lost shares the painfully palatable vibe as Gold as Common shares about the one(s) who got away. The raw emotion he reveals is met wonderfully with the raw lyrics on the following track, Raw. While Raw is just that, Comm does not allow us to sit still and with Cloth we are lured in by the hypnotic beat and then challenged to think about the cost of fashion and love.
Celebrate is an excellent song of triumph. It also happens to be another track wherein the use of both the “b” and “n” words superfluously takes away from the song’s power. Again, that aside, the track is one of those Sunday afternoon with the family type songs that just feels good. The album is rounded off nicely with Windows and The Believer. The former is a heartfelt reflection upon, what I believe to be, Common’s duty to his daughter as a father. The Believer is a march into the rest of life with head held high and feels like a nod to Forever Begins from Finding Forever production-wise.
What would a Common album be without his father’s voice sending us off? Lonnie Lynn shares some more spiritual nuggets and continues to show his love and pride toward his son – I hope that my father is as supportive as I continue to be both a dreamer, and a believer.
Peace and Love,