Review Summary: After the failed experiment that was his last album, Common makes sure to please his long time fans, by going back to what has made him so succesful and acclaimed throughout his career.1 of 1 thought this review was well written
Common, arguably the most popular and successful socially conscious rapper of all-time has gone through a couple phases in his near twenty year career. From a scruffy champion of the underground in the early nineties to member of the Soulquarian collective at the turn of the century, Common’s career peaked when he linked up with Kanye West. The two joined forces to make the subgenre of conscious hip-hop seem cool to a new generation. During this period, he cemented his legacy and produced some of the decade’s most celebrated rap albums. However, all great artists have their miss-steps and his finally came with 2008’s Universal Mind Control. This Neptunes-produced electro/club experiment was not his forte, and we’ll just leave it at that.
So when an artist pisses off their fan base with something that goes too far outside of what got them a following in the first place, what are they to do? Go back to their roots of course. So here we are with Common’s ninth studio album, and it can’t really be lumped into one his previously mentioned eras (indie, Soulquarian, Kanye); it’s a culmination of all three. Common has always tried to inspire his listeners and on The Dreamer/The Believer, this is upfront as it has ever been. There is no grand statement or large scale of artistic ambition. This is Common going back to basics and giving his fans something that he knows they will enjoy, all the while making sure to not coast into a state where he is merely maintaining his reputation as opposed to adding to it. You’ve heard Common make this music before, but that does not mean that this isn’t a very solid listen all the way through.
No I.D., the producer of Common’s first three albums, reunites with the rapper after 15 years. While the instrumentals do have the mellow, soulful vibe of Common’s nineties work, they are still dynamic enough to sound contemporary and be as exciting as more recent output. “The Dreamer” kick starts the album with what Common has more or less always been telling us to do, dream for a better tomorrow. You’ve heard this before and the spoken word outro from poet Maya Angelou does not surprise you, but who can complain when his message is just as inspiring as it ever was. The next three tracks offer the most variation on the whole album. Common just manages to keep up with the totally in his element Nas on “Ghetto Dreams.” A booming classic New York rap beat would leave most rappers outshined by Nas, however Common successfully steps out of his element to describe his ghetto house wife fantasy. “Blue Sky” follows with the most exciting beat on the album built on a soaring looped vocal sample, before dissing a new generation of rappers that he views as being softer in actuality than how they portray themselves to the public on “Sweet.” The rest of the album follows suit with what any long-time Common fan would expect. Two feel good time slow jams (Raw, Celebrate) and duet with a soul singer (The Believer featuring John Legend), introspective topics such as parenthood (Windows) and relationships (Lovin’ I Lost), and a spoken word outro track from his father round out the album. No you didn’t just listen to a revolutionary new album from the godfather of Chicago hip-hop, but you got something that few rappers can do. After many albums, Common can still produce a long player with nothing but good songs, and maintain a style that keeps fans coming back for more two decades in.
Rating - 8.0/10