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Album Review: The Dreamer, The Believer by Common

Posted by David Porter Callanan on 01/18 at 01:13 PM

Common - The Dreamer, The Believer Review

Grade: B+

    After a three year hiatus from the rap game, Chicago veteran MC Common dropped his 9th studio album, “The Dreamer, The Believer” (TDTB) this past December. The album’s release marked his first album since 2008’s “Universal Mind Control” (UMC.) Although UMC was Grammy nominated, it received poor reviews and was considered to be a disappointment among Common’s fans. This time around, Common recruited longtime friend and Chicago native No I.D. to produce the entire album. TDTB is the first time the two have worked together since 1997’s “One Day It’ll All Make Sense.” The album is also the first release on his new record label “Think Common,” even though he is still technically signed to Kanye West’s “G.O.O.D Music,” Imprint.

In classic Common style the album begins with the fast paced and soulful jam “The Dreamer.” The song’s chorus features famous African American poet, Dr. Maya Angelou which is one of three credited features. Nas’ (Common’s favorite rapper) feature on the lead single “Ghetto Dreams,” is the only guest verse on the entire album. Common, who some consider the poster-child of “conscious rap” reverts to his harder 90’s roots on this and others including, “Raw,” and “Sweet.” Specifically on the track “Sweet,” he brags about his reign in rap over the years with lines like “How can I say this? F*** It I’m the greatest! I am the A-list for all you great debaters.” On “Sweet” he also throws surprising jabs at Canadian Rapper and Singer Drake which has resulted in a feud between the two artists.

    While TDTB may have its “Raw” moments, it is well balanced by light-hearted and poetic songs like “The Believer” (featuring John Legend), “Gold,” and “Lovin I lost.” These three are highlighted by the brilliant production value of No I.D. and Common’s inspiring lyrics. No I.D. proves he can hang with the best of hip-hop producers on the project and can throw his hat into the ring for best produced album of 2011. His use of samples range from “Mr. Blue Sky,” by Blue Light Orchestra to “Celebrate Me Home,” by Kenny Loggins which create two enjoyable singles in “Blue Sky,” and “Celebrate.”

    Since the album is only 12 tracks (including an outro) it contains virtually no fillers. The album’s standout song “Cloth” contains some of Commons’s most emotionally deep lyrics accompanied by a smooth and spacey synthesized instrumental. Throughout the song, Common compares the love he is experiencing to being “cut from the same cloth.” While he has had several publicized relationships in the past with celebrities such as professional tennis player Venus Williams and R&B singer Erykah Badu, it is unknown who he is speaking of on “Cloth.” Common clearly has a strong affection for this mystery lady by spitting lines like “This is Taylor Made love, fit like a snug, anything we can bear so let’s have some cubs.”

    TDTB may not be as commercially successful as albums like “Watch The Throne,” “Carter IV” and even “Take Care” by his rival Drake, but it certainly does not lack quality. The album certainly makes a late and strong case for the best Hip-Hop album of 2011, but falls short because of a few flaws here and there. At points it does become repetitive and towards the end of the album some tracks seem to blend together. But Common’s clever wordplay can distract listeners from these minor slip-ups. The album may deserve an ‘A’ based on the chemistry between Common and NO I.D. after 14 years apart, but overall it’s no greater than his past projects like 2005’s “Basement Evolution” and 2002’s “Electric Circus.” Overall, though, TDTB not only marked Common’s return to music but also cemented his already impressive catalog.

The Dreamer, The Believer is available on

{name} Author: David Porter Callanan
Bio: David Porter Callanan is currently a senior studying print journalism and English at Penn State. In his free time he enjoys eating peanut butter, watching premium television shows, listening to rad music and being tortured by his beloved Philadelphia sporting teams. He listens to a wide range of music but his favorite genres are grunge rock and hip hop. Some of his favorite artists include Pearl Jam, Kanye West and J. Cole. Following graduation, his dream job is to write for the hip hop magazine XXL.


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