Arts & Entertainment

Common: The Dreamer/The Believer

Common’s The Dreamer/The Believer is not just an album, but also a statement to critics and fans alike in response to 2008’s disappointing and generally dismissed Universal Mind Control. This time around, Common is defiant and triumphant; his sound enhanced by longtime friend and producer No I.D., who produced the entire project. On the single “Sweet,” Common reminds fans of his legacy in hip-hop, boasting “some people say that they be missing creativity/but when it comes to hip-hop, it begins and ends with me.”

The album offers a nostalgic ‘90s-era sound built upon No I.D.’s frequent use of sampling, distorted drums, and heavy synth, and Common’s signature poetry is strongest on “The Dreamer,” “Blue Sky,” and “Windows.” The chemistry between them creates an engaging and entertaining listen. The album shifts from a mosaic of racy street tales on “Raw,” to the hopeful John Legend-assisted balled “The Believer,” to the outstanding “Cloth,” a track written for Common’s ex-wife Erykah Badu. At a concise 12 songs, The Dreamer/The Believer focuses not necessarily on creating something new or unorthodox, but on a strong combination of No I.D.’s celebrated boom-bap with Common’s consistently clever, witty, and occasionally deeply poetic lyrics. It is clear that Common is conscious of the negative response to his previous album, re-inventing himself with a style that pays tribute to rap’s past and current musical palette. Common makes his point early on: “No I.D. said give ‘em that ‘80s cocaine, something raw, something pure, so I stayed in that vein.”

—Nazim Elnur

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