30 December, 2011@3:38 pm
Interesting how things come full circle – Common’s longtime producer No I.D. (Can-I-Borrow-I-Dollar-longtime) recently found himself producing hit tracks for Kanye West’s last two LP’s – while Common went on to tap guys like The Neptunes, Dilla, and Kanye himself for his last few LP’s. With No I.D. taking on the position of executive VP of Def Jam, he’s certainly built his own legacy outside of Common’s first three albums, and now the two reunite for The Dreamer / The Believer.
The Dreamer / The Believer is a monumental release for a couple of reasons – with the exception of Nas on “Ghetto Dreams” – it’s one of the first major label LP’s in a longtime to bring things back to the one producer / one emcee formula, rather than having the tracklist look like a checklist of hot producers and guests. This is testament to the level of quality contained herein, as the guest list simply isn’t needed. There are vocal collaborations with a variety of soulful singers – some named, some not – but it’s clear this is done solely for the music, not the marketing.
Common presents two sides of himself on The Dreamer / The Believer, that of both a rough-around-the-edges kid from Chicago, and spiritually driven wise man. Tracks like “Ghetto Dreams” with Nas and the (allegedly) Drake directed “Sweet” find him a little more rugged, suggesting “I want a bitch that look good and cook good” and “a lot you forgot who I am / the ’87 n**ga getting rah-rah in the jam.” Or later on “Raw (How You Like It)”, we find Common exercising some showoff flows, not really holding his tongue as he may have done in the past.
But while Com seems a little more braggadocio on this LP, he balances it out with his usual brand of more sagely driven tracks. The ELO-sampled “Blue Sky” and “Celebrate” are celebratory brighter-days-are-coming anthems, while tracks like “Cloth” and “Lovin’ I Lost” recount relationships. The most heartfelt moment however is on “Windows”, where he looks through the eyes of his daughter.
A vast improvement over his last LP, Universal Mind Control, Common has taken it back to basics with The Dreamer, The Believer. No I.D.’s paired down, sample driven production, combined with Common’s always honest perspective makes this yet another solid LP from the Chi-town legend. While it does not best some of his earlier (or even more recent) classics, it’s fine addition to the catalog.
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