REVIEW: Common – ‘The Dreamer/The Believer’

I almost took a pass on this album. The frankly underwhelming “dreams” of “Ghetto Dreams” and the rant at the end of “Sweet” left a sour taste in my mouth. Although the beats had my head nodding, I just couldn’t get with the superficial and banal lyrical display on “Ghetto Dreams”. Common raps “I want a bitch that cook good and look good” while Nas raps “call me a pro in the pussy category.” This was the best two of Rap’s greatest wordsmiths could come up with for their dreams? Bah.

Then the rant at the end of “Sweet” aimed at Drake? Come on Common. I enjoy the battle culture of Hip-Hop but pick a worthy opponent. Personally, I can’t get into Drake but the way Common came at him suggesting “sweetness” and homosexuality is just weak sauce. Rap really needs to get pass this immaturity that views emotion, femininity, and homosexuality as feeble. It simply does not match up with reality. But I digress and shi*t.

These missteps aside, The Dreamer, The Believer is the first Common album that I have enjoyed in years. It has that “old” Common aggression, energy, and playfulness while (for the most part) being pure love. For someone who spitefully spits in a caveman voice about “softness” Common sure does delivers a bunch of love songs (Irony?). Love has never been and never will be soft. You better ask somebody.

I have a complicated relationship to Common’s work much like that of President Obama; I feel betrayed by some of things he has chosen to do. Yet, at the same time there is this small glimmer of faith that somehow he’d turn it all around. While this album is a step in the right direction it does not quite make me a believer. Don’t get me wrong though this is a solid and enjoyable album. I dig it. Mostly.

However, there is a schizophrenia to Common’s attitude and lyrics which is not necessarily a bad thing because after all contradiction is human nature. Yet, just like the above mentioned missteps, Common’s desire for street cred creates a jarring effect next to his more expansive worldview. I’d go as far as to say that producer No I.D. is the true star of The Dreamer/The Believer laying down soulful grooves and thick beats. Then again although there are some nice lyrics going on, there is nothing new or particularly inventive. I guess I expect more from an artist of Common’s caliber. On the whole The Dreamer, The Believer is the best effort we have seen from Common in years and its virtues outweigh it flaws. Buy it.


  1. Madam Toussaint

    Common himself draws comparisons to president Obama “I’m to Hip Hop what Obama is to politics/ Common is.” He doesn’t know how true that is! Great point.

    I would add that I think in Hip Hop music we make far too much room for contradictions. Often, it’s as if these rappers don’t even hear themselves. Knowledge of self, self awareness and critical analysis of an artist seem in short supply even when an emcee’s issues are on full display on an album.

    Anyway, nice post!

  2. j053

    If you love hip hop or are from Chicago, you want to love this album. I enjoyed the album, but the author is correct when he points out the albums flaws. I, myself, was a bit disappointed with the second half of the album. The article is completely on point when referencing Nas and Common’s lyrics. Both are definitely influential emcees, but much more is expected and rightfully should be. The previous comment is completely correct about how “in Hip Hop music we make far too much room for contradictions.” Was refreshing to read an intelligent, even handed article about hip hop.

  3. Gloria

    I only listened to the album once. My initial reaction. “Meh”. Be and Finding Forever are still my favorites….can listen to those all day.Contradictions is an excellent word to describe this latest release. Did you read his book?

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