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The Dreamer, The Believer (Album Review)
Released 20 December 2011
50:46 in length
1.) The Dreamer —— 4..75/5
2.) Ghetto Dreams —— 4.75/5
3.) Blue Sky —— 3.75/5
4.) Sweet —— 4.25/5
5.) Gold —— 5/5
6.) Lovin’ I Lost —— 4.5/5
7.) Raw (How You Like It) —— 3.75/5
8.) Cloth —— 4.25/5
9.) Celebrate —— 4.25/5
10.) Windows —— 3.75/5
11.) The Believer —— 4.25/5
12.) Pops Belief
From the beginning of The Dreamer you know what you’re in store for. The album rips right into Common’s always beautiful flow and great wordplay matched perfectly with No ID’s production. It is a masterful mix of old school and contemporary beats. When the piano kicks in at thirteen seconds, I knew I was going to love this song. The hook fits in so well. Maya Angelou’s original poem acts as the song’s outro and it is beautiful. This song featured one of my favorite verses from Common that I’ve ever heard, here’s a small excerpt:
It’s Common, I’m high above the standard
Fly nigga, keep my feet planted
To rock the planet, I don’t stop to panic
Maybe I’m a hopeless hip hop romantic
I’m a dreamer
No ID brings more of the old school vibe with yet another amazing track. Ghetto Dreams was the first track released from this album and when I first heard it back in July, I was extremely excited for more. The song has an awesome theme to it: bitches. But not your standard song about bitches with fat asses giving lap dances. You get two of hip hop’s heavyweights explaining their dream girls. Common opens with some lines that every man wishes: “I want a bitch that look good and cook good/Cinderella fancy, but she still look hood.” Nas, as expected, delivers an awesome verse.
**This track was voted by RG users as the 5th best song of 2011*
Now we have a really cool transition into Blue Sky. We get the traditionally great Common flow with some uncharacteristically mediocre (at best) lines. “Suited in Prada, stay mellow like lala/Young, fresh, with dollars, ladies go gaga” 39 isn’t old but I don’t know too many people that would say that’s young. The other downside to the song would be the hook. It would have been great had it been two years ago, but it sounds virtually like every other hook I’ve heard by Skylar Grey, and this isn’t even her… But don’t let all of that fool you into thinking this is a bad track. Common’s entire message here has a real glorious feel. He explains his rise to where he’s at now and what he has to look forward to.
Before I actually heard Sweet, I was told that it was a diss to Drake for being too soft and that Common went “hard” on this track. Well… No doubt Common goes “hard”. It’s like nothing I’ve ever heard from him. If his goal was to come off as angry, he sure as shit does just that. “Sweet-ass bitch-motherfucker.” The beat is catchy as all hell with the “You Don’t Have to Worry” by Doris & Kelley sample. I know quite a few people that weren’t too big on this song, but the more I listen to it, the more I like it. Common shows off a mic presence that I’ve never really heard out of him, and the anger he’s projecting makes him sound extremely genuine. But to address the possible Drake diss; I really think it’s directed more towards Lil Wayne than Drake. I definitely understand where people would get that assumption, but there are a few subtleties that I felt were aimed at Wayne. Such as, Common has a line in the second verse, “Yeah, I rep the fresh air for you asthmatic rap addicts” which instantly reminds me of Wayne’s line “I am wheezy (Weezy) but I ain’t asthmatic.” On the outro rant portion of the song when Common is just being mean, he says “Be yo’self man” which again, makes me lean towards Wayne because Drake may be soft (or sweet) but I’d say he’s definitely being himself, whereas Wayne does dumbshit songs like “How to Love” and everything from Rebirth, not to mention he’s also wearing leggings and skateboarding. Another point, the beginning of the song, Commons states that he IS the greatest, which is definitely something that Wayne seems to have plastered into his own head. But who knows? Common never named names. The only person we can rule out would be Frank Sinatra. It’s over, sweet motherfucker.
Gold, is my favorite track on the entire album and maybe one of my favorite beats from this year. This song is way too smooth. The beat, the hook, the verses, everything; everything about this song, I love. Common does some killer wordplay here, one of my favorites, “Hot tub time machine, back to the Sybaris/Hats from liquor stores to avoid syphilis” No ID hit a homerun with this one. I have a hard time putting into words what I love about this track because it literally is everything.
I remember, I remember… Lovin’ I Lost has a killer Curtis Mayfield sample (“I Loved and I Lost”). Common lays down some bars all about love. The Purple Revolver sums it up best, so I will just directly quote them:
On “Lovin’ I Lost” he spits about love lost with a maturity and experience that young rappers just don’t have and No ID takes it to the next level with a Curtis Mayfield sample.
I really couldn’t have said it better myself.
The latest single from The Dreamer, The Believer, Raw (How You Like It), has a beat similar to “Sweet”, with some sirens added in and a female on the hook. When the chorus kicks in, I can definitely bob my head and my girlfriend liked it enough to dance to, but that doesn’t make me love this track. I’m not big on those sirens, at all. I understand why this was a single for the album (even though it’s technically the 5th single). Common constantly gives his hometown a shout out and he really gives it one with the final bars on the song, “‘You Hollywood.’ Nah nigga, I’m Chicago/So I cracked his head with a motherfuckin’ bottle”
No ID makes sure we stay in place with the old school vibe on Cloth. Here Common expresses his love and appreciation for a girl’s natural beauty, beyond the clothes that she wears. It’s a magnificent theme to touch on, especially when it’s done with such class and skill from Common. My biggest gripe is a line from the hook, “Because girl I can get you fresh.” I understand it, I really do, but I don’t really like it. I must admit, the odd hook on this track, upon my first listen, made me not like this song so much. However, over multiple listens, I really did end up liking it. The old school/chill vibe is so hard to deny, especially when matched with more of Common’s wordplay, “This is tailor-made love, fit like a snug/Anything we can bear so let’s have some cubs”
Celebrate oozes with happiness. The piano on the beat and that hook are just so cheerful. Common puts the things he loves in life into the lyrics here; women, success, friends, etc. Though it doesn’t take anything away from this song, I was a little shocked to not see a feature or two on this track. I would have expected an appearance from ‘Ye. Regardless, this is a successful “feel good” song delivered by great conscious emcee, so enjoy it.
Another one of the album’s slower/relaxed tracks, Windows, though it has some beautiful themes and lyrics, it’s just a little lackluster when compared to the rest of the album, for me. The song features some guitar work that really didn’t impress me and the chorus was a tad forgetful. But again, what saves this song is Common’s flow and the words to go into that flow, how can someone hate this:
She got the type of aura that’s fun and vibrant
A lot of love inside, got to help guide it
Daddy will protect it, God will provide it
We all will be there so your soul ain’t divided
The extremely talented John Legend lends his voice on The Believer which presents itself as a gospel. This song is big, it’s rich, it’s gorgeous. I’m not big on religion, but I have no problem with Common using biblical references fused with modern day problems and explaining the “light at the end of the tunnel” here. There’s much more to it than any religion or deity. The song is more about the trials and tribulations of life in general, and Common letting us know that we can believe in each other. This track is littered with awesome lines, one of my favorite bits comes from the first verse: “The young become dangerous, pain gets spent into anger/Anger gets sent through the chamber.”
Pops Belief acts as the album’s outro and is a spoken word piece read by Common’s father, Lonnie Lynn.
Everyone knows that No ID is an excellent producer and everyone also knows that Common is an excellent rapper, but what I didn’t know is how phenomenal these two sound when they collaborate. It really is an amazing mash up. The album as a whole definitely gives off an old school vibe, with some contemporary influences and includes some of Common’s best work to date. It was extremely refreshing to hear this type of production and it all started back in July when Common gave us “Ghetto Dreams.” What is obvious on each of the tracks from this LP is Common’s genuine passion for hip hop. The Dreamer, The Believer is just so heartfelt and is stuffed full of inspirational verses, fantastic wordplay, amazing lyrical themes and surreal production. At 50:46 this album is so lean and so solid, that I wouldn’t argue with someone claiming this as album of the year. There isn’t a single dud on the entire thing and I would be shocked to see anyone rate this album below 4/5 stars or mics or sizes or whatever. The Dreamer, The Believer is a remarkable album and I highly recommend it to anyone that enjoys conscious hip hop. But most importantly, as a Chicagoan, I am extremely proud to claim this as Chicago hip hop — thank you Common and No ID.
Final ratings: 47.25/55 = 85% =
Damn, Can’t wait to listen. Sounds good
Common doesn’t disappoint. Thanks for the awesome review, man.
Did I not delete it? Or did you repost?
Why would you delete it?
He asked me to because the album isn’t out yet.
Sorry for any confusion Slim, I had to make a few changes. The first time I posted the review there were some errors I had made with the formatting. Thank you for being awake at 4AM to help me out, but this review here is done and ready, so leave it up, haha.
I’m def copping it. I’m not a huge fan of Common, but this album looks really good. Definitely gonna be a top 3 album of 2011.
Just want to let everyone know that there are still some tracks that need explained/edited/corrected explanations that need approved and denied — still some work. If anyone needs a hand, just let me know.
Why can’t conscious hip hop artists get beats like these? Kudos to No I.D.
Great review. I’m loving this album more and more after each listen. Even the track that I didn’t initially like, “Sweet”, is kind of growing on me. That being said though, I’d still give “Sweet” the lowest score of all the songs. It just doesn’t seem to fit as perfectly as everything else. And like I said before, “The Believer” is probably my favorite song on the album. I’d give it a perfect score. Overall, I just love the cohesiveness of the album. Common and No I.D. did a fantastic job. This might be my album of the year.
O ok. I was up playing MW3 anyway lol
Holla. what score did I guess? oh that’s right. 4.3.
good review. good album. etc.
@6x good review like always.
And I’ll try to explain more things if I have more free time in the next days to help you guys.