The album is inconsistent. The theme is not clearly defined. The concept of dreaming and believing seems to be just a catchy idea. There are a couple of tracks that don’t need to be on the album.
Mixed messages are constantly present, causing the CD to contradict itself. It’s just a jumbled mess.
With that said, however, there are plenty of good tracks. Lyrically, Common has obviously grown (though “Ghetto Dreams” and “Sweet” evidently do not reflect his growth) from hits like “I Used to Love H.E.R.,” “Come Close” and “Go.”
Musically, No I.D. conducted fabulous work on the production side. Basically, if tracks two, four and maybe nine were omitted, then The Dreamer/The Believer would be a five-mic album. Since that isn’t the case, three mics it is.
Lonnie Rashid Lynne began his rap career in 1991 under the alias of a simple moniker: Common. Common recently released his ninth album, “The Dreamer/The Believer.” The project was produced completely by No I.D. Despite high anticipation from fans and critics alike, the album overall is subpar. Here’s why:
Track #1: The Dreamer feat. Maya Angelou
A soulful sound explodes from the speakers, setting the tone of the album. Common’s wordplay and lyrical style perfectly match the music’s artistic attitude. Powerful, yet gentle; inspiring, yet not too complicated. His most poetic line states, “Maybe I’m a hopeless hip-hop romantic; I’m a dreamer.” The track’s sweet noise is concluded with a shift into an original poem by the incredible African-American activist and poet, Maya Angelou. The teacher of sorts uses her feature to encourage African-Americans to continue to dream. And then the second track shoots it all to hell.
Track #2: Ghetto Dreams feat. Nas
After such a renowned icon wrapped up the first track, it’s astonishing that no more than five seconds into the second track, Common is tossing around the n-word and other unnecessary obscenities. Here, he delivers a message of what he envisions his dream wife to be: a b—- with big t—– with a baby in one arm, a skillet in the other and who is good for pretty much nothing but lying on her back and watching reality shows. Nas’ verse isn’t any better; he wants his b—- to buy him nice s—. What a dream, gentlemen. Two thumbs up on being positive role models for young black men.
Track #3: Blue Sky
This is absolutely beautiful. Common mentions different people he looked up to while growing up, such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Denzel Washington. Common does a great job catering to No I.D.’s production on this track, but Kanye would’ve killed it. Even so, the song does a pretty good job of stimulating listeners to achieve their goals.
Track #4: Sweet
Contrary to its title, “Sweet” is anything but. With pointless and redundant curse words. This time, however, Common seems to be speaking to someone directly. It isn’t clear who caused Common’s anger. Lyrics suggest he may be spitting fire at a wannabe rapper who apparently has challenged Common at his craft. Whoever it is, the song is obviously filler and the album could have done without.
Track #5: Gold
Common bounces back to his wholesome, good-boy side. This tune is very mellow, comprised of a modern-day Motown feel. The latter half of the song is all instrumental with a little ad-lib singing. Expressive and jazzy, “Gold” is a song that multi-generations can enjoy.
Track #6: Lovin’ I Lost
Here, Common divulges a story of heartbreak and a relationship’s demise. He briefly mentions his father on this track and how growing up without him in the home contributed to the heartbreaker Common has become. Sampled from The Impressions’ “I Loved and I Lost,” No I.D. does an amazing job of renovating the 1968 hit into a new reverberation. As this song wraps up, the first half of the album is complete.
Track #7: Raw (How You Like It)
It starts off good, but the temporary musical switch-up about a minute into it throws everything off. It sounds like the CD is skipping. However, it’s intentional since it appears more than once. It seems the title is a play on words. Beyond discussing unsafe sex, Common uses this term to paint a picture of the type of artist he is: real, rare, unrestrained and raw.
Track #8: Cloth
Another love song, Common speaks to his girlfriend concerning how awesome they are together. The cloth is described as keeping the two as one. A victory song, the tune is perfect for any couple who has endured a range of ordeals and distress together, yet come out on top.
Track #9: Celebrate
The feel-good song “Celebrate” is a party hit for family get-togethers and high school reunions. When drama ceases and nothing but positivity, love and optimism remain, “Celebrate” is the song to commemorate happy days.
Track #10: Windows
“Windows” is a charming song, uplifting and empowering young women, particularly his daughter. Ironically, this song comes eight tracks after he refers to his future wife as a b—-.
Track #11: The Believer feat. John Legend
A reccurring theme of persistence appears but alters from an encouraging memo of dreaming to a sanction of believing the dream will actually come true. John Legend’s hook continually sings, “They will talk about us,” a feat that comes when dreams transpire into realities.
Track #12: Pops Belief
Common’s father presents an impromptu spoken word piece that addresses what he believes to be true for the past – starting back with creation – the present, and the future. The last track on the album, “Pops Belief” rounds out the CD with a delivery that essentially ties it back to the beginning of the project.