x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Common: The Dreamer/The Believer

The Chicago rapper's newest album is a step in the right direction.

(Warner Bros)

Ever since Chicago rapper Common's legendary single I Used to Love H.E.R, his masterful 1994 ode to the genre, he has been held (and also held himself for that matter) as hip-hop's lyrical gold standard. However, after a bunch of awe-inspiring albums, fans listened in horror as Common released his widely panned Universal Mind Control, a 2008 collaboration with The Neptunes that saw him suddenly ditch his wise-man persona for club-hopping debonair. The criticism and sheer bile thrown at Common from fans would have persuaded lesser rappers to hang up their chains. Indeed, Common sought refuge in his acting career before returning with his ninth album, the reconciliation mission that is The Dreamer/The Believer. Teaming up with producer and Chicago compatriot No ID, the album retains the melodic lushness of Common's earlier classics Like Water for Chocolate and Be. In the opener, The Dreamer, Common speaks of being a "hip-hop romantic" as he surveys life from a metaphorical mountain top. In the stirring Blue Sky, he looks back at childhood, while in the searching The Believer, John Legend is enlisted to deliver a gospel-tinged hook as Common admits it's "hard to see blessings in the violent culture". However, wasteful tracks such as the Nas collaboration Ghetto Dreams and the obnoxious Sweet show that Common is yet to regain the focus that made him the premiere MC in the game. Nevertheless, TheDreamer/The Believer is a step back in the right direction.