JON MORENO — Arts Editor
Common has made romantic comedies. Common has made music videos showing him in front of a woman’s house using flash cards to profess his love. And even with all that, he has the audacity to call out Drake for being soft.
However, when it comes to hip-hop, Common is a living legend and every so often he drops an album that reminds fans that he is still a predominant figure in the music business.
On “The Dreamer/The Believer,” Common’s ninth studio album, features include Nas, John Legend and Maya Angelou. Angelou is featured performing an original piece on the album’s intro.
Her voice is nostalgic as she reads her poetry piece. Common’s ability to recruit the legend to be on his album speaks dividends of the level of respect he has gained over his career.
But not soon after Angelou graces the speakers, a gritty and hard-hitting beat comes blaring through with a Nas-sampled hook as the two rap about their “Ghetto Dreams,” a key track in the album and a perfect tone-setter for what’s to come.
The album is produced solely by No I.D. What the casual listener probably doesn’t know is that this is the man that Kanye West looks up to and shaped his style after and is also the man that J. Cole calls when he finishes producing a song for his feedback.
Needless to say, No I.D. is a well-respected man in music and having him produce Common’s entire record is what he’s been missing after a few lackluster albums.
“Blue Sky,” a song in which he takes an introspective look into himself, is an instant classic. Other songs like “Sweet” brings back a rugged Common reminiscent of a late 80s/early 90s version of himself who battled with Ice Cube, one of the hardest known artists in hip-hop at the time and held his own.
The song did start a riff between Common and Drake, who is still new to the music world in comparison to Common. But then again, hip-hop is extremely competitive and originated in the streets so things like this happen often. Should it be taken seriously? No, but it is entertaining to keep tabs on; plus Common is only saying what a lot of people were thinking anyway.
Every track is vintage No I.D. as half the songs contain soulful samples and a lot of tracks are jazz-influenced. But all still contain a certain level of grittiness that makes this album feels like a trip back to the early 90s hip-hop era.
This is Common’s lane and it’s about time he exploits it. His last album, “Universal Mind Control,” was a failed attempt at crossing over to pop and electro-funk and thank baby Jesus he decided to let that go.
The album isn’t as consistent as his previous records such as 2005’s “Be,” but hip-hop fans can rest easily knowing that Common didn’t set sail on what made him the artist he is today.
With 2012 hopefully seeing a collaborative album with Nas entitled “Nas.Com” and a project with all of the G.O.O.D Music label associates and signees, Common is just scratching the surface with “The Dreamer/The Believer.”
Hip-hop is in a good state with its current players and Common is definitely a centerpiece to it all.