After the disappointment of Universal Mind Control, many assumed that Common’s long 18-year career was finally reaching its death kneel. With Be serving as both a double edged sword and the pinnacle of his career (many newer fans still believe that’s his first album), Common had to prove once again to the ADHD crowd that he’s no typical emcee, despite what his moniker may suggest. However, as hip-hop’s most familiar underdog, being slept-on after tracking into experimental territory isn’t anything new to Com or his fans. Certainly The Dreamer, Believer is no Be, but it’s definitely a strong follow-up after going through a musical dry spell.
Common begins the album strongly with “The Dreamer.” Unfortunately, his intro is so powerful that you may want to press fast-forward through “Ghetto Dreams” “Blue Sky” and the controversial and subliminal single “Sweet” just to press rewind. “Gold,” however, picks up where “The Dreamer” left off. As the name implies, “Gold” instrumentally, is like an Amazonian wonderland. As the track begins strongly with rich and soulful instrumentations, Com asserts himself as a leader of the hip-hop generation with lyrics like, “I’m the voice of the meek and under privileged, the smell of success I want ya’ll to get a whiff of this.” He also drops a dose of clever free associative with lyrics like, ”My dad said it rained on my arrival, now the storm of the brain make these guys drive slow…”
Although he’s not “la la laaing” on any record, Com does touch on “soft” subject matters like being a one-woman man. On “Cloth,” for example, Common bears his heart to his potential wifey-to-be with lyrics like, “anything we can bear, so lets have some cubs” and “hey lover, we can cover each other, through the coldest night, tight, never smothered, it’s two things that hold us together, God is our tailor, and forever.” “Windows” is arguably the most introspective song on the album. Here, Common tackles the reclusiveness women experience after being hurt by lustful men. He goes further into their dilemma by starting at the root of their problem by reflecting through the eyes of his daughter with insightful lyrics like, “A lot of girls without, they become needy, come on dad, I’m too old for the backseat, can you come and get me, are you coming to my track meet, as she begins to the race of life and love I told her, I can’t run it for ya, God knows I’ma coach ya.”
In general, there aren’t any really weak cuts on the album. Whether he’s feeling cinematic in tracks such as “Lovin I Lost,” enjoying life on “Celebrate,” or pummeling sucka emcees on tracks like “Raw (How You Like It),” Common delivers. However, if there’s one song on the album that feels misplaced on the album it would be “Sweet.” Hearing Com transforming into a belligerent and overly aggressive emcee is borderline hilarious due to the fact it just doesn’t fit Com’s collective persona. Even his venomous diss track “The B*tch in Yoo,” doesn’t have a trace of this Dwayne Gittens persona that Com has now assumed. Don’t get me wrong. “Sweet” does make a good point of pointing out cotton candy rappers and it guaranteed a head nod, but it’s just doesn’t sound believable.
In addition to “Sweet,” the only thing keeping the album from being as great as Be are his other two singles “Ghetto Dreams” and “Blue Sky.” They don’t damage the continuity of the album, but in comparison to the rest of the album, they just don’t hold up. Had Common added them as bonus tracks or reduced the album to ten tracks, The Dreamer may have been as great or greater than Be. However, with Universal Mind Control being Com’s strongest debacle to date, who’s complaining? Besides, seeing Common and No I.D. reunite on an album after 14 years is marvelous, and together they master crafted one of the strongest albums to come out this year. So after listening to this album, will Com make you a believer? Mos’ definitely.