It’s believed that there are pivotal years in Hip Hop. 1988, The Run DMC era, near every album that came out was quality. Then there was the year 1994, considered by many as the golden era, where every artist was different and brought a unique style. Since then there hasn’t really been an iconic year….maybe until now. I want to add 2011 to that exclusive list, because in an era where the auto tune, questionable fashion sense and alleged illuminati is plaguing the radio, a string of quality hip hop albums emerged from the underground, each vowing to bring real hip hop back to the forefront.
As 2011 comes to a close, Common releases his highly anticipated album, The Dreamer, The Believer. Common sticks to his word unlike other artists who claim that they will work with exclusively one credible producer, but when the album comes out it has a mix bag of producers and often makes for a disappointing record.
Common starts the conceptual album with ‘The Dreamer’. This features a well worded poem by Maya Angelou. Maya sets the tone as the poem describes how our ancestors from slavery dreamed of a better future for their successors: Us.
Now the album kicks off with the fast paced banger- ‘Ghetto Dreams’, featuring Nas. The furious flow and synergy from both MCs has now led to a future project entitled Nas.Com. Two top lyricists coming together for a full length album is sure to eclipse the Throne that they have being told to Watch.
‘Blue Sky’ is that feel good anthem. Super producer No I.D. samples the Electric Light original and amps it up. This is as commercial as you are going to get. If this was accepted in pop music, it would be contender for Christmas #1 single because it carries that vibe. The mood suddenly swings, Common goes from feeling good to feeling rather agitated…He calls out the commercial artists who claim that they are the best and asks them, why they look so ‘Sweet’. Com assaults them without mercy. Ice Cube already felt his wrath way back.
Now it’s time to zone out with Com as he goes into the track entitled ‘Gold’. Actually you will have no choice but to zone out. Com’s creativity comes into play as he tells bible stories and brings them into the present day. The zoning out continues as Com tells his listeners of the ‘Lovin’ I Lost’. As you zone, you can feel the soul flowing through you uncontrollably: “I must confess, I miss the days of you laying on my chest/So confusing losing love, I’m saying God bless/Who do it better, we used to move together/Now we not together, is this our new forever?”
Ol’ Dirty Bastard isn’t the only dude who likes it ‘Raw’. So does Common, and even though he’s renowned as an artist, author and actor, Com dismisses his status as Hollywood and is quick to hit fools that doubt him with a bottle. The jazzy soulful sound continuously flows into the ‘Cloth’. Com admits that he isn’t afraid to gamble as shown in past projects (Electric Circus, Universal Mind Control), the lyrics in this song may have a double meaning, like the love of his woman or his love for Hip Hop, which Common is so known for from that ‘classic’ track: “The night that I met her, it might be forever/I hear people saying that they like us together/I ain’t afraid to gamble when life is getting better/With you, I admit I had issues/Like ebony, your essence, your pedigree, your presence/It’s more than clothes can say for you
When I shop I gotta spend more than a day for you….”
With this album it’s indeed time to ‘Celebrate’, this is arguably the most ‘Kanye’ sounding track. Don’t forget that No I.D. was Kanye’s mentor. Com then tells the story of a father/daughter relationship so vivid; you actually think that you can actually see it through your ‘Windows’: “I’m thinking like Lauryn, a rose is still a rose/Even when the door close, there grows a new one/I told her it’s some good men, she asked me if I knew one/Her daddy left a hole because she never really knew him….”
Common started the album with The Dreamer, now he closes the album with ‘The Believer’. Such a triumphant track that it could be sung in church. John Legend tells us to pay no attention to the haters who don’t believe in you, as long as you believe in yourself just like the Kings before you, and no Common album is complete without his pops coming through in the end to tell you what he believes in.
What you see in this album is a journey from being a dreamer to a believer. Kanye’s recent musical experimentation proved too much even for Mr Lynn, so he has Kanye’s mentor fully produce the album, showing that quote from the martial arts film Shaolin Vs Lama, “A lousy student, may have a good master”. If there was a gripe I had, was that I wished it included the track ‘Summer Madness’ that was also produced by No I.D. but I’m just being picky. Needless to say, Common’s stories and subject matter has brought out the best in NO I.D’s production. This is a triumph for Common as he returns to form in the highest order. At the beginning of 2011, I dreamed that real hip hop would come back and crush the nonsense going on. At the end of 2011, I now believe it will happen.
(Mike Dogg-RePPiN 4U)