Common’s in a great place. Initially perceived as a boisterous, 40 oz-drinking MC on his first two LPs in the early ‘90s, he evolved into the poster boy for conscious rap during the next decade. His last LP, the disappointing Universal Mind Control, was unusually stripped of substance, but fairly reflected what the Chicago MC had become—a mainstream rap star with Hollywood success.
Now, 39, Com is comfortable enough to show all facets of his personality without appearing conflicted. The Dreamer/The Believer paints the perfect picture of Rashid “Common” Lynn—the artist, the man. He returns to his brash roots on “Sweet” and “Raw (How You Like It)”—spitting, “’You Hollywood,’ nah nigga, I’m Chicago/So I cracked his head with a muthafuckin’ bottle.” He’s as women-friendly as ever on “Lovin’ I Lost,” “Cloth” and “Windows,” then parties up on “Celebrate.”
Don’t let the motion picture roles fool you. Com is an MC first. He flexes his lyrical muscle throughout the LP. “Lyrical gymnast, you set the bar low,” he spits on “Gold.”
Aside from chorus assistance from Makeba Riddick, James Fauntlero and John Legend, the LP’s sole rap guest appearance comes from Nas on “Ghetto Dreams.” Com delivers a backpacker’s wet dream with the oft requested collaboration—the two previously appeared on Jadakiss’s “Why (Remix)” and Hi-Tek’s “Music for Life.”
The Dreamer/The Believer may be Com’s most digestible LP to date. His penchant for uplifting bars is still present, but the message is sprinkled across a number of songs, not a dominant theme. Don’t look for sore points, here. There are none. Com and No I.D.’s chemistry clearly hasn’t suffered from a 14-year break—the two longtime collaborators hadn’t worked together since 1997′s One Day It’ll All Make Sense. No—who mans the board on all 11 songs— matches’s Com’s moods with fittingly choice soundscapes ranging from soulful (“Gold”) to rock solid (“Sweet”) to quasi futuristic (“Blue Sky”)—allowing the Chi-Town vet to deliver a cohesive album that ranks among the best in his stellar 19-year career. —Carl Chery (@cchery)