'The Dreamer/ The Believer'
The ninth album from Windy City rapper/actor/newsboy-cap aficionado Common - he of the calm, collected flow and serious/sensitive reputation - is a reassertion of sorts, one that captivates with its utter competence. With so much attention rightfully paid this year to the newly blooded boundary-pushers of rap's evolving fringe, it is invigorating to see an old hand at work, flogging a classic form with such confidence and charm that its familiarity is easily overlooked. Augmented by producer No I.D.'s solid-gold selection of soul-sampling cuts (running the gamut from Curtis Mayfield to ELO), Common turns in a technically superior set that recalls the best of his '90s work, leaning on a weary-sounding Maya Angelou for a poignant history lesson on "The Dreamer," trading spitfire verses with Nas on the raw-edged "Ghetto Dreams," and burning down soft MCs on "So Sweet" before ultimately leaving listeners uplifted on the gospel-tinged, John Legend-assisted "The Believer."
After one big hit ("All the Way Turnt Up") and many a memorable hook on tracks like Big Sean's "Marvin and Chardonnay," listeners have been waiting for Dash's proper debut album. Still waiting, but at least they can get a few new tracks here.