Hacking the soundtrack
There is nothing more shattering than the precise moment when you become disillusioned with you icons. When you realise that the totem you were wielding gleefully in the face of pop culture has suddenly become what you hate. For me on this album the implosion came after I heard Sweet. I had secretly been hoping that this was the album that would affirm Common’s status as being amongst the most life affirming voices in hip-hop. Instead I found a middle aged man who is varying degrees is starting to succumb o the conformity and braggadocio of contemporary hip-hop.
For me and as I am sure is the case with many of his fans, Common has never released an album since his iconic 2005 offering Be. Granted Finding Forever was a well adjusted attempt but as a record it was middling at best and don’t even get me started on Universal mind control. I still refuse to acknowledge that the album even exist.
On paper The Dreamer/The Believer has all the right ingredients. As was the case with Be, the offering is produced entirely by one person, namely NO I.D. This would leave you with the expectation of some solid consistency being a thread that runs through the album but there isn’t one. The album feels very much like Common was trying to follow up some of his tracks from Be and the result is less effective. The Dreamer which is the opening track which features Maya Angelou is springy safe and un-innovative. It’s clear that Maya was only added after the track was done. There isn’t a sense of being organic and no readily identifiable coloration or chemistry between her and Common. The follow up track featuring Nas is equally deterring. A recounting of fallen ghetto soldiers blah blah blah, if this is a preview of what the duo will be jointly releasing in 2012-then I am not excited.
Perhaps to be fair to Lonnie Lynn Jr maybe him changing is not the worst thing but he seems to have moved so far from the source of the alchemy that makes him different he might no longer be “The Common” and instead will become his name. This is celebration music its tailor made for libation and not for engagement. On tracks like celebrate and Raw you forget that you are still listening because the music just does not move you. Without doubt he has intricate one liners that get you excited but pretty soon you are weighted down by the undeniable feeling of normality and the senses eventually fall numb to the rhythm. There is then of course the Drake diss track Sweet. Initially I choose to think of this is some sort of a satirical statement. I thought Common was just showing of the low brow nature of modern rappers, but towards the end I had to make peace with the fact that his creative ethos had changed. That he now uses words like B**ch much too comfortably for my liking.
The only real sparks on this offering come toward the end. John Legend’s ailing voice in The believer has a stretched out quality about it that makes it enjoyable. This is the Common of old . “Street kids spark rallies of the conscience conquerors of a contest That seems beyond us, even through the unseen, I know that God watches From one King’s dream he was able to Barack us The prophets, nothing can stop us.” It’s nesting but by the time it comes it’s too late. Pop’s ends it off the best way he can. Clinical and to the point, but even he feels tired. Celebrating but tired none the less. This is a good album in the modern meaningless hip-hop market but for Common it’s an album from which there is possibly no point of return.