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San Antonio Music Awards 2014: Best Instrumental Band

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Aural Pleasure Review

Common: The Dreamer, The Believer

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Common has always walked a tightrope. His "I Used to Love H.E.R." is a love song (a rap rarity in '94) that charted his love's spiritual and moral decline (his betrothed being the genre, not a woman). Naturally, it can be difficult to accept Common on The Dreamer, The Believer's "Ghetto Dreams," wherein he calls for a hot "bitch" that cooks pancakes buck-ass naked. If there's commentary on offer, the wink isn't pronounced and the effect is discomfort as the track follows a Maya Angelou poem on daring to dream. But this isn't as wacky as 2008's bullheaded, Neptunes-driven Universal Mind Control, where "Ghetto Dreams" is "Brown Eyed Girl" by comparison. Here, Common is reunited with producer No I.D. (last seen on 1997's One Day It'll All Make Sense) and spittin' more inspiration than degradation. No I.D. is a soul wizard, making Dreamer hearken to early '90s Common without appropriating the jazz-rap sound of the time. Both hit paydirt engaging feel-good tropes on "Cloth" (love lost) and "Celebrate" (party rap). Densely packed closer "Pops Belief" is a poem on the title themes. While moving, the landing doesn't quite stick. Dreamer suffers from being about too much and not enough simultaneously.

★★★ (out of 5 stars)

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