Tag Archives: Nas

The Dreamer, The Believer Review + Thoughts On The Drake Controversy:

Leading up to its release, I was one of many who believed that Common’s latest album, The Dreamer, The Believer, on which he would reunite with master-producer No I.D., could be the album of the year — it wasn’t. While it was a strong showing by Common, but not the best effort of his career. Moreover, after weeks of great, great promo — he was all over the web and visiting radio stations — the release, in my opinion, was tainted at the last minute by this Drake business.

Common has grown to become one of hip-hop’s most respected MCs, and a great ambassador for the culture as a visible representative in mainstream pop culture via movies, books, commercials, philanthropy and more. For him to stoop to this level is just wack. By the way, I’m talking about the “Sweet” record and release-day controversy.

Some people are Drake haters and welcomed the diss, others are fans of Common’s earlier work and liken this to that — I don’t care about any of that: Common is wack for this (not wack as a person, or rapper, or anything else. I love him, he’s one of my favorites. But this “beef”, and his role instigating it, is wack).

For starters, the song leaked damn near two months ago on Nov. 2nd. Common has since released a video, spoken on the song and it’s been rumored that it was about Drake. All of a sudden, the day the album drops, he comes out and the song is about Drake. He’s on 106, GCI, Sway In The Morning. The day the album drops? C’mon son. He’s not exactly Thuggalicious either, and

In 1996 he was beefing with Ice Cube. 15 years later he’s beefing with Drake. And for no apparent reason. That’s just stupid, and until further information reveals itself, I’m dubbing it a ploy…all of this was on my mind when I copped the album.

As for actual music, it’s pretty good. Not as great as I’d hoped it would be, but very good considering the lofty expectations. Common’s bars aren’t his best, but the metaphors are abundant as he tries to take on a range of topics, most always successfully. Working exclusively with No I.D. gives this project awesome cohesiveness.

The Dreamer, The Believer hits the ground running with “The Dreamer” which features some inspiring words from the esteemed Maya Angelou. Starting here, we see what makes this album so good: tight rhymes, tailored production, great samples, great sequencing and a stellar supporting cast — much of the Cocaine 80s crew is prevalent throughout. Many of the records feature additional vocals from Makeba Riddick or James Fauntleroy, James Poyser on keys and Steve Wyreman on guitar and bass.

Other standout tracks include the second official single “Blue Sky”, “Sweet” (removed from it’s context, it is one of the best diss records in awhile ), “Lovin I Lost” (which makes great use of a magnificent Impressions sample) and “Celebrate”, a fantastic record that I think will prove to be especially timeless.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Dreamer, The Believer, I really did. But I can’t say that there’s anything that really took me over the top on here. Given what No I.D. has been doing over the past three years or so, and the Cocaine 80s collaborations between he and Common, tall expectations were certainly in order. In the end, it’s really strong front-to-back, never hits any low points, but rarely goes through the roof. Maybe I had my hopes too high.


Nas Feat. Eban Thomas (of the Stylistics) & The Last Poets – You Can’t Stop Us Now; Untitled

Producer: Salaam Remi

Sample: The Whatnauts – Message From A Black Man [Link]

Nas Feat. Jay-Z – Black Republican; Hip-Hop Is Dead

“Transform W/ The Megatron Don…”

Twitter ran amok two days ago, as Drake’s sophomore album, Take Care, set to drop next Tuesday, sprung an early leak. One of the most talked about tracks, at least from what I observed, was Lord Knows featuring Rick Ross, produced by Just Blaze. True to form, Just did the damn thing, and got me thinking about my favorite Just Blaze beats of all-time. He’s long been in my personal top 5 producers, and a brief glance over his production discography is jaw-dropping. Could have chosen from any number of tracks, but here’s what I came up with (in no particular order):

Freeway Feat. Jay-Z & Beanie Sigel – What We Do; Philadelphia Freeway

Sample: Creative Source – Just Can’t See Myself Without You [Link]

Without question, one of the best, most defining songs of the Roc-A-Fella era. Free’s verse, as Jay has pointed out, playing between “up” and “down” is just silly.

Jay-Z – Show Me What You Got; Kingdom Come

Samples: Lafayette Afro Rock Band – Darkest Light [Link]; Public Enemy – Show Em What You Got [Link]; Wreckx-N-Effect – Rump Shaker [Link]

This song wasn’t as well-received as it should have been. Sample-wise — especially Darkest Light — it’s some of Blaze’s best work. It’s really a great record, and, I’ve made this point since 2006: The drums at the end of this joint are fucking bananas.

Jay-Z – U Don’t Know; Blueprint

Sample: Bobby Byrd – I’m Not To Blame [Link]

“They tryna get them 1’s, I’m tryna get them M’s”

Used to listen to this before every basketball game. Shit gives me goosebumps to this day. Hustler’s anthem!

Jay Electronica – Exhibit C

Sample: Billy Stewart – Cross My Heart [Link]

This sample is wicked, and as you know, Jay Elec wrecked this shit!

Game Feat. Nas & Marsha Ambrosious – Why You Hate The Game; Doctor’s Advocate

Sample: The Main Ingredient – With You [Link]

Absolutely love this joint. So damn righteous.

Jay-Z – Show You How; The Blueprint 2: The Gift and The Curse

“Sick of ya’ll niggas wit ya now or later raps”

Just laid the foundation for some of Hov’s best shit-talking ever.

Diplomats – I Really Mean It; Diplomatic Immunity

Sample: Major Harris – I Got Over Love [Link]

Jay-Z – PSA; The Black Album

Sample: Little Boy Blues -Seed Of Love [Link]

Obscure sample that turns out to be a great track. Them keys — piano and electric — are something serious.

Talib Kweli – Never Been In Love; The Beautiful Struggle

Sample: The Imaginations -Because I Love You [Link]

Kanye West Feat. Lupe Fiasco – Touch The Sky; Late Registration

Sample: Curtis Mayfield – Move On Up [Link]

Another excellent sample. How you know Curtis was good: when’s the last time you heard a soul sample that had to be slowed down?

Juelz Santana – The Second Coming

Sample: Berlioz: Symphonie Fantastique – 5th movement [Link]

Another pregame special. Originally for a dope-ass Nike spot.


Listening to this album earlier this week, and it’s absolutely flawless — not that that wasn’t widely known already. Fuck spins and radio play and what you think of Nas’ career after this… the imagery, the pictures he was painting are impeccable, and the production perfectly matches the vibe and lyrics. Beyond hip-hop, this is a great body of work in general and in Black music.

This album will always hold a special place in my heart, as my best friend, Jordan, who first put me on to Nas and burned me the copy of Illmatic that I still have to this day, is no longer with us. Accordingly, Life’s A Bitch, in particular, is one of my favorite hip-hop records of all-time.

Nas Feat. AZ – Life’s A Bitch

Producer: L.E.S. & Nas

Nas – The World Is Yours

Producer: Pete Rock

Nas – One Love

Producer: Q-Tip

Nas & Rick Ross – Tower Heist

Producer: Salaam Remi

Nas – Nasty; Life Is Good

Producer: Salaam Remi