On his ninth studio album, Common reunites with old partner and fellow Chicagoan No I.D., which ensures that the sound will be much different than that of the MC's previous set, the Neptunes-dominated Universal Mind Control. Indeed, compounds of dusty soul samples and organic instrumentation are in place of candy-coated synthesizers and pattering hand percussion. That change naturally pushes Common into deeper, more contemplative, and wistful frames of mind, and he takes an extra step by bookending the album with typically purposeful appearances from Maya Angelou and his father (the latter of which is absolutely riveting). The best moments are bathed in a warm radiance that fosters a comforting, uplifting mood -- intensified by hooks from James Fauntleroy II and samples of the Impressions, Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, Graham Central Station, and gospel Kenny Loggins -- that recalls 2005's Be. "Gold" is particularly vivid, where he crams a post-birth visit from "three wise men," trips to France and Sybaris (rhymed with syphilis), and references to Hot Tub Time Machine and "Stan." However, the content isn’t exclusively cerebral, uplifting, and/or surreal. On "Ghetto Dreams," the track that incongruently follows Angelou's appearance, Common opens with "I wanna bitch that look good and cook good" and elaborates with "buck naked in the kitchen flippin' pancakes." There's also the caustic "Sweet," where the MC seemingly slips into character to enhance fiery rhymes with enraged goading. Tracks like those add variety yet come close to polluting the remainder. That's a no-win situation for him, really; without those tracks, Common would have been accused by some rap fans, once more, of being too soft.
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AllMusic Review by Andy Kellman