CD Reviews

The Dreamer The Believer, TM:103 Husterlz Ambition and undun

Stream-of-Consciousness Hip-Hop

Common The Dreamer The Believer (G.O.O.D. Music)

Common has something to prove. For the naysayers who proclaim that he got caught up in the glamour of Hollywood after releasing the disappointing Universal Mind Control, Common knows that he has to rebound with an album that both silences the critics and asserts his position as one of the best lyricists in hip-hop. Common eschews glittery guests and reaches for mainstream appeal in favor of poignant rhymes and rugged beats on The Dreamer The Believer. All the production is handled by Resurrection producer No I.D. as Kanye West is nowhere to be found. You won’t miss him, though, as the tandem of Common and No. I.D. take it back to 1994 with a brilliant collection of music ranging from the aggressive “So Sweet” to the rumbling long-overdue collaboration with Nas on “Ghetto Dreams.” Common still handles hope and failed love with the best of them as exemplified on “The Dreamer” and “Lovin’ I Lost” respectively. This is the Common we’ve all come to love over the years.★★★★☆

Dope Boy Rap Resurrection

Young Jeezy TM:103 Hustlerz Ambition (Def Jam)

It’s safe to say that Young Jeezy is the last dope boy rapper alive. The culture has shifted from its roots in the struggle and illegal activity to something a bit more emotional and fashion-forward since he released 2008’s The Recession. But now the trap rapper is back and ready to serve the streets with TM:103 Hustlerz Ambition. In the event you missed Jeezy and his rampant ad-libs, you’ll be pleased to find that they are intact with a bevy of trunk-rattling beats backing him up. The sinister “What I Do” and “All We Do” will certainly jog the memory of those who forgot while the stacked guest-list featuring Jill Scott, T.I., Snoop Dogg and a stellar pairing of Andre 3000 and Jay-Z on standout track “I Do” makes things entertaining for new fans. However, things begin to grow stale as the album becomes long in the tooth and the endless stream of adlibs and redundant production becomes a muddled mess. Nevertheless, the triumphant return of Jeezy proves that trap rap isn’t dead yet. ★★★☆☆

A Hip-Hop Narrative

The Roots undun (Def Jam)

Just because The Roots are a permanent staple on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon doesn’t mean that they have lost their way when it comes to making a stellar album. Their 11th studio album, undun, is proof of that. The concept album that follows that downward spiral of the fictional Redford Stephens is an undeniable piece of work that isn’t just exceptional by hip-hop standards, but by musical standards. Undun is a tightly woven tale that is catapulted by the excellence of Black Thought’s mic work and the musical canvas that ?uestlove and company lay down. The message-worthy “One Time,” street economics of “Make My” and the social commentary of “Tip the Scale” help make undun more than a cautionary tale set to music, it proves that The Roots are bigger than rap. They are an incredible band that will be lauded decades from now. ★★★★★

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We Bought a Zoo That  Became an Animal Kingdom

Movie Review

We Bought a Zoo That Became an Animal Kingdom

There isn’t much to add to We Bought a Zoo, since the title says it all. Away from the screen for six years, director Cameron Crowe (Jerry Maguire) returns with this holiday season sugarplum designed to please children of all ages in multiplexes of all sizes.