It is Common that makes this track something worth listening to. Will.i.am's fingerprints are all over the chorus and the MLK vocals, but the producer's greatest gift to this song is staying out of Common's way for 32 bars. The guy who invented social conscious rap as a genre is electrifying here, easily moving within the beat while delivering complex lines loaded with commentary and snappy rhyme schemes. Starting with the opening lines of "In search of brighter days/I write through the maze of the madness/struggle is my address/where pain and crack lives," Common quickly establishes an environment and then pushes through to discuss how his own dreams persist.
In the second verse, one of the industry's leaders questions the role of hip-hop as a community influence and in the process demands more out of himself. If this sounds familiar, that is probably because it is. Common has gone down this road before, most notably on "The Light" off his 2000 release Like Water for Chocolate. However, that doesn't change the message or the flawless way it is delivered this time around. This 16 is damn near perfect.
This song as a whole certainly isn't perfect. It is a little too sunny, a little too "Hollywood Movie" (which makes sense, considering its purpose). And the beat isn't great and, well, neither is the chorus. But you know what? Common is. And will.i.am stays out of the way long enough to let the legendary rapper shine, which is all anyone really needs to do.
The Score: 8.5/10.