This was the first single released from Common's ninth studio album, The Dreamer, The Believer. The entire set was produced by renowned Chicago beatmeister No ID, who helmed Common's first three records. "That was the first song we did for the album," the MC told MTV News. "No ID said, 'I got something for you.' He played that beat, I was like, 'Oh, s--t.' I kind of hopped into it, like a zone, a character almost [while] writing it. It was just so raw, something like '95, but new sounding. Then he put up this Nas vocal [sample] going, 'Ghetto dreams,' and then I was like, 'Oh s--t.'"
Common explained the song's lyrical content to MTV News: "I decided to write about ghetto dreams just in a way that was raw," he said. "I almost approached it like I was a character because I don't smoke cigarettes and blah, blah, blah. But I still was talking abut those things 'cause it's like, if I step in the shoes of myself and my other friends and people that just dream about higher things coming from a tougher place. I told it in respect to the relationship I got with my lady, it's ill. It's not a love song or none of that; it's just raw. It's ill lyrics man, I'm telling you."
Rather than sampling Nas, the final version features a fresh contribution from the Queensbridge MC. "Once Nas heard that — No ID played it for them 'cause they was working — and Nas was like, 'I'll get on that,' " Common told MTV News. "And Nas is my favorite MC, so that was a blessing."
The single's artwork features a photo of Nas and Common that was taken sometime in the mid '90s. "We was at a Fat Joe video, I think," Common recalled to MTV News. "Two young MCs, young dudes, just real young cats, one from Chicago, one from Queens that just ended up reconnecting and connecting and always being cool. I ain't going to say 'reconnected,' 'cause every time me and Nas always would chop it up, I felt like we was two musicians that really just loved and respected each other, two voices that really mean something to the culture and respect the culture. So, we always had on a personal level just a respect for each other."
The song offers a lyrical list of qualities that a dream lover should possess. According to Common, she should be someone who looks good and can cook, is bad enough to have sex in the backseat of a car and smoke marijuana but at the end of the day still has her Bible with her. He explained to MTV News that in the Chi-Town neighborhood where he grew up, having the right woman by your side signified success. "I wrote it about someone in the neighborhood that got a dream of reaching a higher level and they're in that process, and their woman is really like the correlation and the parallel and the symbol to that progress," he said. "It was coming from me, but it was also the voice of many others."
The Matt Alonzo-directed video finds the two rappers sharing a black-and-white dream of their hood queen, played by American hip-hop model Bria Myles.
The scratches on the record were done by Common's long-time DJ Twilight Tone.