Recommend if you like: Talib Kweli, Kendrick Lamar, jazzy interludes
Expectation: Chicago rapper Common has been a constant presence in conscious hip hop for 24 years now, and has yet to drop a truly bad album (though a few projects have toed that line). With the recent growth of conscious hip hop themes in the mainstream thanks to Kendrick and an Academy Award for the song “Glory” under his belt, its about time Common let us know he’s still here.
- Joy and Peace – I’m a sucker for weird samples, and this one is awesome. Common does what Common does, and its pretty cool.
- Black America Again – The most song on the album. Common finally unleashes the barrage of socially political bars that must have been building up for years at this point. Delivering two huge verses that are equally lyrical and technical, accented with samples of Public Enemy’s Bring the Noise and the classic KMD track, Hard Wit No Hoe, and sporting a ridiculously long outro, this song is classic Common.
- Pyramids – If a verse doesn’t rhyme “lyrical” with “miracle”, can it really be called technical?????? In all seriousness, Common’s rhymes are impressive as they’ve ever been, and I love this track.
- The Day Women Took Over – A nice message expressed generically is still nice. THe second verse has some great rhymes, too.
- Rain – At the beginning of this song, I legitimately had to check that I hadn’t somehow gotten switched over to showtunes. Its a nice song, but sonically completely different from any other track. While I will probably be adding this track to a few playlists, I’m considering removing it from the album.
- Little Chicago Boy – Common shows off his storytelling abilities, an element of his style I’ve felt he’d neglected somewhat on his previous release. The story is touching, but unfortunately it’s only 2 minutes of a 6 1/2 minute track.
Overall: Common delivers exactly the album one would expect of him in 2016; socially conscious & technically dense lyrics over sample-based beats with a modern polish. Unfortunately, Common is still well past his prime, and lacks the edge to make anything truly challenging; this album isn’t going to change anyone’s views by itself, though it could be argued that every artist who speaks out furthers the cause. Furthermore, Common is often too small a part of his own album: nearly every track is 4 to 6 minutes long, but the bulk of that length is taken up by soulful, repetitive refrains and interludes. While these are nice, it creates the same problem that I had with Like Water For Chocolate, which is that the main appeal of a Common album (to me) is Common! To rank it among Common’s other work, I would venture that its potentially his beset work since Be, but roughly equal with Finding Forever, and inferior to any of his earlier albums.