11/30/07

Common

Lonnie Rashid Lynn Jr.
b. Chicago, Illinois, 1972.
1992: Can I Borrow A Dollar?. 1994: Resurrection. 1997: One Day It'll All Make Sense. 2000: Like Water For Chocolate. 2002: Electric Circus. 2005: Be. 2007: Finding Forever. 2007: Thisisme Then: The Best of Common.

No matter what kind of rap fan I’m talking to, I end up having to qualify my thoughts on Common. See, if they are my kind of rap fan, the knee-jerk haters of the so-called “conscious” set that make jokes about Common eating granola, then I gotta remind them of just how fucking good early Common could be. If they are a conscious rap fan who really thinks its cool that Common eats granola, out comes my protracted rant about how everything from his persona to his politics is muddled beyond comprehension and he's made himself nothing more than the go-to for everyone from “heads” to kinda fat Jewish girls that like “some” hip-hop.

Resurrection is an absolute masterpiece, one of the five or so best rap albums ever. Way better than Illmatic, which came out the same year and in my head, the albums forever linked and just like Illmatic (and so many other rap debuts), it's an album that gives off the feeling of totally being inside the head of the rapper; you know, them saying the shit they wanted to say and before labels or their own fucking “creativity” screwed everything up. The “sometimes, sometimes…” break on ‘Thisisme’ makes me cry every time I hear it. Resurrection is a portrait of Common, warts and all, bad punchlines and on-point rapping and all, and features plenty of insight into one thing and one thing only: Common. He drops great confessions that are decidedly un-hip-hop without being purposefully un-hip-hop, just real: “I didn’t grow up po’ po’/but once you get grown and out on your own/Bills upon bills upon bills is what you have.” Resurrection is pretty much the bougie rap album Common would claim to be making from Like Water For Choclate to the present time. His problems, not enough money, too much fast-food and beer, have as much to do with those kinda fat “some hip-hop”-liking girls I mentioned earlier as they do with someone deep “in the struggle”.

There’s also something incredibly male and even masculine about Resurrection; the easy place to start is ‘I Used to Love H.E.R’ which is oft-cited as being you know a little closed-minded about what girls (metaphor or not) can do with their vaginas. Common comes through in that the album feels and sounds alienated in a way that girls just never really are; it’s a remarkable literature-caliber portrayal of a slightly educated twentysomething (Nirvana who?). On the album, Common’s aware of his problems and wants to fix them but is half-scared and half-lazy and half-enjoying being a fuckup so it’s all a messy loop of living rapped over messy-but-clean jazz and keyboard loops. He’s also weirdly un-ironic and not self-aware like a lot of confused twentysomething dudes (yes face it, Common is basically a dude); only a rapper with little irony or little interest in proofreading would not only rap a line like “and you could tell/By the way her titties hung” but end the verse with it!

At the same time, the album is a jarring transition from Can I Borrow a Dollar? (a great title by the way). No I.D went from pretty ill slightly wiser boom-bap to beats that move and gel together through the subtlest of keyboard touches and other genius sonic detail. Meanwhile, Common calms it down a little and makes the perfect use of his perpetually stuffed-up-like-he’s-got-a-cold flow. Many look back and like to joke or at least reference stuff like ‘Heidi Hoe’ to describe just how different he was when he first spit, but Common is the same dumbass he’s always been. His most winning aspect is a penchant for emotionally honest details that never seem cloying and his worst aspect is the one he’s been totally working-on for more than a decade: his political and social observations (if they can even be called that). It doesn’t surprise me that he dropped out of college because he’s exactly the kind of guy that would go and then drop out and then talk about how he didn’t need it and how (as he says on Resurrection) “I went to school for fourteen years and my best teacher was experience”; Common’s something of a dullard, really.

It’s fun to make fun of Electric Circus’ or the so clich├ęd they literally mean nothing stuff on Finding Forever (love is not a mystery…it’s everything?) but they are already there on Resurrection when he says junk like “I hope you wake up in time for the revolution/Or you gonna be like/I can’t believe it, I got shot!” and it works on that album because the whole concept behind it is a confused young guy just being real. It’s the same joyful ignorance found on the first N.W.A record (no really, it is); a decade later however, you realize he hasn’t learned much of anything about anything but he thinks he’s got the world figured out…his supposed resurgence with the help of Kanye West is highly overrated and Be and Finding Forever being celebrated shows just how far the Lonnie Lyn has fallen.

Songs You Should Have On Your iPod:
Take It EZ off Can I Borrow a Dollar?
Breaker 1/9 off Can I Borrow a Dollar?
Two Scoops of Raisins off Can I Borrow a Dollar?
Soul By the Pound off Can I Borrow a Dollar?
I Used to Love H.E.R off Resurrection
In My Own World off Resurrection
Thisisme off Resurrection
Orange Pineapple Juice off Resurrection
Chapter 13 (Rich Man vs. Poor Man) off Resurrection
Real Nigga Quotes off One Day It'll All Make Sense
Hungry One Day It'll All Make Sense
Reminding Me (Of Myself) One Day It'll All Make Sense
The Light off Like Water For Chocolate
The Corner off Be
Go off Be
Testify off Be
Southside off Finding Forever
The Game Finding Forever

7 comments:

Beezer B said...

"Soul by the Pound (Thump Mix)"

My favourite has to be Communism.

"Common’s something of a dullard, really."
- This is it really. Dude is one of those kids that grew up with their mum constantly telling them how insightful and intelligent they are. No amount of exposure to reality will remove that little voice telling them they wield a most profound sword. Idiot.

Resurrection is great. I don't think it gets near Illmatic but it is great. Nas is everything Common wants to be and has the difficult choices to make that Common doesn't. Nas WAS profound and insightful but didn't have any kind of voice telling him he was, and so spent 15 years looking for people to qualify him when he really didn't need it.

Nice look on picking "Hungry" too, easily the best thing on "One Day...".

josephlovesit said...

"kinda fat Jewish girls that like 'some' hip-hop."
-I think that's my kind of rap fan.

Seriously though, I'm going to give Resurrection another chance as this entry was great and put the content of the album in a bit of a different light for me.

AaronM said...

Hey man, I'm Jewish and I love kinda fat Jewish girls. Ah, but I digress:
great writeup.
You nailed it.
But I still prefer Illmatic myself.

Birdseed said...

Common is too good-looking. Hip-hoppers are not meant to be purdy.

misterchane said...

Great write up, i agree with you on the general dropoff of Mr. Lonnie Rashid Lynn's output after "Resurrection" - (I am a secret fan of some of the tracks on Electric Circus however)and think the dullard point you raised is interesting

keep up the good work - you are inspiring me to be more economical in my wording for record reviews

tray said...

Here's my Common story. So after the whole lacrosse rape thing went down, Common was slated to perform here at Duke for Last Day of Classes. And some folks were pissed because by then the laxers had been exonerated, yet Common had said at a concert during the whole frenzy that the guys were guilty and black folk had to stand by their sister stripper, etc. So he comes and, knowing he had to say something by way of an apology, he says, and I'm really quoting here, "I believe in what's right... and I DON'T believe in what's wrong. I believe you should punish the guilty... and I believe you should let the innocent go free!!" And everyone's absolutely wasted so we all applaud this courageous and insightful statement. Then he did Testify.

Hugo Alexandre said...

The Light? Come on!!! Ok I admit to having liked that song when it came out, but it's definitely his Madonna moment. I would put "Cold Blooded" from LWFC.