RELEASE: November 4, 2016
DEF JAM RECORDINGS
Written by Michael Grant, C.E.O. Of RePPiN4U
This album could never have come at a better time. Social media constantly talking about the new president-elect, protest rallies all over America, here’s me over in the UK watching from the rafters thinking ‘this could have been avoided so easily’, but then remember my own back yard committing a similar act by voting to leave the EU earlier this year for the wrong reasons.
Consider Common’s latest album as a form of escapism. Black America Again? How about Black Britain Again too? According to historians, the first people in this country were black…and if Britain and America are allies, we have a sense of relation to this project.
Common’s last album left Nobody Smiling and not in the way he wanted either. It was a shock to the system considering he and his producer No I.D. created a masterpiece in The Dreamer, The Believer. This time round, No I.D. is now the overseer, while Karriem Riggins is now the man behind the boards throughout.
Common & Bilal set it off by bringing ‘Joy & Peace’ to not just America but to the world. If you are an atheist, then this album is not for you! This is a very powerful intro praising the most high and dismissing anything material and the idea of ‘Big Brother’ watching. Straight after that, the pair bring it ‘Home’ over a Karriem Riggins beat which sounds like a classic Kanye sound which Mr West abandoned from the era of ‘Be & ‘Finding Forever’. Here Common speaks on a legacy he would like to leave behind after he returns to the essence.
Stevie Wonder is THAT DUDE. He doesn’t appear on just any hip hop album, and when he does, it is a moment. When the single was first released, it was only a 2-3 minute affair and I was like nah – this was lacking that epicness for a track of this magnitude. That was like a small portion of chips. The album version was what we were looking for, and Stevie smashed it with just one line! Initially I was hoping for Stevie to drop a verse at the end but I’m over that fact! There is a moment in this track where Common exclaims that Maria Sharapova is paid more than Serena Williams where the listener’s jaw may drop, but at the same time be not surprised.
Common switches it up with ‘Love Star’ featuring Marsha Ambrosius and PJ. This is a sure-fire single waiting to happen. Perhaps Common’s greatest love song since ‘Come Close’. The way this track closes out is such a mind zoning dreamy experience. He continues the
romancing with some ‘Red Wine’ with Elena Pinderhughes (pictured right) (yes I see you sniggering when you hear the surname, I know what you’re thinking) a talented 20-year old vocalist/ flutist and Syd da Kyd, former member of Odd Future whose voice sounds reminiscent of a cross between Tinashe and Jhene Aiko.
‘Pyramids’ has to be an album highlight. Common’s flow and passion becomes increasingly frantic and aggressive as the track progresses. Something we haven’t seen since e=MC2 from J Dilla’s The Shining. He goes off in this track so much he had to pull up his own track. Using the Ol’Dirty Bastard Brooklyn Zoo sample only adds fire to the epicness.
Chances are we are ‘Unfamiliar’ with the angelic voice of PJ, who is not used to the love and attention that a man is giving her. Common is continuing to add-on to that wedding soundtrack to the hip hop couple here.
Syd Da Kyd and Bilal return for ‘A Bigger Picture Called Free’. In this food for thought track, Common reveals that the illuminati wanted to consume him in his career, and also details his growth and ongoing influences in just a few bars: “Used to rock Jabos and go out with bros
Tryna get lots of hoes till I got exposed/To a bigger picture called free, in the picture, it was me
Al-Hajj Malik Shabazz, Muhammad, and Noble Drew Ali/A side of Erykah Badu and Andre 3000…”
“I was rollin’ around, in my mind it occurred, what if God was a her?” Common, Faithful, 2005
As stated At the top of this review, America had the world believe that they were on the verge of getting their first female president. Now we may have to wait a little longer for ‘The Day Women Took Over’. Common and BJ The Chicago Kid paint a picture of empowered women and how they would rule the world in detail, in essence, showing Beyoncé how it’s done. Such a complete 180 from the hip hop that has been believed by mainstream media and the unknowing as a genre that degrades women.
John Legend rejoins Common in ‘Rain’. Common lets Legend go in with the piano to set the mood before Common goes into reflection mode… before talking of a ‘Little Chicago Boy’ named Lonnie Lynn Sr, this is Common’s tribute to his late father, and it is such a welcome return to hear his father’s wise words perhaps for the last time.
Yes Lonnie Lynn Sr may no longer close out any future projects, but this ‘Letter To The Free’ is as triumphant and uplifting as it gets, and if you are not sitting there tapping your foot with feeling and passion in this track, then I think Hip Hop is not for you. Common’s last words in this track is as real and powerful as it gets: “We staring in the face of hate again/The same hate they say will make America great again/No consolation prize for the dehumanized
For America to rise it’s a matter of Black Lives/And we gonna free them, so we can free us
America’s moment to come to Jesus…”
Absolutely amazing. Common has done it again people. He has righted the wrongs of his last album which is almost forgotten about, he has created a project where if the ignorant was to try to regard hip hop as degrading and influencing in a negative, this is the perfect album to erase that doubt for 2016. The jazzy, soulful and gospel elements which date back to our ancestors are used to uplift us and Common does it flawlessly. He has created something our grandparents would be proud of. Take a bow Lonnie Lynn Jr, this album can now be spoke in the same sentence with the likes of Be and Like Water For Chocolate. FANTASTIC.