Don’t get it confused: At the end of the day Common is still a brother from the South side of Chicago, and he can still spit fire with the best of ’em.
For over two decades the emcee known as Common Sense has been putting in serious work, helping put his city on the rap map in the early ’90s and ushering in a new level of intelligence and humanity to hip-hop. He’s made many notable contributions to the genre, from his poignant commentary on the state of hip-hop in his classic ’94 track, “I Used to Love H.E.R.,” to his close collaborations with artists such as The Roots, J Dilla, and Kanye, and for his simply inspiring records, like ’94’s Resurrection, 00’s Like Water for Chocolate or ’05’s Be, which helped set the standard for soulful and thoughtful music with deep ruminations on race, spirituality, identity, history, and much more. The dude has had a storied career and a consistent one, with a passion for baring his soul, speaking truth to power, and teaching listeners. There’s at least one Common album you probably dig.
Com has been so successful in his lane that it almost becomes easy to typecast him as that quintessential, socially conscious rapper who has endless tracks for the intelligent, strong women and woke brothers seeking deeper hip-hop, but remember what I said up there? He’s still a Southside dude who knows what’s up.
I was reminded of that with his recently released Black America Again, a record which caught me like a left hook. Com is back, and he is swinging. The record is urgent, immediate, and forceful, as Com speaks about the state of Black America today, in a country as divided and in disarray as back in the ’60s. Here, he is rhyming with a passion and heat I haven’t heard him hit in a minute. He’s incensed, furious and empowered, and there’s some moments on the record it feels like he is helping reawaken a sleeping giant in Black America. This track in particular is one which blew me away, as Com lays out some of the challenges and setbacks Black people are facing right now, but calls to keep pushing onward, featuring the legend himself, Stevie Wonder, boldly stating that we are writing and rewriting Black history. It’s a powerful listen.