Thursday, 22 December 2016

Common "Black America Again" (2016)

Socially conscious rapper Common is back with another charged record thats very much relevant given the social climate and resurgence of black struggles in American society. With the title alone the topic is made clear and through the fifty six minutes he barely takes a step of the path. It's certainly the time for music to reflect the atmosphere but that doesn't necessarily define a good record. "Black America Again" fails on many fronts, mostly its religious inspirations and Common's unchanging approach. As a 90s fan of 90s flows, Common is one who's barely changed a lick, an old rapper with an old flow and unchanged rhyme style. He was never a particular favorite, he has gems in his discography but what mainly appealed to me was the positive, intelligent commentary of his persona in the raps.

There is a ton of subject matter I agree with on the record but the music is spoiled where biblical themes and words of praise come into play. With all the problems addressed he frequently turns to prayer and god as a solution to them. I appreciate the warm intention but for a person who see societal issues as systemic, the call for praise of Jesus over engagement or practical solutions infuriates me. Another difference of opinion grinds me on "The Day Women Took Over", a song calling for an oversimplified ideal that Women's disposition to empathy and caring would make them better leaders. Considering there are many women in positions of power around the world it would again suggest that our societal issues are systemic, related to power, wealth and its corruptible qualities. What Common has is simply utopian, poetic statement that lack any depth or substance beyond a nice but ludicrous idea.

Behind my indifference to Commons lyrics a rather sweet and soothing record exists in the instrumentals. Toning down the bombastic nature of the beats, soulful influences and roots of black music are given room to shine with occasional string sections bringing subtle crescendos too. John Legend's singing on "Rain" tunes out the drums for a stunning piano and singer song that only resembles a Hip Hop track thanks to Commons verses rapped without a beat. His raps are steady and mostly solid but its a style unchanging. On "Pyramids" a bit of technicality comes to fruition but otherwise hes mostly stagnating on a un-progressing approach that disappoints without the lyrics to match. There are good moments in the record and I have tried to love this record but large sections of the raps just didn't work for me.

Favorite Track: Black America Again, Pyramids, Rain
Rating: 5/10

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