Wednesday, 23 July 2014
REVIEW: COMMON-NOBODYS SMILING
"Chicago, that's my kind of town" sang old blue eyes, but to somewhat paraphrase Common off his last album (2012's underrated classic 'The Dreamer, The Believer'), "this ain't no mother******* Frank Sinatra". The Windy City is in need of an air of change that not even Barack Obama can bring right now. This classic and great city is a beautiful place but its rife with bullets and violence. This is why its greatest M.C., (yeah I'm sorry Kanye West, but your friend is possibly the greatest rapper around today on top of his game) Common has called his new album 'Nobody's Smiling' in a sombre show of solidarity all the way down to its black and white portrait of the pensive rapper which is a classic, polar opposite, perfect picture of album artwork to the sunny and bright iconic look of 'Be'. 'Be' being the definitive album of the career of a man who asked us if he could 'Borrow A Dollar' before showing more Common Sense with the 'Resurrection'. After showing more classics with 'Like Water For Chocolate' and 'One Day It It'll All Make Sense' (also the name of his amazing autobiography) Common followed the epic experimental but critically unfairly denied 'Electric Circus' with his own resurrection in 'Be' and its fantastic follow up 'Finding Forever', much like his last album followed up the electric slide of 'Universal Mind Control'. Now with his tenth album, one of hip-hops top ten should expect no critical frowns off anybody for 'Nobodys Smiling'.
The emotions evoked in the wake of this dark depression will have nothing but an inspired influence for the man that puts his city on his back and leads the charge in this town of basketball Bulls now Michael Jordan is retired and Derrick Rose still injured. Chi-town doesn't have to worry about "rooting for a garbage team" anymore now that the man who used to mop up the greatest of all times sweat off the Bulls basketball court is wiping the floor with the competition. This man has a legendary R. Kelly successful affinity with his city. Forever music all begins again with the outstanding, soulful and beautiful beginnings of 'The Neighbourhood' which features a superfly, Curtis Mayfield sample around the way. Then as the beat, snare and sneaker references of 'No Fear' kicks in the tempo is upped along with the ante as Com raps "The way of the road is our ode to the legacy, c'mon dog, you know my pedigree, find it forever be". Referencing his biggest hitters during baseball season the man that once wanted to "bear some cubs" with his Chicago muse is showing all battle rappers they needn't pick up the mic he just dropped. There's no competition. Common has already won. Celebrating like a Mike cigar to go with championship champagne, Common wears diamonds for his stellar single with rhyme slinger stud Big Sean in a single that shines like the flash-bulbs of its black and white artwork and continues the reign of his crowning singles 'The Kingdom' and the ears lent to 'Speak My Piece'.
Catching more lobes than Lisa, it all continues on 'Blak Majik' for a man that isn't afraid to notoriously sample old B.I.G. like Diddy in his prime. Carrying the card of No I.D. throughout the production of this collection, the "east coast Gangstarr" bring even more mass appeal to this partnership than when Com went West. He even details this relationship and the one with the late, great boardman J Dilla in all its heartfelt memory and honest regret on the tape deck, reel ready worthy 'Rewind That', that brings us back to the good ole days of Common's affectionate first love for H.E.R. In tearful memory and melody of Jay Dee from free beats to a T.V. tray gift he regrets not using he laments this mans generosity, legacy and loss, testifying "I'm wishin', I could wheel him out of his wheelchair/it was hard for me to come home every day/and see my homie J's life fade away". It's a new Common classic in a catalogue not uncommon to these cuts that bring this album to life like 'Hustle Harder' and this new classic albums title track that features poetry rap legend Malik Yusef, whose powerful prose make his town of Chicago proud of him like they are Lonnie Lynn. To Chicago what Loretta is to country, this man has more stories to tell from 'Real' to the deluxe tracks that are 'Out On Bond' to the '7 Deadly Sins' and the 'Young Hearts Run Free' that is frankly thankfully not a sample. Still from snippets of fresh new beats to tomorrows classic hip-hop quotables, Common brings another classic album like chocolate and water making sense one day. Following his 'Be'/'Finding Forever' definitive duo, Common now has a new, but underrated couplet of classics now this album has followed the last dreamer and believer. Now that's something everybody in the city of Chicago can smile about. That will be something we will all have in Common. TIM DAVID HARVEY.