Black America Again (7.8/10)

January 22, 2017

 

Common formally known as Common Sense is certainly a legend in this game, with multiple classics to his name including albums Resurrection, One Day It’ll All Make Sense, Like Water For Chocolate, & Be, along with countless others that in spite of mixed reviews all have redeeming qualities. It sounds crazy but it’s been 25 years since his debut Can I Borrow A Dollar, and now almost 3 decades later the rapper/actor is on his 11st studio album - along with an unprecedented 33 film credits - including even more appearances on television. It’s safe to say that amongst all his other qualities (lyricism, content, delivery), Common’s greatest asset in 2017 is fame.

 

Whether on screen or on wax Common has certainly become nothing less than a household name in recent years, most notably starring in the critically acclaimed films Selma and American Gangster, along with more blockbuster hits such as Barbershop: The Next Cut, Now You See Me, and Suicide Squad just to name a few. Yet during this time some have questioned (for good reason) if Common’s best musical days are behind him… or perhaps they’ve spoke too soon... as in midst of some of the most contentious times in American history, he certainly should have the inspiration to make his latest project his best and most significant work to date.

 

To find out which is true, Black America Again is critiqued track by track below:


Joy & Peace ft Bilal

 

“All praise to the all-eye seeing supreme-being, giver of joy and peace, love supreme freedom, see him in your sun (son), see him in the daughters, the mountains, the waters, all divine order” Produced by Karriem Riggins, a Jazz player and former Slum Village producer with solid production all over this album, this intro is exactly what it should be... classic Sun-God Hi-Teknology Common on this and I’m all for it.

 

 

Home ft Bilal

 

“Go into the wilderness like Musa on a pilgrimage, streets are villages, speak with diligence and authority, the fake are the Pharisees and Sadducees, give them that Garvey free from the Black Odyssey, yo pardon me, you the God bodily, functioning on earth as a part of me, that's why I gave you artistry, go into the hoods with the shooters and the strippers, forget the New World Order, New Jerusalem is with us” Produced again by Karriem Riggins this one is even better than it’s predecessor, where over horns and percussion Common is all over the world with his thoughts and ideals, and excerpts from Minister Louis Farrakhan make it clear that this album is not playing around at all… Should be noted that Bilal is featured on both of the first two tracks and he held it down each and every time

 

Word From Moe Luv Interlude

 

“So it's kind of like a slippery slope to teach their children, to teach your children, to respect something that shows no respect…” 30 second interlude over piano keys from Robert Glasper, a Grammy Award winning producer for his 2012 album titled Black Radio.

 

 

 

 

Black America Again ft Stevie Wonder

 

“Here we go, here, here we go again, Trayvon will never get to be an older man, black children, they childhood stole from them, robbed of our names and our language, stole again, who stole the soul from black folk? same man that stole the land from Chief Black Smoke, and made the whip crackle on our back slow, and made us go through the back door”  The title track off the new album might be the ultimate BLM anthem, where within stellar production once again composed by Karriem Riggins - that combines a sample of James Brown with a bridge from Stevie Wonder -  Common descriptively illustrates the plight of the black American and it’s definitely well said. Unlike artists like A$AP Rocky, Young Thug, & Lil Wayne (all of whom are on record questioning the legitimacy of racism in 2016), Common is wise enough to see that there are racial problems in this country that have still never been completely resolved - highlighted by a corrupt justice system that justifies police brutality - leaving us today with a nation that’s completely divided.

 

 

Lovestar ft PJ & Marsha Ambrosius

 

"Our fragrance is patience, we can major in communication, relatin' like cousins, though we kissin' though, love can be sick or medicinal, a doctor of it..." 🔥🔥🔥 man this one feels good... maybe cause it's been a minute since we heard something like this from Common, or maybe it’s because he's truly found something here that we can slide right into his Greatest Hits collection... yet either way this one is nothing short of outstanding... as the Chi Town legend's patented voice and delivery compliments a GAME CHANGING INSTRUMENTAL, once again produced by Karriem Riggins (who's apparently been in the cut of underground Hip Hop for many years and whose catalogue I'm immediately about to go run through)- and along with the beautiful sounds from Floetry and PJ this is one of the best records that Common has put out since the Be album without question. 

On A Whim Interlude

 

Another 40 second Jazz instrumental from Robert Glasper perhaps?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Red Wine ft Syd & Elena

 

“Freedom is the road less traveled by the multitude The mood, it's the mode, it's the culture” And another one (Khaled voice) from Karieem Riggins, this one is a smooth groove and the features (one from Syd tha Kyd - lead singer of the critically acclaimed Neo-Soul band The Internet - and the other from Elena Pinderhughes - a singer and flutist that’s certainly on the rise) compliment the record perfectly...

 

 

 

 

 

Pyramids

 

“I walk like an Egyptian on a mission to listen to conditions, envision a vision of what we wishing, I've been commissioned to de-prison the prism of your mind, spit the wisdom of the one divine, close encounter of the wonder kind, front a line shift the paradigm with a pair of rhymes” Karieem Riggins samples Ol Dirty Bastard’s Brooklyn Zoo and Common annihilates this… it’s 2016 and 25 years in Common is really spittin… the essence of Hip Hop is still alive and well

 

 

 

A Moment In The Sun Interlude

 

“He was a big guy from Tyler, Texas..." the instrumental is cool and flows nicely into the next record… one of the strongest cuts on an already solid album

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unfamiliar ft PJ

 

“A house is not a home unless we staying in it, stay committed, I used to get around, now I'm staying centered, angels ascended, grounded, stay cemented, the mentality, we all casualties, I can't do this casually, actually you challenge me to balance me, pay dues and salaries, been through truth and fallacies” Similar to the previous cut Common almost sounds like the old Common Sense in this record, and with help from PJ aka Paris Jones (a Greensboro, NC native currently on her come up out in LA), this one is super smooth and is indisputably one of the better records off the project.

 

A Bigger Picture Called Free ft Syd & Bilal

 

“Black is the color of my true love spirit and I do love lyrics, and I used to love Harold's Chicken and I dance pretty good, and I feel at home in the hood and I get lit in the club, still I love” Standard album cut with dope introspective lyrics… but as someone who spent time in Chicago I certainly hope that’s not a shot at the world’s famous Harold’s Chicken… the one on Wabash is still the go-to spot every time I touch down

 

 

 

 

The Day Women Took Over ft BJ The Chicago Kid

 

“This is the day women took over, no longer over your shoulder do you have to look over, imagine, war is now over, mothers get medals for being courageous soldiers, on dollars, it's Michelle Obama, Oprah and Rosa”  Powerful words from the Chicago MC who imagines a world where women held all the power (on the eve of what was almost a Hillary Clinton presidency), and the concept absolutely works and it’s fire Hip Hop all around. If you love lyrics don’t sleep on this record.

 

 

 

 

Rain ft John Legend

 

“And if it's gonna rain tomorrow... let it rain” This is more a John Legend record that features Common… but for this record that’s how it should be… Legend flexes on this and this probably should have been on

 

 

 

 

 

 

Little Chicago Boy ft Tasha Cobbs

 

“How should I begin? this is the story of a boy named Lonnie Lynn, as I say it, the spirits here with me, he was raised in the belly of the city, Chicago, discovered by du Sable, a Black Frenchman, that I had to mention, extensions of a young man livin' on a low end, 47th and Michigan, lackin a little discipline…” Common dedicates this record as a tribute to his recently deceased father, narrating his life story followed by a message from his father himself - a tradition that was found towards the end of almost all of Common’s albums (Pop’s Raps I, II, & III for example) - and for that reason this is an incredible gift to all the fans who followed Common throughout his career. The history of Hip Hop is a beautiful thing.

 

Letter To The Free ft Bilal

 

“The caged birds sings for freedom to ring, black bodies being lost in the American dream” One of the most powerful records on the album (and that’s saying a lot) this one holds no punches at all - and it shouldn’t - this is what a real artist should do - and by highlighting the corruption of the criminal justice system with lyrics like “Prison is a business, America's the company, investing in injustice, fear and long suffering” Common is beneath the fame still most definitely an artist with a purpose.

With all that being said Common likely exceeded all expectations with Black America Again, as even though he’s not the same MC from I Used To Love H.E.R. / The Light / or Retrospect for Life, ‘The 6th Sense’ MC has proven over 20 years later that he still has some heat to his name. In fact in regards to the latter record, Common predicted that if “the revolution had a movie, {he'd} be theme music” - and for that to come true with ‘Glory’ on behalf of Selma is truly unbelievable - and never should his mainstream appeal (and personal gain) overlook all the legendary content that he’s given to the genre. In full this album is definitely a solid body of work from start to finish, and more specifically ‘Lovestar,’ ‘Unfamiliar,’ and ‘The Day Women Took Over’ will all deserve real consideration one day in regards to formulating his Greatest Hits.

 

 

 

 

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