Common

Nobody’s Smiling

Def Jam/Artium

Sep 22, 2014 Issue #51 - September/October 2014 - alt-J Bookmark and Share


Something strange happened to hip-hop in the past decade: the genre's most conscious artists, once considered incendiary, somehow became legacy artists. In that process, most of them lost their foundation-threatening cachet and became a strangely omnipresent part of the establishment. You'll see Common more often looking imposing and world-weary in Hollywood flicks than dealing eviscerating lyrical blows or ecstatic treatises. With the likes of Kanye West, Chief Keef, and Chance the Rapper deftly re-defining what it means to rap in the Second City, does the man who stopped the genre in its tracks with Be and Like Water for Chocolate have anything left to say? 

As it turns out, yes. Nobody's Smiling sees the 42-year-old mining his hometown's infamous gang and murder rate issues in the service of edgy songs whose No I.D.-driven production fits adeptly in conversation with the beats dominating contemporary hip-hop. Guest stars like Big Sean and Jhené Aiko step aside to let Common's lyrical dexterity take the spotlight, which he uses to drop thorny verses whose wisdom reveals itself with repeat listens. He plays sage over his beloved hometown's ills, offering seriousness to problems that are easy to diminish and ignore, and proving himself once again to have not lost much of the fire that originally made him so compelling. (www.thinkcommon.com)

Author rating: 7/10

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