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Rap/Hip-Hop - Released January 1, 2000 | Geffen*

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
Common spent the '90s carrying the Native Tongues torch through an era dominated by gangsta rap, earning a sizable underground following. Positive-minded alternative rap came back into vogue by the new millennium, and Common managed to land with major label MCA for 2000's Like Water for Chocolate. The album established him as a leading figure of alternative rap's second generation, not just because of the best promotion he'd ever had, but also because it was his great musical leap forward, building on the strides of One Day It'll All Make Sense. There's production work by the Roots' ?uestlove, neo-soul auteur D'Angelo, the Soulquarians, and DJ Premier. But the vast majority of the album was handled by Slum Village's Jay Dee, and his thick, mellow, soul- and jazz-inflected sonics make Like Water for Chocolate one of the richest-sounding albums of the new underground movement. Common isn't always a master technician on the mic, but it hardly matters when the music serves his deeply spiritual vision and smooth-flowing raps so effectively. The singles "The Light" and "The 6th Sense" are quintessential Common, uplifting and thoughtful, and helped bring him a whole new audience. They're well complemented by the slinky, jazzy funk and lush neo-soul ballads that make up the record. Not everything is sweetness and utopia, either; Common sends up his own progressive image on "A Film Called (Pimp)," which features a hilarious guest appearance by MC Lyte, and spins a gripping first-person tale of revenge on the streets on "Payback Is a Grandmother" (though the tougher "Dooinit" feels a bit forced). The album could have been trimmed a bit to keep its momentum going, but on the whole, Like Water for Chocolate is a major statement from an artist whose true importance was just coming into focus. ~ Steve Huey
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Rap/Hip-Hop - Released August 30, 2019 | Loma Vista Recordings

Rapper, actor, and now a writer. In his book which was published last May, Let Love Have the Last Word, Common looked back over his life and even revealed that he was molested as a child. It was that book that inspired this album: “That book was really personal and I went to places that I’d never been before. I thought that as an artist, I could do the same thing.” Well, with Let Love, we’re not exactly in unknown territory for fans of the Chicago rapper. You could even say that he’s reverted to the old Common we used to know, that of Like Water for Chocolate (released in 2000) with the Soulquarians. James Poyser, The Roots’ keyboardist, features on the opening two tracks Good Morning Love, showcasing the rapper’s typical mellow touch, and HER Love, on which Common pays tribute to the late producer J Dilla. Love is clearly the main theme of the album (the word love features in seven of the eleven track titles) and Marvin Gaye fans will be delighted to hear that BJ The Chicago Kid sings on two songs: Forever Your Love and the percussive track Memories of Home. The only rapper ever to have won a Grammy, an Emmy and an Oscar is still as versatile as ever, which he demonstrates on Leaders (Crib Love) with A-Trak, over a Philly type beat rap, and on Fifth Story, with the balaclava-clad New Yorker Leikeli47. There’s no doubt about it: Common is still the best link between soul and rap. © Smaël Bouaici/Qobuz
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Be

Rap/Hip-Hop - Released January 1, 2005 | Geffen

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Rap/Hip-Hop - Released November 4, 2016 | Def Jam Recordings

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R&B - Released January 1, 2010 | Geffen

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Rap/Hip-Hop - Released January 1, 2007 | Geffen

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Rap/Hip-Hop - Released November 27, 2007 | Relativity Records

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Rap/Hip-Hop - Released July 22, 2014 | Def Jam Recordings

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Common noted that this album's title references Eric B. & Rakim's "In the Ghetto" -- more specifically, the song's recurring sample from the duo's "I Ain't No Joke." More symbolic, if beneath the surface, is the use of Curtis Mayfield's grim and pointed "The Other Side of Town" on album opener "The Neighborhood." While Nobody's Smiling was inspired by the tragic condition of Common's hometown of Chicago, its incorporation of a relevant-as-ever song from 1970, recorded by a Chicagoan in Chicago, is an acknowledgment of how inner-city struggles are a constant, not a trend. The rapper/actor's geographic and economic distance can be cited as a reason to approach Nobody's Smiling with a cocked brow. Common, to the contrary, once again works closely with fellow Chicago native No I.D., and he also makes room for a clutch of local artists -- including Dreezy, Lil Herb, and Malik Yusef -- who are also shown throughout the booklet, along with other Chicago figures, cast in the same slight light as him. Likewise, through character sketches and an otherwise grounded perspective, Common places himself on their level instead of acting as a sage. Fervent throughout, Common deals out some of his hardest and heaviest rhymes. No I.D. strengthens his partner's work with rigid, reverb-heavy productions -- from the mechanical pings of "Speak My Piece" to the juddering drums and probing keyboards within the title track -- without approaching the harshness of the Yeezus tracks to which he contributed. On "Kingdom," something like a weathered "Jesus Walks," the rapper and the producer are at their most moving, with the protagonist attending a funeral and plotting revenge, unable to connect with the concept of faith: "My whole life I had to worry about eatin'/I ain't have time to think about what I believe in." Common places the most directly biographical track, "Rewind That," at the end of the album's standard edition. The second half, where he traces his friendship with J Dilla, involves some brilliant storytelling, and perhaps the only moments during the album's sessions when Common cracked a smile while recording. It's a touching finish to the rapper's best album since Be. ~ Andy Kellman
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Rap/Hip-Hop - Released November 27, 2007 | Relativity Records

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Rap/Hip-Hop - Released June 14, 2019 | Loma Vista Recordings

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Rap/Hip-Hop - Released December 19, 2011 | Think Common - Warner Records

On his ninth studio album, Common reunites with old partner and fellow Chicagoan No I.D., which ensures that the sound will be much different than that of the MC's previous set, the Neptunes-dominated Universal Mind Control. Indeed, compounds of dusty soul samples and organic instrumentation are in place of candy-coated synthesizers and pattering hand percussion. That change naturally pushes Common into deeper, more contemplative, and wistful frames of mind, and he takes an extra step by bookending the album with typically purposeful appearances from Maya Angelou and his father (the latter of which is absolutely riveting). The best moments are bathed in a warm radiance that fosters a comforting, uplifting mood -- intensified by hooks from James Fauntleroy II and samples of the Impressions, Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, Graham Central Station, and gospel Kenny Loggins -- that recalls 2005's Be. "Gold" is particularly vivid, where he crams a post-birth visit from "three wise men," trips to France and Sybaris (rhymed with syphilis), and references to Hot Tub Time Machine and "Stan." However, the content isn’t exclusively cerebral, uplifting, and/or surreal. On "Ghetto Dreams," the track that incongruently follows Angelou's appearance, Common opens with "I wanna bitch that look good and cook good" and elaborates with "buck naked in the kitchen flippin' pancakes." There's also the caustic "Sweet," where the MC seemingly slips into character to enhance fiery rhymes with enraged goading. Tracks like those add variety yet come close to polluting the remainder. That's a no-win situation for him, really; without those tracks, Common would have been accused by some rap fans, once more, of being too soft. ~ Andy Kellman
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Rap/Hip-Hop - Released October 14, 1997 | Relativity Records

With his previous records (released under the name Common Sense), Common demonstrated that he was one of the few Midwestern rappers to have a unique vision, but One Day It'll All Make Sense is where his talents come into focus. Blending hip-hop with jazz is a '90s cliché, but Common relies on bebop rhythms and street poetry, resulting in an album that has a loose, organic flow. The grooves have deep roots and the rhymes have humor, heart, and intelligence -- few of contemporaries could achieve the emotional impact of "Retrospect for Life" or the gospel-tinged "G.O.D. (Gaining One's Definition)." And that extra layer of emotional involvement gives One Day It'll All Make Sense a weight and spirituality that makes the record special. Certainly few of his peers have made an album as musically and lyrically rich as this, and it's about time others follow his lead. ~ Leo Stanley
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Rap/Hip-Hop - Released November 4, 2016 | Def Jam Recordings

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Rap/Hip-Hop - Released January 1, 2005 | Geffen

Electric Circus cost and won Common some fans. It was very exploratory, especially so for a rap album released in 2002, containing developments -- some of which soared, some of which sank -- that few longtime followers could have foreseen. Listeners either felt Common was picking up fresh, new inspirations, or that he was just being distracted by a whole lot of ill-fitting nonsense. With Be, it seems the MC has realized that not every album that's sprawling and eclectic is as good as Electric Ladyland or Songs in the Key of Life. More notably, he might've been struck with the fact that a high percentage of excellent albums are around 40 minutes in length and are built on a unified sound. Be is highly concentrated, containing 11 songs and involving two producers and a small number of guests. It's a 180 degree turn from Electric Circus, and in a bizarre way it's both a progression and a back-to-basics move. Kanye West and Dilla are key to the album's steadiness, rooting the sound in '70s soul and soul-jazz. That's no shakeup, but the two producers deserve some form of award for stringing together a consistent sequence of productions that is never monotonous, dull, or all that flashy. Even lead single "The Corner," heard well before Be's release, falls into the fabric of the album on first listen, as if that were where it belonged all along. Lyrically, Common comes back down to Earth -- the narratives are sharp as ever, the gripes are more like observations than screeds, and the eccentricities need to be teased out rather than swatted away. Be isn't likely to be referred to by anyone as groundbreaking, but it's one of Common's best, and it's also one of the most tightly constructed albums of any form within recent memory. ~ Andy Kellman
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Rap/Hip-Hop - Released November 4, 2016 | Def Jam Recordings

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Rap/Hip-Hop - Released January 1, 2008 | Common - Kanye West 10% PS

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Rap/Hip-Hop - Released July 22, 2014 | Def Jam Recordings

Common noted that this album's title references Eric B. & Rakim's "In the Ghetto" -- more specifically, the song's recurring sample from the duo's "I Ain't No Joke." More symbolic, if beneath the surface, is the use of Curtis Mayfield's grim and pointed "The Other Side of Town" on album opener "The Neighborhood." While Nobody's Smiling was inspired by the tragic condition of Common's hometown of Chicago, its incorporation of a relevant-as-ever song from 1970, recorded by a Chicagoan in Chicago, is an acknowledgment of how inner-city struggles are a constant, not a trend. The rapper/actor's geographic and economic distance can be cited as a reason to approach Nobody's Smiling with a cocked brow. Common, to the contrary, once again works closely with fellow Chicago native No I.D., and he also makes room for a clutch of local artists -- including Dreezy, Lil Herb, and Malik Yusef -- who are also shown throughout the booklet, along with other Chicago figures, cast in the same slight light as him. Likewise, through character sketches and an otherwise grounded perspective, Common places himself on their level instead of acting as a sage. Fervent throughout, Common deals out some of his hardest and heaviest rhymes. No I.D. strengthens his partner's work with rigid, reverb-heavy productions -- from the mechanical pings of "Speak My Piece" to the juddering drums and probing keyboards within the title track -- without approaching the harshness of the Yeezus tracks to which he contributed. On "Kingdom," something like a weathered "Jesus Walks," the rapper and the producer are at their most moving, with the protagonist attending a funeral and plotting revenge, unable to connect with the concept of faith: "My whole life I had to worry about eatin'/I ain't have time to think about what I believe in." Common places the most directly biographical track, "Rewind That," at the end of the album's standard edition. The second half, where he traces his friendship with J Dilla, involves some brilliant storytelling, and perhaps the only moments during the album's sessions when Common cracked a smile while recording. It's a touching finish to the rapper's best album since Be. ~ Andy Kellman
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Rap/Hip-Hop - Released July 22, 2014 | Def Jam Recordings

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Rap/Hip-Hop - Released December 16, 2011 | Think Common - Warner Records

On his ninth studio album, Common reunites with old partner and fellow Chicagoan No I.D., which ensures that the sound will be much different than that of the MC's previous set, the Neptunes-dominated Universal Mind Control. Indeed, compounds of dusty soul samples and organic instrumentation are in place of candy-coated synthesizers and pattering hand percussion. That change naturally pushes Common into deeper, more contemplative, and wistful frames of mind, and he takes an extra step by bookending the album with typically purposeful appearances from Maya Angelou and his father (the latter of which is absolutely riveting). The best moments are bathed in a warm radiance that fosters a comforting, uplifting mood -- intensified by hooks from James Fauntleroy II and samples of the Impressions, Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, Graham Central Station, and gospel Kenny Loggins -- that recalls 2005's Be. "Gold" is particularly vivid, where he crams a post-birth visit from "three wise men," trips to France and Sybaris (rhymed with syphilis), and references to Hot Tub Time Machine and "Stan." However, the content isn’t exclusively cerebral, uplifting, and/or surreal. On "Ghetto Dreams," the track that incongruently follows Angelou's appearance, Common opens with "I wanna bitch that look good and cook good" and elaborates with "buck naked in the kitchen flippin' pancakes." There's also the caustic "Sweet," where the MC seemingly slips into character to enhance fiery rhymes with enraged goading. Tracks like those add variety yet come close to polluting the remainder. That's a no-win situation for him, really; without those tracks, Common would have been accused by some rap fans, once more, of being too soft. ~ Andy Kellman
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Rap/Hip-Hop - Released July 31, 2007 | Geffen