My knowledge of hip-hop is very limited, but I like to think I'm pretty adept at distinguishing the good stuff from the crap. I liken this ability to former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart's famous definition of obscenity-- I know it when I see hear it. Common's 2005 album, Be, was my second favorite hip-hop album of that year, topped only by Kanye's sprawling, flawed masterpiece, Late Registration. Last year I really dug Lil' Wayne's Dedication II, Clipse's Hell Hath No Fury, T.I.'s King, and unanimous hip-hip album of the year for the indie set, Ghostface's Fishscale. Three of these albums ended up on my top 25 albums of 2006 list. Wayne is my favorite modern rapper by a long ways, though I probably only fully absorb about a handful of albums from this genre in a given year. I'm admittedly a bit of a rockist, but as an obsessive music fan, I can get into and appreciate rappers who have a little something special. I do not think this indefinable something necessarily correlates to hip-hop that is geared towards or more friendly to a white audience-- I mean, can Wayne really be considered hip-hop for white 26-year-old recent law grads? Whatever this elusive element is, Common is one of these rappers who just clicks with me.
Common's seventh album, Finding Forever, is due July 31st on Geffen. Recently, two tracks from his upcoming record were made available on iTunes. Kanye produced first single "The People" and it features r&b singer Dwele on the hooks. Kanye's production is excellent and gives this track and warm and organic feel, providing the perfect background for Common's voice. After seeing him perform at the University of Cincinnati awhile back, I was impressed by the diversity among dude's fans. The unifying theme on this track suggests that this phenomenon is far from a fluke. "The Game" strives for a bit more of a street feel and reminds me quite a bit of Be's "The Corner". While trying to sound "hard" has never been one his strengths, he doesn't veer too far into this territory here. After all, how hard can one sound whilst referencing global warming, vegetarianism, Akeelah and the Bee, and MTV's Sweet Sixteen? The song features some tasteful scratching from DJ Premier and though it lacks the lush production of "The People", it works almost as well.
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