by KC (Host of You Must Learn)
At this moment, Common can be seen everywhere – stage and screen, big and small – but that wasn’t always the case. He started out as an underground rapper from an overlooked region of the country named Common Sense. He lands a major label debut that shows a lot of promise, but needs a lot of polish. And then we catch wind of the second album, and the time in obscurity is over.
The advance single from Resurrection was a sparse, tight track called “Communism” which showed up as a white label serviced to college and underground shows. The lyrical ability we had already seen was ratcheted up about forty times, as the track deftly moves through a litany of words with the letters “com” at the beginning. It raised some eyebrows.
But not nearly as much as the “official” single did. “I Used to Love H.E.R.” remains to this day as one of the most referenced (if not outright stolen) metaphoric writings in hip hop, as Common describes his relationship with the music like he would with a woman. It’s up there with Memento and The Usual Suspects as works of art that, if you experience it for the first time with no advance knowledge, you are blown away at the end, and on subsequent experiences you are keen to see how that journey was crafted. It also led to one of the greatest diss tracks of all time, as Ice Cube took a liberty with it which prompted Common (having dropped Sense after a lawsuit) to release “The Bitch In Yoo” in response.
That’s the known. What makes this record special is the rest of it that most people have not experienced. It starts with the production – less rugged than his debut and a deeper incorporation of jazz. The influence even spreads to the visual aspect, as the cover is meant to look like it fits in with a shelf of Blue Note releases.
But despite smoothing it out, the track list is a murderer’s row of lyricism. There are songs that are speaking to issues on a conscious tip (“Chapter 13”) to straight out punchlines (“Orange Pineapple Juice”). This record would also start the run of Common including his father, Lonnie Lynn, to perform spoken work (“Pop’s Rap”). But the hidden gem may well be “Book of Life” and his use of Roy Ayers, who seems to be an artistic soul mate to Common. Proper hip hop drums and scratches float over the interpolation, but it may be the track that best represents the giant leap forward this album represents, and sets him on the path to be in the public consciousness for decades to come.