I Used to love H.I.M. (pause)

Earlier this week, I tweeted about the current beef of the century: Common Vs. Drake.
I wrote:
In a battle between Drake and Common, I’m firmly rooting for a double suicide.

I must have forgotten where I was cause within seconds I was flooded with angry people flabbergasted at the concept of someone not liking the music of Common (to be fair, it was also retweeted by like 40 people so I know I’m not alone on this one).

Anyway, obviously, I was joking. In fact, twitter followers of mine, whenever I write ANYTHING non-promotional and hyperbolic, you can assume I’m just joking. But, I’d be lying to say there isn’t a little truth in it. Now, I in no way would like both these men to kill themselves. I don’t know them personally, and they’ve never done anything to me personally to ever deserve such vitriol from me. I simply am not a fan of their music. That’s it.
Now, in the case of drake, pretty much no one on twitter was bothered by the statement. This is more a testament to my followers than twitter though as, we all know, Drake is pretty much the most popular rapper on earth. But , man, you diss Common and the internet highway is set ablaze.

I figure this would be a great platform to explain my distaste for the music of Common, as it seems like an idea so foreign to some of you. Perhaps if I give you some perspective of where I’m coming from ,we can all simply just agree to disagree and keep it moving.

The beginning:
The first I had ever heard of common was reading his name in the Source Magazine. He was in a column called “Unsigned Hype” where they would put you on to a promising new artist. Back in those days, being in that column held weight. Many of the greatest rappers ever got their first shine in that column so , needless to say, I was paying attention.
Shortly after that, Common Sense was signed to Relativity Records. His first single “Take it EZ” started getting run on all the video shows and I was immediately a fan. He was a weird, squeaky voiced guy from chicago with an original style rocking over a really dope beat.

His debut album “Can i borrow a dollar?” was up next. I remember the source gave him 3.5/5 stars for the album (which was a typical rating for them to give an underground-ish sounding record that was a little weird). I copped it within a week of its release. Now, I didn’t love this album. There were maybe 5 or 6 songs I liked a lot but , overall, I always felt it was uneven. But , more than anything, I felt it showed great potential. I was excited to see where this artist would go. And what followed, more than matched my anticipation…

Hot off the success of his “Soul by the pound” Remix, Common Sense dropped the first single from his sophomore album. It was the classic song “I used to love H.E.R.”/”Communism”. Now, when i heard this maxi single, I nearly shit my pants. Not only had he made a song that was one of the best ode’s to hip hop ever (though admittedly, I can’t sit through 2 bars of that song today) but the B-side was just as good.

Around the time that album dropped, I was living in Boston going to college. Now, this is how you know a record had a profound impact on your life. This is maybe one of 7 or 8 albums in my life that I clearly remember listening to for the first time. It was a Tuesday (the day new releases drop) and I knew it was dropping. I hustled my ass over to the tower records on Newbury street and bought a cassette copy of “Resurrection”. On the way hame , I popped it in my walkman and let it run. form the first tinkle of the opening Piano riff of the title song, I was hooked. I’m not lying when I say i kept walking past my dorm building cause I was so wrapped up in the album I was hearing. It was like everything just came together perfectly. I pretty much played it over and over for the next week, much to the dismay of my roommate.
NO ID killed the beats. I mean, to this day, I marvel at his drum work on that album and musically, he was just as on point. And Common Sense? Holy shit. He had hit his stride. No longer was he squeaking and trying to find his style. He had found it. His punchlines are clever, his flow was on point and he managed to successfully walk the line of being a wise ass, self-aware , and cocky all while accepting that he’s a greatly flawed person. He wasn’t spiritual. He was still “nuttin’ in hoes when he got nothing to use” yet understood it may be in his best interest to cut down on his drinking. He was a real person. He was in the grey area, like pretty much everyone on the planet. I always appreciated that about him. He’d say some foul shit on one song but then say something truly thought-provoking on the next. Not in a contradictory Tupac way either. There was an earnestness to it. Now, while this album hasn’t aged quite as well as some of the other classics from that era, I still stand by it. There was a time and place where this was my favorite album ever and Common Sense was my favorite rapper alive. That time existed. But it was short-lived.

“One day it’ll all make sense” That I’m beginning to see something I don’t like…

After basically giving me one of my all time favorite albums (at that time), to say I was eager to hear how he’d follow that up was an understatement. Hearing news of a new single dropping got me excited…and I had heard a few songs from the album played on Stretch and Bobbito that definitely sounded promising. And then the single dropped.
“Reminding me (of sef)” wasn’t a bad song. It just wasn’t what I wanted to hear. From the singing on the hook to the introspective lyrics, this is not the Common (he had dropped the “Sense” from his last name due to some white reggae band owning the rights) I wanted to hear. I chalked it up to just being a “single” and still had high hopes for the album.

I copped “One day it’ll all make sense” the day it dropped. As the first song “invocation” dropped, I breathed easy. This is what I was hoping for. Common rapping over a dope beat. It was really quite a simple formula for my satisfaction. As i let the album play, I liked it. It had some great songs on it, but it wasn’t the same. something was noticeably different. It’s like his clever lives were not hitting as sharply as they once had…and i felt like I was being preached at more than being spoken to. Still, he was on point in other ways, trying to do something different. I’m not gonna say the album left me bummed out , more so just worried. He had done some great things on it but he had also began a transformation as an artist into something that didn’t appeal to me. As I’ve stated before, I’m not a spiritual man. And being a good introspective rapper is a hard line to walk. Common was okay at it, but there was something that just didn’t sit right with me. The more i listened to the album, the less interested I was in it. I think the final thing about it that turned me off was his “I wish i hadn’t aborted you, yo!” anthem featuring Lauryn hill “Retrospect for life”. The video pretty much was the first shovel of dirt on the grave of the Common i was calling my favorite rapper 2 years earlier.

(this video is also a precursor to how truly terrible the dude is at acting…i mean…WOW)

It’s a wrap…

Between “Resurrection” and “One day” common had dropped the scathing “Bitch in you” Ice cube diss song. To me, that was Common at his best. Post “One day…” he dropped a few songs on compilations that led me to believe he had perhaps righted the ship I saw drifting off course.
So, when his new single “The 6th sense” dropped, i was cautiously optimistic. It was “okay”. Primo bought his second-rate heat and Common just kinda sleepwalked through it, but it wasn’t terrible. Then I bought the album “Like water for chocolate”. I played the album like I had his last three. Sitting with my headphones on…hoping for the best but the best was far behind me. Common seemed confused. And not in the “everyman” kinda way that made “Resurrection” so great. He was a lover, a hater, a preacher, and a man who can enjoy a kale salad. All these things are not separate or related as personality traits but it just didn’t sit right on this album. It’s like he was just throwing shit out there to see what would stick. Unfortunately for me, it was his spiritual preachy introspective raps that stuck and the rest was history.

The Light

Being fairly disenchanted with “Like water for chocolate” , i had pretty much lost faith in Common. Yet, I feel there was still a sliver of hope inside me that he still had it in him to make great music. Then I saw the video for his song “The light”.
It was over. The second I saw him bite into a guava on camera, I knew the Common I once loved no longer existed.

He had started dating Eryka Badu and was no longer receiving his messages. This Sanford and son hat wearing dickhead was not the same guy. He was gone. He was corny. He was adult contemporary rap. I perfectly understand why people like music like this, but I’m not that guy. Never was, never will be.

The rest

Since my sign off in 2000, I still have checked for his shit on a very relaxed level. meaning, I hear it when I hear it. I’m certainly not rushing to peep some new Common joint. He’s managed to make a few decent songs here and there but there will be no renaissance. His song “The corner” was pretty awesome.

His new song is okay I guess…but at this point, it’s more of a case of WHO GIVES A SHIT?

I dunno if Common got worse or my taste just moved away from where his went. But whatever the case, it’s a done deal. As a musician, I can never fault another musician (especially one WAY more successful that I am) for changing with the times. Any artist who releases the same album 5 times is not only a one trick pony but he’s also scared to evolve. I know how that is. I’m no stranger to people asking me “how come you don’t make another album like your first one?”. Artists change. Sometimes the fans are no on the same path. It happens. In the case of Common, I liken him to an old high school friend I grew up with who suddenly get really religious. We used to drink 40’s together and talk shit about bitches but , all of a sudden, he stopped and moved onto something else. Now, we’re both older and neither of us are drinking 40’s or talking shit about bitches but the divide remains as he is “that” type of person and I’m “this” type of person. Basically, there’s no hard feelings but I’m really not trying to have a conversation with the guy either. With Common, i wish him the best (and perhaps would say he needs some more acting lessons) but the last thing I’m trying to do nowadays is hear his music. But good luck and Godspeed , old friend. At least I have memories of the good times.
Also, no matter what happens, Common>>>>>>>>>>Drake. I’m rooting for you, bro.

29 thoughts on “I Used to love H.I.M. (pause)

  1. Good shit, Block. I thought the tweet was funny, even though Im a Common fan. Hurt feelings on Twitter are the highlight of my day. I say I’m a Common fan, but much like you, I’m more a fan of mid 90’s Common and the potential he showed, and the potential he still has even. To be honest, though, I loved Like Water…and The Light (not the video haha). I was a big fan of Electric Circus, and I liked BE. Resurrection was my favorite album for a while, too, and I feel it still holds up. However, his last 2 albums (won’t even name them) were HORRIBLE. His new album has some great songs, but is held down by all the corniness you mentioned. Then there’s Sweet. I just didn’t get why he needed to do it. I though it was a bit hypocritical for someone who released Come Close to go so hard at “soft” rappers. However, I also think it got him back to where I always wanted him to be. The dude from “The bitch in yoo”. Or at least the dude from 1-9-9-9, or something. Maybe this has energized him like the Jay-Z beef did with Nas (for a lil bit anyway). Although I don’t think Drake is a worthy adversary, somebody needed to say something about his awfulness. And Common has the pedigree and the catalog to do just that. I hope this motivates him to be better. I mean, that Canada Dry line gives me hope. As you said, I’ll be rooting for him.
    His acting is pretty awful, though.

  2. Hear, hear!

    Common was gold when he was rapping in his own fruit-titled songs. But, when he starting eating the fruit on camera, the scene changed.

    And, speaking of scene change, he’s not HORR-ible in “Hell On Wheels” (IMO). He’s just gotta refine his scalpin’ game a little more.

  3. This hit the nail on the head about my feelings toward his music. I came across his music when I was really into The Roots(illadelph half-life) and groups like Details La. Like water for chocolate signified an end of an era for me.

  4. This is very similar to my feelings toward Aesop and his progression. Sometimes as an artists evolves you don’t end up on the same path they are on, but I still play a ton of Aesop’s early stuff. Also “vitriol” and “hyperbolizing” in the same paragraph? Your words with friends skills must be strong.

    • I actually think, as a rapper, aesop has gotten much better with age. His flow, at this point, is effortless. I have trouble listening to some of the older stuff (as does he) cause the style he was using just didn’t age as well as artists who were more basic from that era.
      He could always flow on beat (which is a common misconception about his earlier work) but in 2001, stuffing as many syllables as possible into a line was “the style”, and it didn’t age well, imo.
      But i don’t think it’s fair to compare how he’s progressed with how common progressed as common’s entire vibe changed into this neo-soul guy. Aesop has simply evolved. He’s still weird and abstract just less emo about it then he was when he came out.
      as for those big words, come on bro. I’m retarded.

  5. I don’t know what that guy was thinking with that Bruce Springsteen questions, but this is a real question. Is Timbaland the best producer of all time (aside from you of course)?

  6. Wait so Common is Common Sense, that dude I heard on that Last Emperor “Secret Wars” track many a good year ago?

    “Yeah yeah it’s Common Sense and Ice Man tried to freeze me/So I took him to Chicago and told him to take it easy”

    Take it EZ, take it easy. No shit.

    Block man you just blew my mind

  7. Starting with Resurrection, Common’s albums follow a 2 good, 2 bad formula. We’ve just received his second bad album in the cycle so I would expect better on his next two…unless he truly is old yeller’d….

  8. You hit the nail on the head which personally makes me wonder how you feel about other progression. I understand you have to keep some opinions to yourself because some of these guys (like aesop) are your peers. It’s just interesting to see the breakdown you’ve done of groups like black eyed peas and now common.

  9. Yo block! I got a question for your next Q and A
    How do you feel about Shpongle? I’ve always assumed you like them then I thought about how I would have any clue what this man I’ve never met feels about this random artist. I realized it was because I have your albums in a playlist with a bunch of shpongle albums I listen to when I’m falling asleep. You def have some things in common, albeit your songs are alot less drug influenced but the playlist flows really well together. So whats the verdict? Shpongle- yay or nay

    • This’ll be short so I’ll just answer it here…
      I’ve opened for him but I left before he went on. I’ve literally never heard a single song of his. Not a knock on him I just don’t really seek out that kind of music. I’m not really into instrumental stuff. Ironic, I know.

  10. i agree wholeheartedly about your beef with common. However I liked the abortion song. as sappy as it was his verses sounded sincere and showed off his story rhyming skills in the highest light. The song which i have a major beef with is G.O.D. (grooming ones dogma) thats like the only song on “one day…” which i can’t listen to. i love me some cee-lo but do not love me some religious propaganda. esp. some backed behind a weak beat.

  11. BE is one of the best albums of the zeros.
    Common is dope.
    Blockhead don’t like late Common.
    Common is still dope.
    His new album is really good but that Drake beef is kinda corny so far :/

  12. At the cross roads in my early 20s when I had to decide whether to be a neck tattoo having punk rocker radical for life or start laying the ground work to become a normalish non-dirtbag adult, I worked at a collectively run, racially diverse, anarchist food co-op utopia. Everything was going great until that Light song dropped and split the organizations into 2 factions: The corny white dreadlocked girls who FELT that song, and the rest of us.

  13. yeah common since water for chocolate (i liked it cuz the good was so tight ‘deeper than a skinny girls cunt’ was a common high school catch phrase of mine) makes me wanna shit on myself

  14. Pingback: Rap Round Table, Week(s) Ending 1/27/2012

  15. I’m torn Block, as a fan of yours i respect your opinion, but to me, this Common…was the Common on Ressurection i was always waiting to return! Maybe its the fact that NoID delivered the same flawless production he delivered on Ressurection…but really, its Commons flow that made the connection back to 1994 and made up for years of horrible albums since. Being Commons age, growing up in Chicago and being effected by all the same cultural, music and social factors that he probably experienced no other rapper really connects to me the way he does, nor paints the same picture I get when i listen to his music. His lyrics have always been strong, and he’s always made me laugh with his stories and social commentary.

    I cant really say Drake or any other rapper these days really did that for me to the same level as Common has. When common said ‘peeped that ass, coz i got hind-sight’ that made me spit out my drink. Not coz it was corny or profound…but because its the same funny perceptive shit that made me laugh on ressurection.Maybe if I was a 14 year old white girl, who drank a lot of codiene, had A.D.D. and or bipolar depression, then Drake and Lil Waynes music might really speak to me and tell my story, but alas, i’m old and my sensibilities are lost on what this generation is wrapping about.

    As a person who thinks that ‘trailer park love’ is one of my favorite beats ever, im suprised to hear your not a fan of the instrumental tape! I am also suprised you didnt give commons new album high praise just on NoID’s beats alone. While i might be one of the few people that thought ‘like water for chocolate’ thanks to j-Dilla was amazing, NoID’s probably the only other producer i would trust to put beats behind commons lyrics…present company excluded offcourse.
    To be honest, i dont even know where’ im going with this. Just know that I missed common for many years, and this album reminded me why i was a fan in the first place. Shame you dont feel the same way, but i understand your reasons.

    • I haven;t heard the new album. But you know when you’re just “over” something and there’s no turning back? That’s how I feel about common. I peeped the single. It’s fine. But I have no interest in what he’s got to say at this point.
      also, what’s “the instrumental tape”?

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