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…

“Resurrection”
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.