Common, one of the original pioneers of Chicago and Midwest hip hop, has always been an invaluable influence on his coast, the culture and the game, starting before and around the release of his 1992 LP, Can I Borrow A Dollar? and continuing on to the present day. Though his artistic focus and tone have varied throughout his career, his passion, love and dedication to the music have remained unwavering. Linking up with his original right hand producer, the great No ID (or Immenslope) for 2014's Nobody's Smiling, Common offers his take and interpretation of life on Chicago's treacherous South Side and even goes broader in rapping on keys to celebration, the reasons for his confidence, and the follies of mankind. His unique flow, impeccably drawn out with striking metaphors and crystal clear imagery, is testament to the man's inimitable style. These qualities, blended with No ID's avant-garde beats, create results that are instantly classic. As if all that wasn't enough, a few dedication songs do more than stand out. "Speak My Piece" honors the late Notorious B.I.G., "Hustle Harder" examines the independent woman of the modern day, and "Rewind That" chronicles Com's relationship with legendary hip hop producer J Dilla. Of course the two man team of Common and No ID don't go at it all by themselves. They have recruited some really inspiring hometown talent and several other bright stars to contribute to the album. The rap guests include Lil Herb, Big Sean, Malik Yusef, Dreezy and Vince Staples, and the r&b guests are the Cocaine 80s, Jhene Aiko, Snoh Aalegra and Elijah Blake. Nobody's Smiling is richly textured, from the smart, dense lyrics to the multilayered instrumentals. If anyone is smiling as a result, it must be the fans.
July 22, 2014