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Posts Tagged ‘spoken word’

Common, The Dreamer, The Believer

 

Hip Hop has qualities that are intrinsically based upon social and political revolution. Hip Hop began as a purely underground phenomena with its roots dating back to 1960 spoken word Jazz poetry–a form of poetry that often touched upon social injustice and contemporary issues of society.

In the coming decades, another revolution would soon occur. This revolution came in the form of DJ culture, which would soon lay the framework for modern day sampling and digital art. DJs began playing records simultaneously, mixing and mashing different instrumental tracks for their wildly popular block parties.

As DJing and Jazz poetry joined forces, we were met with poets using their passion driven rhymes over the funk/disco inspired beats of the DJs. Poets would often use this musical medium to touch upon the civil rights and race issues that were prevalent in 1960-70’s America.

This underground movement grew up and graduated to become modern day Hip Hop music.

So as Hip Hop evolved numerous artists clung to their social injustice roots, commonly writing rhymes that touched on intricate social matters. This evolution occurred in numerous facets–and even today when “pop” driven rap fills the airwaves, there are still a few artists who incorporate that twinge of spoken word poetry and civil movement into their music.

One master of this “poetic” “roots” based Hip Hop is Chicago native, Common. Common commercially busted on the underground scene in 1994 during the hey day of Biggie Smalls and Tupac Shakur. Despite the popularity of “gangster rap”, Common combined street smarts and a “story-like” flow that would later inspire other Chicago artists such as Lupe Fiasco, Twista, and even Kanye West who was a young protege of Common and his crew.

Even though 1994 was his first commercial release, he still remained fairly underground until a year later when he found himself in an infamous hip-hop feud.

In 1995 Common released the track I used to love H.E.R, in which he described how mainstream hip-hop has degraded women and in turn has created detrimental effects on black culture. Commons bars in the track ignited a feud with NWA rapper, Ice Cube. Cube took some of his bars as a subliminal diss towards West Coast Hip Hop. This feud led to numerous diss tracks being sent back and forth, ultimately ending with Commons track “The Bitch In You” which combined intellectually driven bars with fiery passion and production.

This feud helped to put Common on the map, and his feud with a more mainstream rapper opened up an entirely new fan base for Common. Fans, critics and former Common-bashers garnered a whole new respect for Common and showed the world that his talent was both raw as well as intellectual.

Ever since the 1990’s feud, Common has been know for his street smarts, wisdom and sharp tongue. Common has been notorious in hip hop, slam poetry circuits, production circles and even acting.

For me, I became a fan of Common a bit late in the game. His 2005 release “Be” was everything I wanted in a hip-hop album. Catchy hooks, thought provoking rhymes and excellent production quality. This was also a collaborative effort with his former protege and his good friend, Kanye West.

Earlier this year, after a discussion of our favorite “high school jams” my girlfriend brought up Commons 2005 effort and it soon became the soundtrack to our Spring semester. That spring I also found out that Common was in the studio, working on his new album The Dreamer, The Believer.

So after much anticipation, I finally have sat down with the album and have given it a thorough listen.

The album is a 12 track piece featuring appearences from Maya Angelou, his father Lonnie Lynn, Nas, and John Legend. The album was also produced by his long time collaborator and friend, NO I.D.

The album starts off strong and passionate with the title track, The Dreamer, which features laid back vocals a smooth instrumental and an outro conducting by the great Maya Angelou. The Dreamer greatly personifies the style and genre that Common has masterfully crafted.

Another key track is Sweet which appears to be a diss track and is in the same style of “The Bitch in You”. The title itself is an allusion to rappers that rap and sing about love while using poor metaphors and sugary meaningless lyrics. In a recent interview Common admitted that the track was directed towards Drake and to “anyone else who wishes to take it“.

Raw (How You Like It) changes the feel of the album to more upbeat and passionate. The lyrical based sample meshes perfectly with Commons style and gives off an easy but powerful vibe. The hook is also catchy and the “la la la la la” will keep playing in your head long after your listen is over.

Celebrate is also another track to take note of. If you enjoyed Common’s Be, and the track Love Is then you will enjoy this track, too. Celebrate incorporates a very similar rhyme scheme and structure. But don’t get me wrong, it’s not a remake by any means. The track still has that Common edge that he is known for.

On the track The Believer, Common teams with John Legend that greatly brings the entire album to a prose filled enigmatic breakdown.

The piece is certainly one to check out and is a great album that will have people talking for months to come. Check it out!

 

Favorite Tracks: Raw, Celebrate and The Believer.

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