Wednesday, July 30, 2014

A not so common tribute to Chicago

Nobody's Smiling by Common
"This is where I'm from"
Common, Talib Kweli, and Mos Def.

If I had to name three MCs who embody quiet quality, it would be them. Few other hip-hop veterans can come out of nowhere and drop heat like they do.

Nobody's Smiling, Common latest throw via ARTium/Def Jam, the Chicago native's tenth studio album already, just adds to his legacy. Which was already pretty impressive to begin with.

Let's forgive him his 2012 beef with Drake and look at the big picture. Over his 22-year career, he has secured two Grammys and three RIAA-certified gold albums (Like Water For Chocolate, Be, and Finding Forever), he was in the legendary Soulquarians collective, and he played significant roles in such movies as American Gangster, Wanted, and New Year's Eve. Common also founded the Common Ground Foundation, striving to empower underprivileged youth through various programs.

He might not be on G.O.O.D. Music anymore, but he's definitely one of the good guys.

So of course when he released lead single Kingdom (featuring Vince Staples) in May, shortly thereafter followed by a sharp teaser trailer for the Hype Williams-directed music video the next month, I was instantly hooked.


With longtime collaborator No I.D. in the production chair, you already know that the sound and the tone will align perfectly with Common's gritty and nostalgic tribute to his crime-ridden hometown of Chicago. The stripped-down beats perfectly cater to Common's lyricism and storytelling skills, which are as honed as ever. Nobody's Smiling also serves as a platform Chi-Town spitters Lil Herb and Dreezy, who both deliver hot verses on The Neighborhood and Hustle Harder, respectively.

Be sure to also check out title track Nobody's Smiling, which guest artist Malik Yusuf totally takes to another level, and heartfelt J. Dilla tribute Rewind That, which might very well be the most introspective song on the album.


>> By the way, the album title catapulted me back to 2005, when I spent hours on the various forums of Nobodysmiling.com under the moniker PoetPro. JaSun, one of the other members there, released No Protege, The Protoype around that time, and I encourage you to check it out! I especially like Magic Moment, the fifth track on the mixtape.

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