Common’s last record, Be, was a four-time Grammy nominated album that had everyone talking. So how do you follow-up a mammoth success like that?
In Common’s case, he hired the same musicians but took Be’s formula back to the streets – and what you get is a gritty and more realized effort. Producer Kanye West is back behind the console, laying down some of hip-hop’s most creative (and most universally appealing) samples and beats, giving the record a free-flowing, hipster vibe throughout. Even the album’s artwork suggests Common’s skills as it features him in a hooded Jedi cloak with swirls of psychedelic haze revolving around him. Common can afford to be a little pompous as he can rap over any genre of music Kanye throws at him: from R&B, gospel, smooth jazz and even pop-radio hooks. Common’s contemporaries could learn a trick or two from his witty, spot-on timing and flow.
One thing that might bother long time listeners is that Common has been discussing the same lyrical issues since his debut (social injustices, state of hip-hop, love) but never before has he delivered them with such conviction, style and humour. The lack of collaborations on his last record left some diehard hip-hop fans surprised, but Forever has some well-thought out duets, like the slow-burning “So Far to Go” (with D’Angelo), “I Want You” (Black Eyed Peas’ Will.i.am) and the soon-to-be single of the year, “Drivin’ Me Wild” (with Lily Allen).
At a lean 50 minutes, Finding Forever is by no means dull and from head to toe one of this year’s best album. (G.O.O.D./Geffen Records)
Rating: 4 Out Of 5 Stars