I have followed Common Sense ever since I heard the track "Take It EZ". Originally, I didn't purchase Can I Borrow a Dollar?, but I definitely enjoyed "Take It EZ", "Breaker 1/9", "Soul By The Pound", "Heidi Hoe" and "Charms Alarm". Once I heard "I Used To Love H.E.R.", Common's dedication to hip hop, I knew that his next CD, Resurrection, would also be worth checking out, but for some reason I didn't purchase the CD right away. When I saw the video for Common's track with Lauryn Hill, "Retrospect For Life", once his 3rd disc had already dropped, One Day It'll All Make Sense, that's when I decided to make my first Common purchase. Tracks like "Gettin' Down At The Amphitheater" w/De La Soul, "G.O.D." w/Cee Lo, "All Night Long" w/Erykah Badu, "Stolen Moments Part 2" w/Black Thought from The Roots and "Making A Name For Ourselves" w/Canibus ended up being my favorite tracks. Common's 4th CD, Like Water For Chocolate, may have just been his best CD. The DJ Premier produced 1st single, "The 6th Sense", "Dooin It", "A Song For Assata", and one of his most successful singles to date, "The Light" ended up being my favorite tracks. Electric Circus seemed to be more of an experimental CD for Common. Although I did enjoy the 1st single, "Come Close" which featured Mary J. Blige and the CD's closer "Heaven Somewhere", Common definitely lost me within the experiment of this CD. However, Nas had "Nastradamus" and Jay-Z had "In My Lifetime Volume 1" so just because Common made 1 CD that I didn't enjoy didn't mean that I would stop supporting Common.
However, at the right time, it seemed as if Common had his own "Resurrection" after some of his fans were disappointed with "Electric Circus" with his verse on Kanye West's "Get 'Em High", which also featured Talib Kweli. If any of Common's fans thought he had lost it after "Electric Circus" he definitely proved them wrong after just one verse. I later found out that Common had signed with Kanye's G.O.O.D. music imprint and while I was hesitant at first, I figured that if anyone would steer Common's career back in the right way that Kanye could. When I first heard "The Corner", that was definitely the Common that I had missed on Electric Circus. Common seemed like he had a passion to rhyme again and with Kanye West on the boards it seemed as if Common had a point to prove all over again. Be was in the CD player for a long time. My favorite tracks ended up being "The Corner", "Testify", "Chi City", "Go", "Real People" and "The Food", which was originally featured on The Dave Chapelle Show.
The first track that I heard off of Common's 7th solo offering "Finding Forever" was "The Game". The Kanye West track definitely had an old school feel to it and Common sounds like he is trying to make sure that people didn't believe that "Be" was a fluke. He also wants to make sure that if you are tired of listening to the hip hop of today, which has no substance at all that you have a CD that you can put in your stereo or in the CD player in your car that you can actually learn something from. Common's 2nd single "The People" which features Dwele is an excellent example of that. Common could have easily went with "Break My Heart" or "I Want You" as the next single. However, he dares to be different. He doesn't want to follow the trends of the rapper who is just motivated by selling units and selling his soul to "The Game".
"Finding Forever" was released on July 31, 2007. After a short instrumental intro, Common and Kanye West's hook does a good job to "Start The Show". Common's lyrics are just as potent as they are on "The Game" and Kanye has one of his best beats on "Finding Forever" on this track. You will definitely be able to tell that Common has some subliminal messages in the track for a certain rapper or rappers in general. "Drivin' Me Wild" may take awhile to grow on you because, in my opinion, it's not a track that you will like after just 1 or 2 listens. This is track 1 of 4 that Common has on "Finding Forever" where he is talking about a woman or women in general. While it may not be one of Finding Forever's best tracks, "Drivin' Me Wild" will grow on you after awhile. Will.I.Am stops by to produce what may be the 3rd single in "I Want You". While I have never been a fan of The Black Eye Peas, Will.I.Am has definitely impressed me with his production work on the latest offerings from Mary J. Blige, Nas, Game and John Legend. He also produced another track that should be on "Finding Forever" in "A Dream" that was featured on the "Freedom Writers" soundtrack. One of the best production moments on this CD is when Will.I.Am. changes the beat of the track before the 3rd verse begins. Track 2 of 4 for the ladies is neck and neck and may even be a tie with "Break My Heart". Will.I.Am has a nice hook and Common's lyrics take care of the rest. "Southside" features Kanye West and the 2 rappers do a good job of going back and forth together with their verses like they have been in a group for years. The track appears to be a freestyle with a nice Kanye beat and you can never go wrong with that combination. Common even goes as far as saying, "You in the building, but the building's fallin', you wouldn't be ballin', if your name was Spalding". It appears Nas isn't the only one that has words for fly by night rapper of the moment, Jim Jones. Common is a teacher spreading his lessons on "U, Black Maybe". On the track, Common makes you think as he raises the question of Blacks always trying to blame the next man, which is usually another race, for their problems. However, in some cases we bring our own people down and we don't even recognize that fact or we in our own system of denial. Common features track 3 of 4 for the ladies in "So Far To Go" which features D'Angelo and is produced by the late, great J Dilla. The track was originally featured on J Dilla's "The Shining" CD. Common was also featured on another track on "The Shining" entitled "E=MC2". "Break My Heart" may be the song that will stay in your head just because of the Kanye West sample. However, Common's wordplay on this track is simply phenominal. He describes a situation where a woman is hesitant to get invloved with him and Common uses his lyrics to get the woman to "come on and go with him". This track is definitely one of my favorites on "Finding Forever".
Devo Springsteen must have gotten access to Kanye's stash of samples because he cleverly uses a sample on "Misunderstood". The clever use of the sample, the production and Common's lyrics make this track a nice combination. Bilal does a good job on the hook and Common does his best to make people understand that the problems in the world today are real problems and not just things that you can ignore because it isn't happening to them. "Forever Begins" ends "Finding Forever" on a nice note especially with Common's verses and towards the end of the track with the powerful words. The chorus is fine but it seems as if Kanye had an "overproduction" moment when the singers started singing the hook.
Overall, "Finding Forever" is a CD that will be in your CD player for awhile just as "Be" was. I would give a slight edge to "Be" as far as what CD I like better but "Finding Forever" is just as nice as "Be" was. Common's 2nd CD on G.O.O.D. music will also end up being a classic to most of his fans and fans of real hip hop music. There are some moments that Common will have you wondering why are you talking about Jen and Vince Vaughn and Ryan and Reese Witherspoon, however, his attack of the 2007 "I must sell unit" rappers on "Start The Show" and "The Game", his lessons on "U, Black Maybe" and "Misunderstood" and his wonderful tracks for the ladies with "Break My Heart", "I Want You" and "So Far To Go" will make you forget about any disappointments that you may have with this CD. If this CD doesn't cement Common's legacy in rap music, I am not sure what else he will have to do in order to convince you of his skills. If you liked "Be" and if you are a fan of Common's previous CDs, then you would be a fool to pass up on "Finding Forever".
James' Top 5
1) The Game
2) Misunderstood w/Bilal
3) The People w/Dwele
4) Break My Heart
5) Start The Show
Southside w/Kanye West
I Want You w/Will.I.Am
So Far To Go w/D'Angelo
U, Black Maybe
Ranking Common's Discography: (This was hard)
2) Like Water For Chocolate
4) Finding Forever
5) One Day It'll All Make Sense
6) Can I Borrow A Dollar?
7) Electric Circus