Common's Peaceful Journey
"The beauty of it is that it's getting the word out and people are saying that the album is incredible," Common says diplomatically. "That's what they said about Kanye's album and it helps out, but we would rather things come out at the right time. I ain't mad at it, it's a blessing. A blessing in a strange way."
Common hasn't received so much praise since his decade-old sophomore effort Resurrection put Chicago hip-hop on the map. Perhaps it's no coincidence that Common's most focused rhymes in recent memory — bringing the resilience and striving of those attempting to navigate the pitfalls and social ills surrounding them — are evidently inspired by going back to the Windy City.
Kanye West has been the catalyst behind the city's current hip-hop renaissance and his involvement is fitting, given the fact that he was schooled on making beats by No I.D., Resurrection's chief architect. But Common isn't trying to make a facsimile of that record. "I don't wanna go back to '94," he says. "It's a new time and space; I want to be in the present day. I want this album to be new, but to have the spirit of what we had in '94 and '95." In attempting to meet this goal, West's production is stripped of its usual sheen and attunes its gritty soul template to complementing the incisive poetics conveyed by Common's honeyed rasp, providing a holistic feel to the record.
This uniformity was missing from Common's last studio album, Electric Circus. Partly fuelled by disenchantment with hip-hop, that ambitious record stylistically veered from ragtime to psychedelia and collaborations from the Neptunes to Stereolab vocalist Laetitia Sadlier that, despite moments of brilliance, garnered a mixed reception. Since then he's watched MCs like Andre 3000 push the boundaries of hip-hop eccentricity. "One of the complaints I had about my album is that people never saw Electric Circus coming. I thought they would have because I was totally evolving, always being whoever I was at the time. Me. But people never saw it coming. I don't think people's minds are open to going just totally out of the box. I think it's a process you kinda have to take them through."
Ever since he was a scrawny upstart who asked to borrow a dollar back in '92, Common has attempted — whether it was a success or not — to do just that. The difference is now a lot more people are taking notice. "I've always been doing this but it got to the masses with Kanye," says Common. "It helped out the situation a lot. In the world right now, people are tired of just getting the superhero talking and the gangsta talk all the time and they know there are other people in the world, so they connect with those people who are honest."
FeaturesSep 28, 2015
Empress OfPortrait of the Artist
Not 15 minutes into my phone call with Lorely Rodriguez, the mastermind behind electro-pop project Empress Of, a stranger passing her front ...
FeaturesSep 25, 2015
OughtThe Void Is Listening
After releasing their acclaimed debut album More Than Any Other Day in 2014, Ought found themselves touring practically non-stop, playing sh...
FeaturesSep 24, 2015
New Order'Complete' Return
New Order never officially broke up. And chances are they never will. But after co-founder/bassist Peter Hook left acrimoniously in 2007, th...
FeaturesSep 24, 2015
When UK duo Disclosure broke in 2013, their house music-indebted debut full-length seemed perfectly timed to both align with the zeitgeist a...
FeaturesSep 23, 2015
The Plight of Deafheaven
George Clarke is not exactly the esoteric or brooding metal frontman you'd expect. Though he bellows existential shrieks into a microphone t...
FeaturesSep 22, 2015
Steam Whistle Unsigned'sFall Concert Preview
Since its inception in 2007, Steam Whistle Unsigned — the Canada-wide concert series that promotes up-and-coming artists from across o...
NewsSep 18, 2015
Little Simz Talks Fame, Acting and Resisting Genre Labels
Little Simz's rise over the past couple of years has been nothing short of impressive. The 21-year-old North London MC demonstrated her lyri...
FeaturesSep 09, 2015
"I don't feel any pressure right now, but I might in a few weeks," confesses Kwabs with a laugh from backstage at Bulgaria's Spirit of Burga...