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."
FeaturesAug 24, 2015
Steam Whistle Unsigned presentsExclaim!'s Camp Wavelength Preview
Summer is almost done, but that doesn't mean all the fun music festivals are over just yet. The inaugural edition of Camp Wavelength —...
FeaturesAug 21, 2015
Fred PennerAll My Children
It's been a good while since Fred Penner was on television, but these days, he's having a bit of a moment. He plays festivals regularly; he'...
FeaturesAug 20, 2015
The Exclaim! QuestionnaireCarly Rae Jepsen
Carly Rae Jepsen could have been a one-hit wonder. When the British Columbian singer/songwriter released a single titled "Call Me Maybe" ...
FeaturesAug 20, 2015
Lindi OrtegaStar Struck
"It's one thing," explains Lindi Ortega, "if you get signed when you're 19 and you have a hit song that goes through the charts. You have a ...
NewsAug 20, 2015
K-os Still Can't Be Pinned Down and He Couldn't Be Happier
K-os's inventive, profanity-free rhymes have always set him apart, so longtime fans may be shocked to hear the Toronto rapper sneer: "Take o...
FeaturesAug 19, 2015
Coeur de pirateMap of the Heart
"All my fears and anxieties and all that crap that humans go through — I didn't face them because I was so busy putting my energy into...
FeaturesAug 10, 2015
Steam Whistle Unsigned presents Exclaim!'s Time Festival Preview
Steam Whistle Unsigned — the Canada-wide concert series promoting up-and-coming artists from across our nation — will return lat...
FeaturesJul 29, 2015
Titus AndronicusAmbition In Five Acts
Since Patrick Stickles rose up with fists held high in July 2005 as frontman for Titus Andronicus, he and the band have done nothing half-as...