From Sam Cooke to Tupac, musicians have long used their platforms to call for change. But change is usually framed as something far off in the distance, a destination we move toward, yet don't actually expect to see. The phrase "we gotta do better" rings hollow because it stops short of the "how." Thankfully, August Greene serves as more of a toolkit than an aimless aspiration.
Group mates Karriem Riggins and Robert Glasper make the perfect production duo on August Greene. Full-bodied drums give the album a strong pulse, and Glasper's pensive keys are in deep conversation with your ear, providing a guideline for how to feel. Honest and forthright, Common's lyrics are a roadmap for change.
"Black Kennedy" and "The Time" lay out clear goals to aspire to, while "Practice" and "Let Go" challenge the listener to do the work of self-reflection in order to achieve them. "No Apologies" is a high-spirited war cry, a reminder to be unrelenting in the pursuit of true progress. And with its warm, vibrant soundscape, "Optimistic" plays like a dream realized; it's the light at the end of the tunnel.
Optimistic but never mawkish, August Greene distinguishes itself from other socially conscious albums with its practical approach. It's motivational music that, for once, makes change feel less elusive. (Amazon)