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Un-Common-ly Strong, As Usual

By Tankboy in Arts & Entertainment on Jul 31, 2007 4:15PM

Common has long been one of Chicago's most valuable artistic resources. As trends swept through the hip-hop world, carrying every johnny-come-lately in their wake, Common remained true to his muse. While his early work was solid, containing such standouts as "Used To Love H.E.R.," we feel he really hit his stride during the sweet lilt of breakthrough album Like Water For Chocolate, and we became true fans in the face of the sonic experiments that ran through Electric Circus. Follow-up Be dialed down the adventure a few notches, but remained an impressively solid album, even if some tracks did reach a little too hard in their attempts to slip into the mainstream (um, admit it, "Go" charted well, but it ain't Common at his strongest).

2007_07_common_findingforev.gifSo that brings us to Finding Forever, out today. Kanye West's production is all over the disc, and we think West has finally figured out how to dial back his own ego in order to provide Common with tracks that seem intrinsically suited for the MC. A sultry soulful musical thread carries through most of the tracks while Common's lyrics dodge and weave, punching syllables through the fabric of the backing track. This feels so natural one might be hard pressed to hear some of the original material the samples were lifted from without wishing Common was there as well. For instance, it take a pretty amazing vocalist to have the balls to rap over Nina Simone's "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood," and actually deliver a sultry duo without any hint of sentimentality or pretension.

Even points that might induce worry, like a duet with Lily Allen that name checks OKGo's treadmill antics, sidesteps disaster to instead become a playful sounding bounce countered by darker lyrics pointing out the fallacies people indulge in while looking for love. It's this sort of dexterity Common displays throughout the disc that makes Finding Forever his strongest record to date, in our opinion. He and his producing partners have finally woven an album that plays to his vocal strengths, while still keeping the songs loose and forward-looking beat-wise. The final result strongly bolsters the argument for Common as one of Chicago's most valuable resources, period.