by Carla Bynum
The album starts with the song “Joy and Peace” featuring Bilal. The duo encourage listeners to turn on their inner light and remain positive despite the turmoil happening in the world. The song features singer Bilal.
Common doesn’t let the troubles of the world bother him too much because he knows that eventually he will leave this earth to go “Home.” In an interview on NPR, Common said that this is a significant song to him because it makes him think of all the things he wants to accomplish before he does leave this earth. “I want my life to be fulfilled in a way where people will say ‘this dude inspired people.’”
“Love Star” is one of the more sensual songs on the album, featuring singers PJ and Marsha Ambrosius. The song is about Common’s lover but the title is a play on the word lodestar. A lodestar is a star that is used to guide and that is what Common’s lady does for him. She guides him in the right direction.
“On a Whim Interlude” serves as a peaceful instrumental transition into the next track, “Red Wine” featuring Syd tha Kyd and Elena Pinderhughes. Red wine helps their respective lovers to get comfortable so they can enjoy the evening. Syd and Elena sound amazing on track and their vocals fit perfectly with the theme.
Common pays tribute to A Tribe Called Quest on the song “Pyramids.” In the first verse he mentions how the passing of Phife Dawg encouraged him to produce more classic material. The tracks hook is an excerpt from Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s debut single “Brooklyn Zoo.” The song is followed by the “A Moment in the Sun Interlude,” which starts as an instrumental and closes with a lady telling a story of how she met a guy from Texas who made her giggle when he spoke to her.
Common’s past isn’t his current reality on the song “Unfamiliar.” When he was younger he used to get around but now he’s focused on real love. The affect his lady has on his heart is unfamiliar but he likes it. The song features singer Paris Jones, better known as PJ.
There comes a time in everyone’s life when they mature and realize things that used to bring them joy don’t have the same effect on them. Common recognized his transition physically, musically and philosophically. He used to live in a glass bubble but now he sees the bigger picture. Syd the Kid and Bilal also offer their vocals on the track “A Bigger Picture Called Free.”
“The Day Women Took Over” is an ode to women and how they are now seen as equals to their male counterparts. Common is happy to see a time when the stereotype of women being hoes is starting to fade and they are being viewed as queens. They are leaders in fields that were previously dominated by men and continue to rightfully take their roles as bosses in all aspects of life. The song features BJ the Chicago Kid and a spoken word poem by Common at the end.
A Common album wouldn’t be complete without a little John Legend to balance things out with his smooth vocals. “Rain” finds Common reminiscing about when he first started rapping and how he didn’t take it seriously until he realized the power of his words. He took his rap hustle and used it as a weapon to evoke change in the world. Just like the rain, he plans to continue to serve his purpose and do what he was placed in the world to do.
Gospel singer Tasha Cobbs joins Common on the song “Little Chicago Boy” dedicated to Common’s father who passed away in 2014. He raps about how his father grew up in Chicago and sold drugs to survive. He mentions how he made it out of the hood and followed his dreams of playing professional basketball. His father was a wise man with a big heart and mind and he continued to inspire those around him until his unfortunate fight with cancer ended.
The album appropriately closes with the song “Letter to the Free” featuring Bilal. They hope for freedom and justice for black people in America. Common raps about the “new Jim Crow” and how they no longer condemn blacks by calling them “niggers,” instead they use “criminals” to describe us. The song starts with Common rapping about slavery and lynching before he talks about current day slavery and how not much has changed since slavery.
Living in America during a time that many wish would see unity among the races, there’s still unresolved turmoil happening all over the country. There’s undeniable hatred for one another and it’s depressing to witness. Common has always been vocal about his beliefs and feelings about the mistreatment of blacks in America and he continues his fight on Black America Again. When the music industry is filled with artists who tend to ignore what’s happening because they feel it doesn’t directly affects them, it’s refreshing to see artists that genuinely care about the well-being of their people. Common is one of the most influential artists of our time and it’s nice to see that he hasn’t turned his back on black people.
Recommended Tracks: “Letter to the Free,” “A Bigger Picture Called Free,” “Red Wine,” “Unfamiliar,” “Little Chicago Boy”