Love can come, love can go, and love can change. But for Common, his love for hip hop remains rock solid – so much so that if you look close enough youll probably see two turntables and a mic etched into his pericardium.
Although a very successful actor, hes not one to be completely swayed by the bright lights of Hollywood like some musicians who crossover. Instead, the veteran rhymer returns to rap on a consistent basis, delivering at a high level time and time again. Back once more, Let Love is his latest body of work.
Let Love was supposed to be an EP inspired by the rappers latest book, Let Love Have the Last Word. However, art has a wonderful habit of straying from the path it was originally set upon and taking on a life of its own.
For Common, a lightbulb moment during a rehearsal turned the EP into an 11-track love letter that dives deep into an abyss of human sensibilities, pulling out all sorts of treasures along the way.
On Fifth Story, Commons often overlooked storytelling capabilities sit front and centre. Over a menacing instrumental that sets a chilling precedent early on, listeners are led down a path laced with lust and betrayal, demanding the full uninterrupted attention of its listener.
My Fancy Free Future Love is much the same. But instead of the tracks subject matter doing all the talking, its the ear-catching production speaking the loudest.
Dating back to G.O.D. (Gaining Ones Definition), Common has never been one to shy away from expressing his love for the most high.
This time around, on the albums final track, God is Love, he sees his lord and saviour in everything from the streets where the checks is cashed, to the mouth of the spouse singing, I do. Com honours the almighty over a bed of heavenly strings and fluttering drum taps, with some help from Leon Bridges and Jonathan McReynolds.
At a recent playback of Let Love in London, Common shared that he wanted to create an album that merged Gang Starr, Radiohead and Marvin Gaye. And while there are definitely glimpses of that, the thing that stands out the most is his willingness to wear his heart and soul on his sleeve.
Whether owning up to parental missteps (Show Me That You Love), channeling 2Pacs Dear Mama (Forever Your Love), reopening old wounds that bring to light abuse he suffered as a child (Memories of Home), or apologising for some of his previous shortcomings (on Good Morning Love, he raps: I apologise if I came across/ As judgmental, or self-righteous/ Cause in you, I see his likeness), Commons vulnerability allows him to let go and drive the message of love home.
As the saying goes, you can only truly love another once you love yourself – unburdening the heart plays a big part in that.
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Adding to his long list of dedications to the culture that raised him, on HER Love, Common, with the help of soul wunderkind Daniel Caesar, re-ups on his classic 1994 hit I Used To Love H.E.R. Swimming through the crackles of J Dillas weightless soundscape, the Chicago MC celebrates the evolution of rap and its new wave of artists — shouting out the likes of Lil Uzi Vert, Cardi B and Jaden Smith in the process.
It doesnt stop there, either. Hercules hears Com lower the bass in his voice and stick his chest out. Taking it back to the essence of rap, a time when lyrics were king, like an axe-swinging barbarian he slices through challengers.
Firing off what feels like a string of off-the-top freestyle bars — something Common has long been regarded as one of the best at — even when his words arent the most technical his delivery is enough to set fire to any speaker stack – Noreaga, what? What?/ Like Jigga, n***a what? What?/ Who? Who? Dont care about what other crews do/ I cruise through, crucial/ Black like voodoo, a guru of the new, new.