Common has a storied career in hip-hop. After becoming one of the most prolific rhymers, the man born Lonnie Rashid Lynn has moved into the realm of acting. He’s starred with the likes of Denzel Washington, Jeremy Piven, and Queen Latifah. Before releasing his ninth studio album at the tail end of 2011, Common penned his memoir which landed on the New York Times’ Best Seller’s List. Being that the Chicagoan is becoming more known for his ventures outside of the recording booth, The Urban Daily gives you a list of ten of Common’s best songs to refresh your memory. Hit us in the comments and tell us what songs should’ve made the cut and which should have been ranked higher.
10. Between Me, You & Liberation
Common weaves three personal stories on this cut from 2002’s Electric Circus. “Between Me, You & Liberation”finds the Chicago MC telling of the effects of a woman being raped as a young child, feeling helpless as he watches a relative lose their bout with cancer, and confronting his homophobic notions when he finds out a longtime friend is gay. While the album was a flop, this track is the silver lining in that dark cloud.
9. They Say
By 2005, rap fans had written Common off. Instead of getting mad, he got even by making one of the best albums of his career with Be. “They Say”was a song aimed squarely at his detractors. The Chicago rhyme slinger addressed the hate e received for dealing with Erykah Badu and the dismal sales of Electric Circus. Kanye West provides the laid back production and lends a verse popping off at the people who didn’t believe he would make it as a rapper. “They Say”should be considered as the most mature and respectful diss record ever put on wax.
Common’s classic piano driven No I.D. produced track served as the turning point in his lyrical style. Gone was the misogyny found in “Heidi Hoe,” replaced by more thought provoking wordplay. Lonnie Lynn had smoothed out the rough edges on his previous effort and became known to the public. When Jay-Z said, “Truthfully, I wanna rhyme like Common Sense,” we suspect it was because of this song and album.
7. Come Close
“Come Close”is one of the flyest hip-hop love songs ever. Over a charming Neptunes production, Common bares his soul in the name of love. Some may call it soft, but what man doesn’t get mushy when experiencing that first true love? He proved vulnerability is endearing to women and above all else, honesty is key. Mary J. Blige on the hook only added to the song’s allure. Plus, who can forget the powerful video directed by Sanaa Hamri and Questlove?
6. Soul By The Pound (Remix)
If you were a teenager in 1992, you know “Soul By The Pound (Remix)”was the song that got Common Sense some fans. Before, if you asked anyone about Common Sense, people wouldn’t know you were talking about a rapper. Part of the appeal of the record were his pop culture references to Bruce Leroyand No I.D.’s boom bap instrumental. One thing not great on the record was Common Sense’s attempt at singing. We appreciated the effort, but were glad when he took to strictly rapping.
5. The Corner
The second single from Be reaffirmed the fact hip-hop as being the Black CNN. Common gets his town crier on by riddling his verses with the happenings of inner city living. With the corner as his stage, Common’s lyrics painted vivid pictures of our lives. Laid on top of a hard hitting Kanye West beat, “The Corner” was only elevated by the poetry of The Last Poets. At the time, there was nothing better.
4. Retrospect For Life
As the centerpiece of 1997’s One Day It’ll All Make Sense, “Retrospect For Life” is one of the most powerful songs created, hip-hop or otherwise. Featuring Lauryn Hill on the hook, “Retrospect For Life” weighs the options of getting an abortion and choosing to raise the child. Common’s lyrics placed a spotlight on some inconvenient truths in the black community. “It’s too many black women that can say they mothers but can’t say that they wives.” Fifteen years later, that statement is still the realest thing Common ever wrote.
3. The Dreamer
The opener to Common’s ninth disc, “The Dreamer” sets the tone for what is another superb album in the catalogue of the rapper turned actor. Having Maya Angelou deliver poignant poetry as only she can doesn’t hurt either. Upon hearing the track, it’s clear Common is appreciative of the life he has now. However, he still dreams of something greater. That something better would be better life experiences for his daughter than he had. What an awesome dream it is.
2. The Light
Hearing the title alone, conjures feelings of love, respect, and affection. Probably Common’s most popular song to the millenial generation, “The Light” showed civilians it was possible to find real love in world of smoke and mirrors called entertainment. Common’s second single off of Like Water For Chocolateis widely regarded as the beginning of Common’s crochet pants and incense days, thanks to his relationship with Erykah Badu. Though the relationship between the two ended, “The Light” stands as a beautiful moment in their romance.
1. I Used To Love H.E.R.
There is no other song to characterize hip-hop the way “I Used To Love H.E.R.” did. Common used a stellar No I.D. sampling of a George Benson track to give a narrative of how he saw hip-hop change since its beginning. While everyone appreciated the song, Ice Cube and other West Coast rappers weren’t amused at Common’s depiction of hip-hop once it hit their coast. Despite lyrics saying, “I wasn’t salty she was hanging with those boys in the hood,” Ice Cube and Westside Connection dissed the conscious MC. After Common dropped “The B***h In Yoo,” his pen went unchallenged. That is, until the whole “Canada Dry” situation came about.