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Common 'Black America Again' review

Joe Dexter magnifies the message communicated on 'Black America Again' featuring Stevie Wonder.

Ben Smith

Date published: 8th Nov 2016

Image: Common

When you think of hip hop pioneers your mind will immediately jump to such icons as Tupac, Biggie or Jay Z, but one name that is often overlooked is Common.

The Chicago born rapper has been a prolific figure in the genre for over 20 years, with frequent collaborations along the way including Kanye West, No I.D., Bilal and the late J Dilla whom he lived with for several years. Bearing his musical longevity in mind, Black America Again is with no doubt one of Common's best.

The album opens with ‘Joy and Peace’ cut under an exert from a preacher, before Common verses his own religious beliefs. ‘Home’ follows suit with another pious sample, this time provided by Minister Louis Farrakhan and the rich soulful vocal of Bilal in the chorus.

High impacting drums and prominent horns nod to some of his earlier work with the likes of Dilla and Kanye. Here we see him cementing his position as one of rap’s elite as he goes on to remind people of his previous hand in films and as an avid political activist.

Common has always been a voice of the people, whether that’s appearing at political rallies for the Black Lives Matter movement or reflecting on the troubles of modern day Chicago on previous record Nobody’s Smiling. This is reflected in the following title track ‘Black America Again’. 

Piano keys provided by Stevie Wonder soon make way for a jazz-infused beat which has always been synonymous of the Chicago rapper. Touching on the recent deaths of black Americans, the track helps shine a light on a very serious issue troubling America with Common calling for justice to be brought for those affected by these harrowing crimes.

‘Red Wine’ however provides a relaxing change of pace with The Internet’s Syd tha Kyd providing her soothing vocals to the mellow beat. Common still focuses on the injustices to African Americans but also touches on relationships, before the track winds down with a soulful verse from 20-year-old singer Elena Pinderhughes

Another standout and long-time collaborator is John Legend who provides his warm vocal and piano skills in ‘Rain’. Legend takes the forefront as Common looks back on his journey to what has made him the artist he is today.

Throughout the album Common not only touches on political issues, he also mentions the new wave of younger rappers who may not appreciate music released before their time. Through the intricate lyrics in ‘Pyramids’ he references such artists as Biggie Smalls, Public Enemy and includes samples from Wu-Tang’s own Ol’ Dirty Bastard.

Black America Again is certainly one for the older Common fans as he reverts back to jazz and soul beats with inputs from some familiar faces. He stays true to form with clever lyrics surrounding the clear message throughout, which centres around police brutality and inequality.

Despite the cunning wordplay, the messages he relays are what matters most and Common should take great pride in using his platform to spread the message to combat injustice against black Americans.

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