Sunday, August 26, 2007

Finding Forever

I grew up on what was once called “conscious rap” — acts such as De La Soul, Public Enemy and A Tribe Called Quest who brought a more intellectual and creative side to a genre dominated by good times and gangsta leans. There’s not much left of this sub-genre, but thankfully we’ve still got the great (and don’t he know it) Kanye West and his buddy Common holding the conscious rap flag.
     Or should I say “conscious n****ah,” as Common calls himself on Finding Forever, his latest chart-topper and second CD to be produced by Kanye. And despite Common’s use of the n-word, this is about as far removed from 50 Cent and any of the Lil’ Crunk all-stars as they come. In fact, you might call this a soul record, replete with mid-tempo R&B samples, silky synth vibes, and cameos from soul star D’Angelo and even Nina Simone (posthumously, of course, on standout track “Misunderstood”).
     Common’s previous record Be was a revelation, surprising critics with its potent mix of brains and beats. And that voice! Clearly the best in rap — smooth and strong at the same time. But while some might complain Finding Forever has a few too many songs about love (at least one too many for me), I’ll forever be in the corner of the rapper who has the guts to bring out the topic in the first place. The album even ends with Common’s own Dad going script-less, talking, just talking about finding common good in this world. Amen to that. B+
Southside (w/Kanye West) (mp3)
Misunderstood (mp3)

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