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Discography Check: Common



Hailing from Chicago, Common has built up a legacy over the last 20 plus years in hip hop, solidifying himself as a legend. Arriving on the scene officially in 1992 as Common Sense, he has released 10 albums in those 23 years and he might be in the running for having the best discography in hip hop. Let's take a look, shall we?

*Can I Borrow A Dollar 


-His 1992 debut album, produced mostly by Twilite Tone and No I.D., is a far cry from the Common we know now, and that's a good thing. Shortly after Common Sense was featured on the "Unsigned Hype" section of The Source magazine, he was signed to Relativity Records and began preparing this album for release. This album features Common at his most raw essentially, which is good and bad. Lyrically, he was solid here, while the production was gutter. This album gets a fair share of criticism, but when not compared to his other albums, it stands alone just fine. Far from a classic, far from wack, Common Sense hit us with a look into the mind of a brother growing up in Chicago, sipping brew, and trying to survive. Listening to it again after hearing his most recent music displays what most artists should strive for: growth. Take a listen to "Heidi Hoe", then listen to "The Light" or "Love Is" from his older albums. This album represents the humble beginning and the start of a 23 year journey.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10
Standout Songs: Heidi Hoe, Soul By The Pound, Breaker 1/9, Blows To The Temple

*Resurrection



-Common's sophomore album, which is widely considered a classic, was the beginning of Common's growth as an artist, and perhaps as a person. Released in the fall of 1994, "Resurrection" established Common as a true force to be reckoned with. Powered by the single "I Used To Love H.E.R.", which is an iconic song, the album gained a bit of notoriety on initial release, buzzing through the underground. The boom bap jazzy production by No I.D., is flawless throughout the duration, with songs such as "Orange Pineapple Juice", "Sum Shit I Wrote", and the aforementioned "I Used To Love H.E.R." standing out heavily because of that. Common went in to make a more mature album than his first, and the evolution of the man formerly known as Common Sense was officially underway with this album.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10
Standout Songs: I Used To Love H.E.R., Resurrection, Orange Pineapple Juice, Book Of Life, Maintaining

*One Day It'll All Make Sense


-Three years after releasing "Resurrection", Com returned with his third album, which would end up being his last album having No I.D. production for over a decade. This album was postponed for a while, because Com was being a father and took time off from recording to rightfully focus on that. This album seems almost like Common giving us that hip hop shit we came to love from him while soul searching. This soul searching seemed apparent on songs such as "Retrospect For Life" featuring the one and only Lauryn Hill, "G.O.D.(Gaining One's Definition)", and "Reminding Me(Of Sef)". Common's music started to take a bit more of a conscious(hate this term, but it applies) turn around this album, and his lyrics became more introspective. This album features a number of guest appearances, with Black Thought, De La Soul, Cee-Lo, Lauryn, Canibus, Q-Tip, and even Erykah Badu, who would play a part and role in his next few albums actually seemingly. This album is on the same level as "Resurrection" overall, and possibly could be better, yet seems to get overlooked when talking Common's best, perhaps a testament to the greatness of his discography.

Rating: 8 out of 10
Standout Songs: Invocation, Hungry, All Night Long, Retrospect For Life, Making A Name For Ourselves, Food For Funk

*Like Water For Chocolate


-This album is essentially my personal favorite Common album. He stepped out from his previous comfort zone of No I.D. production, working with the Soulquarians mostly for this one. Released in the spring of 2000, Common took his evolution a bit further as an artist, seemingly embracing a more purist/conscious approach lyrically and continuing his soul searching from the last project. This album is full of smooth, sometimes funky and soul production, with an overall message of elevation, betterment, and uplifting. Common recorded most of this album in Electric Lady Studios, in New York, which may have also influenced the sound and direction. He reached out to the iconic DJ Premier for the first single, the Bilal assisted "The 6th Sense" as well, adding an element of that classic boom bap into his new direction musically. I literally cannot pick out a bad song here or even a song I skip on here. This album is a pure classic and can be considered Common's best, or at the very least, his 2nd best. Check the guest appearances by Bilal during the album as he plays a great costar in this journey for Common.

Rating: 10 out of 10
Standout Songs: The Questions, A Film Called (PIMP), Nag Champa(Afrodisiac For The World), Funky For You, The Light, Thelonious, A Song For Assata

*Electric Circus


-I know what you are thinking. This is where it all went wrong right? Not at all. This album was very slept on, mainly because it wasn't what the fans wanted Common to do next. He worked with the Soulquarians again, but also reached out to The Neptunes on production, which spawned the hit "Come Close" that featured Mary J. Blige. That song itself is a bit corny, however, the rest of the album showcases Common just looking to continue his evolution and try something different. Released in the winter of 2002, "Electric Circus" featured elements of hip hop, neo-soul, rock and funk, some of which worked, while others didn't. It is not one of Common's best, but as a whole, the album is still solid with only a few missteps, oddly enough, the majority of them being on The Neptunes production. Common and The Neptunes didn't seem to mesh much here, and we would find out later on in his career that some things don't change(wait for it). Overall a solid album, just a bit too ambitious.

Rating: 6 out of 10
Standout Songs: Between Me You and Liberation, Star 69(PS with Love, The Hustle, Heaven Somewhere, Aquarius

*BE


-If "Electric Circus" is where Common lost a bit of the people, BE is where he brought them back, along with even more fans. After inking a deal with G.O.O.D Music and Geffen Records, Common went in the studio with Kanye West on production and created what is widely considered Common's best album and with great reason. Common simplified his outside the box ambitions musically and created an album of anthems, boom bap greatness, along with the introspective lyricism we had grown to love and expect from him. At only 11 songs, the album is short but sweet. There is no filler. There are no bad songs. This album is about as perfect as a hip hop album can get. This is my 2nd overall favorite album from Common, and honestly, depending on the day, this might be number 1. Choosing between this album and "Like Water For Chocolate" is almost impossible, as both are flawless. In addition to Kanye on production, Common gets J. Dilla/Jay Dee on two tracks, keeping that Soulquarians link alive, along with two appearances by Bilal and John Legend(the end of "Faithful" is forever greatness). He also created one of the best album intros. It was safe to say, Common was back.

Rating: 10 out of 10
Standout Songs: The Corner, Faithful, Testify, Love Is, Real People, They Say, It's Your World

*Finding Forever


-A lot of people have said this album might be better than "BE". It is not. Honestly, Finding Forever is more like a sequel to "BE" than anything else, as Kanye once again handles the bulk of production and most of the central themes on "BE" are revisited here. Keeping with the shorter length, "Finding Forever" clocks in at 12 songs. My only gripe of the album is that it lacks the cohesion that made "BE" a true classic. The beats are a bit more drum heavy here, as the tracks carry an intensity. There aren't many skippable tracks here, as Common glides through the production on songs like "The People", "Misunderstood", "U, Black Maybe" and others. A very solid album here, as Kanye and Common prove they can continue that great chemistry. Common, up to this point, had built up a great catalog, with all solid to classic albums. Common didn't seem able to make a bad album...... That would change with the next one.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10
Standout Songs: The People, Forever Begins, U Black Maybe, Break My Heart, Start The Show

*Universal Mind Control


-I have no idea what motivated Common to make this album at all. He worked with Pharrell on this album, and as I stated before, the Neptunes and Common really don't have great chemistry with songs. Here, the album feels lifeless, the production is more party centric and while that could have worked well, it just didn't mesh here. The difference between this album and "Electric Circus" was that Common stretched his creativity on there, but here he essentially created his most lifeless album. There are some great songs here, but overall this is not a good addition to his catalog. Revisiting this album, I found myself liking a song or two more than my initial listens years ago, but there isn't much to rave about. The only true misstep in his catalog.

Rating: 4.5 out of 10
Standout Songs: Make My Day, Changes, Inhale

*The Dreamer, The Believer


-This 2011 album was released three years exactly after "U.M.C.", with Common almost in the same predicament he found himself in after "Electric Circus", perhaps with even more to prove. This was Common's return to more raw music and lyricism, as seen on "Sweet" and "Ghetto Dreams" which featured Nas. He also reunited with No I.D. on this album, as No I.D. produces all the songs here. Common had no Kanye or Pharrell produced tracks, in essence he truly went back to his roots here. This album is very cohesive, and while slightly overlooked, this is a great album. The aggression that was missing from almost every Common album after the 90s and the introspection of his album in the 2000s combined for his first album in the 2010s. I'd say this album is in his top 5, as it is still an almost flawless listen, even on my revisit of it. Greatness, for certain.

Rating: 8 out of 10
Standout Songs: Lovin' I Lost, Windows, The Dreamer, Sweet, Ghetto Dreams, Celebrate

*Nobody's Smiling 


-This 2014 album was a concept album essentially highlighting the issues that are going on in Chicago. The production was handled here again by No I.D., and guest appearances were a bit different than usual, as he worked with some Chicago artists, Vince Staples, Big Sean and even Jhene Aiko. While this album has some great songs, it lacks something and doesn't captivate like some of Com's previous projects. Overall, this is a pretty good album, just lacks something to put it next to the elite.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10
Standout Songs: Rewind, Kingdom, No Fear, The Neighborhood

With a very solid catalog here, Common without a doubt holds a top spot when talking albums. With up to a possible 4(maybe 5) classics, he is in elite company.

-True

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