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DAR Classic Hip Hop: Common's Resurrection

By @CherchezLaPorsh




Tracklist
1. Resurrection 
2. I Used To Love H.E.R. 
3. Watermelon 
4. Book of Life 
5. In My Own World (Check The Method)
6. Another Wasted Night With....
7. Nuthin To Do
8. Communism 
9. WMOE
10. Thisisme
11. Orange Pineapple Juice 
12. Chapter 13 (Rich Man Vs Poor Man)
13. Maintaining 
14. Sum Shit I Wrote
15. Pop's Rap

Southside Chicago, Calumet Heights to be exact, is where a young Lonnie Rashid Lynn Jr. would spend his childhood. By the time he was in his teens, he got a job with the Chicago Bulls through his father and went on to attend Florida A&M University for two years. Somewhere along the way, Lonnie Jr. would dabble in the underground hip hop scene much like many other artists at the time (I have this theory that underground hip hop was and is filled with diamonds in human form). He would adopt the name Common Sense, but as all fans know, he was forced to change it as a result of copyright issues and became who we now know as Common. Interestingly enough, there is nothing “common” about him. Since his humble beginnings, Common has been an elevated, forward, intellectual thinker and rapper. I know, hip hop has had several of those in our time, but what differentiates Common from the others is his smooth, balanced, level-headed and soft spoken yet firm approach, nothing abrasive but always mentally stimulating. His lyrics are laced with puns, double entendres, positivity and reality checks. His beats are always complimentary and infused with jazz, soul and my favorite thing, Common’s own thoughts and insight!

What I’ve learned about artists like Common is they don’t stay hidden (underground) for long. Their wisdom, talent, artistry and craft need to be shared and heard by the masses. That’s what happened in 1994 when he released his sophomore album “Resurrection”, which is filled with his heavy lyrical flow, amazing wordplay and familiar jazz infused beats. Common gave mainstream hip hop a definite classic. From album title, to tracklist organization, to each and every verse, this 15 track masterpiece (interludes included) is a must for every hip hop fan. With heavy usage of samples and fantastic production, he divided the album into two "parts" with the East Side of Stony and the West Side of Stony, which is in reference to a street on the southside of Chicago where he grew up! Brilliant. I won't get too into some of these songs, so let's just start with a stroll through the East Side of Stony (tracks 1-7), shall we?


The first track and a great way to start off is the title track "Resurrection". Now if this was anyone else I may have skipped over it, but with Common, it's laced with meaning. This is essentially the track of rebirth, reinvention and re-establishing self, and through clever wordplay and perfectly woven lyrics it becomes clear. What I have to point out is, the double entendres and wordplay he's known for, take a look:

"They tried to hold my soul in a holding cell so I would sell/
I bonded with a break and had enough to make bail/
A misdemeanor/Mr. Meaner fell on his knee for the jury "

"They relinquished Sense, cause I was guilty in a sense"

This is just a couple of examples, but impressive nevertheless. Just take the Mr. Meaner/misdemeanor bar for example and the reference to his once used moniker common sense as well as "in a sense/innocence" and this is essentially speaking to the commercial side of the rap industry and he manages to say this all in such a sneaky way. I appreciate the intricacies immensely because like art, this too is left to interpretation.



The second track is also one of my most favorite songs in the entirety of hip hop. "I Used To Love H.E.R" is very special, and although this would be the track which would cause a beef between Common and Ice Cube, it's phenomenal. In all honesty, it's this song that drew me to the album. I can probably write an entire book on the depth and intricacies of this track alone, but I'll keep it short. As every fan knows, this is a song about hip hop and the decline of its purity addressed metaphorically as "a lover". THAT in and of itself is brilliant. From the opening line of "I met this girl when I was 10 years old, and what I loved most is she had so much soul" to the very last line it's perfect. When Common was 10 yrs old (1982), GrandMaster Flash had a single out called "The Message" and Afrika Bambaataa had one out called "Planet Rock". Both of these were iconic songs and the truest form of "revolutionary", albeit in their own way. They both incorporated soulful beats as well, which makes Common's lyric that much more amazing.  Although I expect this level of intellectual references from Common, I'm left in awe. Every line and every comparison is accurate and timeless. He captured the evolution of hip hop in a way that will make this track applicable in every year, every era and every decade. Common is an absolute genius.


Next up we've got the track "Watermelon" which is Common displaying his rhyming and wordplay in a more fun way. Is there a ton of meaning? Yes, there always is with him, but this (IMO) is simply a showcase of abilities while maintaining a brilliant level of intellect. He achieved this. Flawlessly. I'll leave you with the opening few lines as an example:

"I express like an interstate/
Hyper when I ventilate/
My rap pieces penetrate/
And infiltrate your mental state/
Just to reiterate that I innovate/"

The fourth track and our approach to the end of the "East Side" is "Book Of Life", which is a very honest, insightful and vulnerable track. Lines like the following speak to that:

"I funnel through the tunnel/
Disgruntled, tryin' to find me some light/
In the rim of darkness"

No I.D. is the producer of this album and he does a phenomenal job. The use of "Everybody Loves The Sunshine" creates the irony which we see throughout the song. Another great track.

It was a good time to mention No I.D because he appears on the next song as a featured MC. "In My Own World" is much like all the other tracks, as this is filled with samples and infused with soul and jazz. I love everything about these two and them collaborating. No I.D. has a similar flow to Common's so it works and maintains the continuity. I love this one.

Just before the end of the East Side segment, we hear a minute long interlude of Common's buddy leaving him a phone message. This is fun and although it's almost out of place, it serves to remind us that Common isn't this perfect level headed guy, but rather quite human and real. This interlude is much appreciated and very Chicago-like (in Common's own words) and immediately after that we have the last track on the East before we get into the West. He leaves us with "Nuthin' to Do", and it's this track that solidifies why the album title is so significant. This track is essentially the rundown of how Common once was, as he reminisces only to show how different his mindset is now.  Here is a quick example:

"We use to hoop in my yard but now I dribble the rhyme/
It's like rain drops/ 
Couldn't make our game stop/"

"I like the music anyways and it was always hoes there, was said to have the best chicks/ 
But mostly High Park and V hoes, iss who I mess with/
The best shit/
Was troopin' to the loop"

You get the point! Now we are midway through the album and the part Common labeled as the "West Side of Stony" (tracks 8-15) kicks off with "Communism" and the title is dope for several reasons. I love the play on his own name as this is a precursor to what to expect. Now keep in mind, this album dropped in '94 so Reasonable Doubt hadn't dropped yet, but "22 Two's" would be a result of this. Common laces this track with words that start with or have "Com" in it. What sets this apart from the others is that it never loses its intellectual elevated thought provoking touch. Once again (and I can't say this enough), Common is a genius and his complexities are unmatched. Here take a look:

"And Com is on a mission not to work for commission/
It's a common market and it's so much competition/
But to me, competition is none/
To my comp I'm a ton/ 
I get amped like Watts in a riot"

He even incorporates Watts and Compton! Next is another short interlude, "WMOE", which is essentially done in a radio show way. It has some Muhammad Ali references which is always nice too!


After that we have "Thisisme" which I absolutely love! No I.D. uses a Boogie Down Productions sample as well as a Paul McCartney one, which is thoroughly appreciated! The laid back approach and the ATCQ approach to rapping creates some variation. What maintains its coherence and relevance is in the lyrics. His flow is dizzying and the depth unmatched. Common outdid himself on this one and he did this effortlessly. Once again, I leave you with my favorite example:

"I'm good to go and also I'm Rets...
Rhymes I wrecks affects/ 
The roughnecks/
Down to the preps in the Polos/ The Studs with Fros/
Hoes with weave, the bald-headed to the dreaded/
To folks with butters, high rollers in rollers"

Once again I'm amazed. Track eleven is "Pineapple Orange Juice", which is similar to the  track "Watermelon" which we heard a little while ago. Once again in the same vein, it serves to showcase his rhyming and lyrical abilities which we know are amazing.

Let me get to another one of my favorites, "Chapter 13 (Rich man Vs. Poor Man)" and this one is a bit different because we have Ynot as a featured MC and producer. What I love most about this is easy.... the references!! They both drop some gems and incorporate the dopest references ever. Once again I'm in awe. Here's a few:

"I be the one they call Petey/
I'm Poe as Edgar Allen/
But I'm a poet when I'm freestyling/'"

"Call me E cause I equal MC squared, in the Biz, marks know I got the key to get the girl's noses open like the vapors"

Once again I am fascinated by the ability to incorporate all of this and make it sound so good and unified. Truly amazing.


Track 13 we have "Maintaining", which has a faster tempo and a more energetic beat. The piano loop is still in line with the jazzy soul, but definitely adds variation. Common's flow is also a bit faster to match which works. The references are still rampant and the wordplay is intact. This definitely adds to what makes this album a true masterpiece along with the next song "Sum Shit I Wrote". I love it already because as we've seen, if Common wrote it, it's going to be brilliant and this is. In true battle-rap form, he pretty much uses his lyrics to reference every other artist's work along with movies with the most intricate of word plays. There are references to Xscape, Redman, Basic Instinct, Poetic Justice, Jada Pinkett, Patra, LL....it's never ending.  Common definitely knew what he was good at and perfected it. No one can create puns and punchlines quite like him. Another mark of a genius.

This brings us to the last track of this album which is "Pop's Rap" and it's exactly what you'd expect given the title, which is Common's father using spoken word. He would use his father's voice often when closing out later albums as well. Fans would know to expect this and many love the personal touch. His father speaks while No I.D. drops a beat. I think this was a perfect way to end the album and of course if you listen and pay attention, there are some gems in this one too!

That concludes Common's sophomore project which would cement and solidify its ranks as a classic and Common as one of the most intellectual rappers of all time. Although there are a handful who are similar in hip hop and many will continue to emerge, none will ever be able to master the intricacies and complexities of punchlines, puns and double entendres with the ease and comfortability of Common.

He came to the mainstream to share positivity and intelligence and he did, in every one of his albums after his debut. "Resurrection" is a testament to that. Common is one of the few MC's who has maintained his excellent standard of content over the years even through the decline and changes of the genre. This masterpiece is a must have in every music library.

-Porsha 

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