Tuesday, August 21, 2007

i'd rather find nemo




All emcees have a shelf life. And as I sit here in my new, weapon of (orthopedic) change Converse and (a love, peace and) Gap hoodie sipping on iced chai (apparently you can cop the soon to be mentioned disc at Starbucks) with a Coke chaser (let's make it really real), I've come to the conclusion that Common's latest effort, Finding Forever, inspires the same feelings I had when I realized the "cheese" in Kraft's Hamburger Helper couldn't possibly be cheese if one could store that shit on a shelf for months. Unfortunately, you can't, like, add water (for chocolate) and make his new album digestible if your palate has been trained to expect something a bit more, um, delicious.

In recent years, Common has become a stereotype, a cliche, a metonym for "conscious rapper." And the artist formerly known as Sense has solidified his position as Zeus of that Mount Olympus with FF. With this effort, he's officially a soft of rock rapper, if you will. Call him MC Christopher Cross (don't get it twisted, I fucks with Christopher Cross), for FF is a sort of middle of the road effort, hardly a revolution on wax, let alone a vinyl Fountain of Youth.

Not that Common has to actually be revolutionary. That part of his act easily likens itself to Mo'Nique's fat girl schtick. And Common is about as convincing when he speaks to "The People," as Mo'Nique is believable when she claims to love all her curves. Common's disingenuousness is immediately evident when he rhymes, "My daughter found Nemo/I found the new Premo." Any hip hop lover worth her salt ('n' pepa) knows that Mr. West is a lot of things, but DJ Premier Jr. he is not. "The People"--the track on which Common spits this lyric-- sounds nothing at all like Premo. In fact, the only Premo track that sounds like a Premo track is the only Premo track on the album. Common, then, must be crossing his fingers when he repeats that line at the beginning of each verse, just as he had to have been when he "admitted" that Kanye beat him in a freestyle. Not that he'd need luck. That cat can sell lynch ropes to the Klan and go unscathed.

In fact, what FF really does is provide more evidence that Common's been just receiving a hall pass from folks for quite a while. FF lacks a believable facade of earnestness that his previous efforts (Be) have had. The album is more crafted than his goatee. Song about with mildly cryptic references to Chicago? Check. Kanye joint? Got it. Anthem for the still abstract people that also cashes in on the cultural capital of black revolution? In the bag. Love joint that reassures my black queen she don't ever have to worry about being done wrong by a buttery-ass nigga like me? A few of those. That, in tandem with rather below Common standard lyrics causes FF to evoke nothing but hip hop ennui. Minus the non-sensical commentary at the end of the song, "U Black Maybe," is probably the most compelling original track on the album. You might as well listen to "So Far to Go," on The Shining.

Admittedly, Common is better than most of the "emcees" out there. And resting on those laurels has seemingly inspired some rather unsatisfactory output from hip hop's Michael Bolton. Common is so much better than this. Though it's entirely possible to rap about the same shit ad nauseum and still sound dope as fuck (Lil Wayne), maybe new subject matter is in order. If not, Common may no longer stand for everyman, but pithily describe the caliber of his musical output.

(Something told me not to buy this album, but out of loyalty I did. I'd wavered back and forth about this decision Common can no longer be (one of) my favorite emcees. Eh. Knowing is beautiful.)

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language alone protects us from the scariness of things with no names. language alone is meditation. ~toni morrison

4 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The same can be said about your blog (snatching the hall pass out of the left pocket of your hoodie--in a state of shock and embarrassment, you spill a bit of your chai on the floor).

You claim to be this conscious, black/lesbian blogger who supposedly holds the number one spot in terms of fans/hits per day. In fact, you believe yourself to be so high and mighty above the masses that you almost always take on the privileged and arrogant attitude of sarcasm regarding every issue that you write about. Is this really a sign of your elevated status, or are these simply the writings of someone who is trapped in sarcasm, and incapable of being serious? The people should know the truth---

knowing IS beautiful.

22/8/07 12:13  
Blogger summer m. said...

(assuming that you're not spook's ass)

alas, anon, you've outed me. then again, i'd never seriously claim to be conscious. but just for clarity, what is black-slash-lesbian? is that like an either or thing?

anyway, you're right. i am trapped in sarcasm--seriously.

please note: i am absolutely careful when sipping my chai; i'd never let it spill in the hallway.

keep telling people the truth about me. sounds like you know me better than my mama.

see you in detention.

(by the way, when i called common christopher cross, i meant that shit.)

22/8/07 13:13  
Blogger Hollambeeee said...

! summer, this was great!...i mean, i listened to FF and i knew i wasn't gonna buy it...i guess i know why, now...

23/8/07 18:23  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I thought I was the only one who didn't understand that inane muttering Pops was doing at the end of "U Black Maybe." Shit like that is why I hate spoken word..

-erin

27/8/07 18:00  

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