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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Common Finding Forever Review

Few have a discography that rivals Lonnie Lynn’s (Common). Given his incessant consistency, sheer ingenuity, unfathomable depth and sharp lyricism, you have to mention Common’s name when you’re having the discussion of who’s the greatest emcee of all time. His status was further solidified by his sixth album, Be, that was hailed by many as a classic. Coming off of critical and commercial success Common intends to etch his name in history books eternally with his seventh lp, Finding Forever

It’s hard to not get excited about the possibility of a classic based upon Common’s lead singles, “The People” and “The Game” but the true tale of the album is botched attempts like upcoming single “Drivin’ Me Wild” featuring UK pop sensation, Lily Allen. Kanye West adeptly handles the production with a Rotary Connection sample, repetitive key strokes, and a familiar drum pattern but, lyrically, Common slips up with lackadaisical lines like:

she was the type to watch Oprah and the Today Show/be on the treadmill [uh] like okay, go/had a body, had a body that you can’t pay for/that means she has D’s on her but they wasn’t fake though” and “[he] wanted to be Mike but he was never live in sports/since golf was in, he was on the driving course/to live the rap life, is was what he was striving for/spending cash at the bar to get credit/drinking Chandon just because Big said it/they say Ye is, but dude is big-headed/rock a fur in the summer…so somebody would pet it.”

The track is seemingly about trying too hard to be something you’re not but comes off as vague, unfocused and unclear as Com concludes with the sweeping statement of “love is not a mystery/it’s everything.” In substitute of compellingly threading the three verses together, he instead settles on capping it off with a broad all encompassing statement—a weakness Common has displayed before. “Break My Heart” is another lyrically unfulfilling track that overly simplifies and comes off as complacent effort by a usually lyric-driven, Common. He lead his first verse off with “it was a dream day/met her on Spring Break/look like the type that be like no habla ingles/she said you look like you rap, where’s your bling-ay/and your clothes are tight but you don’t seem gay/I said naw that’s dude from N-Sync-ay/she wasn’t married, kept a ring on her pink-ay/she said you know I don’t be dating rappers/I said I got my Sag card, baby I’m an actor” (hook commences). On “I Want You,” one of the few tracks that is not produced by Ye, (prod. by we find Common ruminating on lost love but never really going beyond the surface tying together strings of trite clichés and nuances and an uncommon (no pun intended) pop reference to Jennifer Aniston and Vince Vaughn’s break-up.

Finding Forever does illustrate the insightful, introspective Common that garnered his core audience on tracks like “Black Maybe” featuring soul singer, Bilal. On said track, Common dually throws a nod to legend, Stevie Wonder, and explores the difficult topic of people of color coping with obstacles because of their color; not just from other nationalities but also from their own people. He does so accessing a narrative of a gifted athlete who briefly transcended the perils of the street using his athleticism on the basketball court, but is tragically shot down by the same peers who used to have his back to illustrate this paradox. On “Misunderstood,” Com brings the poignant pen game rhyming passionately with unabridged and unabashed truth about people doing what they have to do to survive in the ghetto. The album concludes on an emotive note with this final verse:

ashes and snow falls/I wonder when the role call/…for Heaven gon’ come/ forever gon’ come/it’s a cold world/I can never go numb/look fear in the eyes/say I’m never gon’ run/sooner then later, I know the cheddar gon’ come/for now I write the world letters to better the young/on tree by jewelry, together we hung/now we let our chains hang and gangbang to maintain/Afghanistan going through the same thang/it’s trickles down at each other we aim…/I shoot for the stars, peace and exclusive cars/through the ride I’ve learned to earn hard/watch gangstas turn God in the midst of war/no matter how much I elevate I kiss the floor/it was in the wind when she said Dilla was gone/it was then when I knew we live forever through song.

Finding Forever falls far from being presented with classic status because of its lyrical shortcomings and because the album never really finds a comfortable groove—half producer, half emcee. Between out of place pop references, lazy and uncharacteristic punchlines and for lack of better words uninspired verses it’s hard to imagine that this is the follow-up to arguable classic, Be. For every touching song that reminds me of why I love listening to Common (“Black Maybe,” “Misunderstood” and “Forever Begins), there’s a track that leaves me dumbfounded asking what happened to the hungry, thoughtful lyricist I used to know (“Break My Heart,” “I Want You” and “Drivin’ Me Wild”). Common’s album towers over most albums that have come out this year which is no surprise to anyone who’s familiar with his work and his ability. But as far as ranking amongst his own work and albums of his progressive peers, Finding Forever, is easily forgettable.


Anonymous said...

Keith said...

Burnett, this Karnage..I understand your disappointment for "Finding Forever", still at the same time I feel that you only mentioned three songs that you dont like, and I believe that if you have 60% of ur album being REALLY GOOD to classic thats a pretty damn good album.

J. Burnett said...

i thought "southside" was grating on the ears, the intro is an instrumental, "start the show" is not bad, "the people" and "the game" are dope. "so far to go" is wack. my biggest issue that i'm having is that not only did Com regress as far as lyrics, he really didn't go any further, creatively (subject wise) then he went before. the stripper cliche, the ghetto inhabitant archetype...these aren't new narratives for Com. it's rehashed material packaged with a new beat.

Anonymous said...

I agree that the subject matter isn't anything new. But I think the songs that the good songs are REALLY good. This is far from a classic but as far as staying with the consistency you expect from a Common album, I think it stays in line. For some reason I'm really feeling Start The Show, I like the slow paced beat and Common does rip it up "Young who? aw, he the openin act".
And I don't understand how you can say So Far To Go is wack, that song has an incredible beat. I haven't heard the new version with the new lyrics but based on the beat alone I could listen to that song all day

Soulja23 said...

I liked this album alot,
"start the show" is a nice song
along with "forever begins" and with Lily Allen on it i dont really see it as a negative i think her voice is sexy with the accent hahaha
he shoulda cut some songs and replaced them with others butim def gonna buy this one from the stores