Tuesday, August 07, 2007

BrainMapping: Finding Forever

UPDATE: I originally decided to post this as a review. But now I've decided I prefer "brainmapping." I think we'll find in this era of information abundance, that the sensibility for reviews is too restricting. Both the artist and reader are more likely to benefit if, as opposed to a critical review, we map our brains for related thoughts and ideas that are stimulated by the book, cd, movie etc.

UPDATE: Whatever. It's about Finding Forever. just read...

The track-by-track review of Common's new album: Finding Forever.

: It's hard to mess up the intro. It is what it is. An intro could be horrible if slotted as the second or eighth track on an album, but when leading the set off, it’s all good. Even if he farts on the record you’re sort of like, “hmmm, where’s Common taking this?" (is farting on the track still regarded as the worst thing an artist can do? If not, it had a nice run.) This intro isn’t great, but I do like instrumentals. It may be counterintuitive for a wordy word-merchant like myself, but I think there's too much verbiage in hip hop. More music please. Oh, and speaking of celery sticks the intro music reminds me of the album cover. But unlike the intro, the cover sucks. I don't think its vomit, but I do wonder how it got through the pipeline. I mean there had to be a few people in the process saying, “no, not that one.” It’s way too forced and awkward. I think everything has a karmic spirit. Humans, dogs, fire hydrants. Record covers too. So when something has a measure of success in life – friend gets a new job, dog nets a new bone, hydrant gets a fresh coat of paint -- I always look for the reason. What’s the story behind how this hydrant earned this new glossy coat of paint? So I’m thinking this cover has done a lot of good deeds; maybe it was helping old ladies cross the street, or serving the homeless last thanksgiving. Or maybe it has AIDS and was dying in Africa, and through sheer force of will swam all the way to America. I don't know the particular details, but I know this cover had to overcome some obstacles. It is not smart, beautiful, with wonderfully grounded a-list celebrity parents. It was not "born to do it." It did not come from a long line of great covers. There is no Nevermind in its blood (yeah, I went for it. Nevermind is a great cover.) So anycom, yeah, the intro is fine as far as intros go ...

Start The Show: F'ing Kanye. Of course he's the first voice we're gonna hear on Common’s album. Here's my memo to Kanye: Waddup 'Ye. All respect due and all of that, but yo, you gotta fall back a little. Just do it as a challenge to yourself. Like, you can do anything you put your mind to, and we know this now. But you're teaching us to resent genius. Or at least you're making us realize it's not just about being talented, it's about being talented and human. You make it hard for us to embrace you. So since you can do anything, how about we see if you can be humble. After this Common album, and Graduation -- which is going to be a wonderful artistic achievement I'm sure -- you should just chill for a year where we don't hear nothing except, on occasion, "this track produced by 'ye." That would be the real hot-like-fire move for you right now. And then use the time wisely. Add even more depth to your ish. We know you have it. If you give us the silent treatment for a year or so, then come back with some next level ish, you're gonna be right where you want to be. The game will be over. You know it’s true. Backlash is part of the human condition, it’s an infinite resource. Don't fight me on this. -TAN ... so yeah, I'm a little annoyed Kanye is the first voice I hear on the album, but the song is solid.

The People: This is where the album kicks into gear. Hot beat, singing that is smooth enough to grow on you, and Common doing what he does best: rapping about how he raps for the people. Common starts every verse with the same riff, which is novel enough to give the vocal a little flavor. Within his conscious veneer, Common is one of the best at putting white people in their place giving us a different perspective on racial dynamics, "while white folk focus on dogs and yoga, my people on the low end trying to ball and get over." Demonstrating this awareness is unique to the "black artist" experience, and critical for success; you have to figure out how to jab at white mainstream america but still be likable. If you could pin Jay-Z's blowing up to one verse, it might be the second verse in IZZO(H.O.V.A.), when he started writing (or memorizing, whatever) "I do this for my culture ..." we were introduced to another level of awareness and intelligence which propelled him to another level of success. All artists deal with underground/artsy vs. popular/accessible, but for us it's a very racialized issue. Taking this to an extreme, a hip hop artist looking to breakthrough might be well advised to sacrifice a caucasian at one of their shows. Murder is a delicate issue to be sure, but if you did it in a smart/funny/creative/artistic fashion, and made sure the victim was some annoying useless hipster type who thinks its fun to pour gasoline on puppies and burn them, I think you could get through your set without a problem. Sacrifice ... it's for the people.

Black Maybe: At this point it's almost ten minutes into the album, and none of the songs have been particularly pointed about black consciousness, so you know Common is like, “‘Ye, my people is dying in the street every five minutes. I can't go any longer without doing some real soulful, black message ish to uplift them in the struggle.” And so: Black Maybe. These are the songs that distinguish Common's legacy from the other conscious b-boys; he has a wonderful poetic aesthetic when talking about black identity issues. Like Nas, he's more willing to go "out there" with the language. If others claim that "truthfully they want to rhyme like Common Sense," then Common truthfully wants to write like Amiri Baraka. This is also the song the blourgeoise will be bumping on Sunday while they Swiffer their cribs before walking the dog and head off to yoga. Bilal blesses the track, ... it's a shame he never blew up like he should. It might be because he's black ... maybe.

Southside: Love this. banger. all day. I've seen reviews killing Kanye for the repetitive synths, but I love it. Of course I'm someone who can literally listen to one song on repeat all day. I also think the pretty keys that play the bookends and run through the hooks do enough to balance it out. Common's third verse is the jewel here, and absolutely mauls the track. "Know when to use a bible, and when to use a rifle. You rap like you should be on the back of a motorcycle." That punch at the end is another quintessentially Common line. Kind of funny, kind of offensive ... I don't know, that formula just works in hip hop. Critics want to call it hypocrisy, but hypocrisy is the agent of genius. Hypocrisy promotes dome expansion. Or at the least, it allows us to be comfortable with our imperfection ... maybe.

Drivin' Me Wild: The album is officially in a good groove now as we hit Finding Forever's pop submission. Common has yet to make one of those anthemic fill-the-stadium pop songs, but until he does, songs like Go and this one will suffice. Lilly Allen fits the vibe. Everyone wants to lick her third nipple right now, but she’s not forced here at all. It works. Just a good song ... maybe.

Good Clothes: This is a Little Brother song, how did this get in here? Actually I stuck this in my Finding Forever playlist cause I love it so. Thinking about it, even though they come from the same non-gangster, rap-about-real-life school, this is a song I couldn't see coming from Common. I wonder how he feels about it.

So Far To Go: I swapped this out for the instrumental off The Shining. The beat is incredible. It's great music, but the song sucks. I think everyone gets uncomfortable when Common starts romancing the nubian queens on wax. Does he realize he's rapping like he should be on the back of a motorcycle? A lot of people liked The Light, but I don't know. When he gets in this zone, Common makes me feel like I'm watching the Ottoman Orgy video. He's the lyrical incarnation of black people writhing to bad r&b music. It feels a little indecent if I listen too long. Common also makes me feel like I won't truly be satisfied until I find a woman whose cooch burns smells like egyptian sandalwood incense.

Break My Heart: Please return to your seats and make sure they're in the locked and upright position, we are now preparing for our descent. This song is under review for continued inclusion in the playlist. It's definitely the weakest link. Also, have you heard that Common is acting now?

The Game: Saw the video before I heard the song. I liked the vid, but somehow it's a little disappointing to me in the context of the album. It's a solid freestyle joint, but something is off. Maybe Common doesn't have enough raw emotion to drive numerous freestyle joints anymore. For my money, these lyrics don't hit as hard as Southside.

Misunderstood: I really love the track and invoking of Nina Simone, they're both a little eerie and work together to set a mood. I don't know if the song/lyrical execution lives up though. Common doesn't go poetic like he does in Black Maybe, and I think the literal lyrics work against him here. But I could listen to Nina Simone all day, so it was hard to mess this one up.

Forever Begins: Common usually ends strong. Other emcees should be pissed because Common's father stays talking over some of the hottest tracks. Pops has a distinctive voice that evokes some sort of urban-Yoda sagacity, and I love that every album ends with him saying some wise ish. Others might think it's a little much, but they should grow up. Pops is hot (nullus), and the tradition is hotter.

Play Your Cards Right: The bonus track. And sounds like it too. Actually, this song is not bad at all, but I have little to say about it. Think I'm just winded cause it feels like I've been reviewing this album Forever.


  1. Anonymous8/07/2007

    IS it you in that first pic!?

  2. TAN, great effin' review, er, brainmapping. You killed it. For the people.

    Not bad meaning bad, but bad meaning good. There it is.

  3. I loved this one! BRAINMAPPING... awesome.. I have an affinity for Lonnie Rashid Lynn II (aka Common to u new booty) that transcends an appreciation for his art of storytelling or his contribution to consciousness... you have captured so much of what I was thinking when I heard some of those tracks... TAN.. you wrecked this.. I am a new fan of yours all over again! NEGRO-PHILIA (Black Love)...SPEAK EASY!...maybe.. ;)

  4. Anonymous8/08/2007

    loved the review and all that but you left out the track "i want you" and some of the tracks you did review were left out of the official album. just sayin..

  5. Anonymous8/10/2007

    thank you.


  6. First, co-sign "Good Clothes." People can front on Little Brother and call them corny or a little bland or whatever, but they usually make me laugh or think, and there aren't many acts like that. Phonte, in particular, is criminally overlooked. But hey, we can't all be Einstein-like brilliant Lil' Wayne, right?

    Second, awesome write up. I like all of the Common sense.

  7. I am with you on Kanye...I know I rolled my eyes the first time I listened to this CD...please sit down...we know you're hot...thanks.

    Poo...I liked break my heart


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