How is that for timing? Today’s post is on Common’s sophomore effort, Resurrection, and his 12th studio album, Let Love comes out this Friday! Read this post and then go check out his new album this weekend.
Shortly after getting The Source‘s Unsigned Hype column feature, the Chicago born emcee Common would get a deal with Relativity Records and released his debut album Can I Borrow A Dollar? (read my thought on that album here) in 1992. The album didn’t move a ton of units, but a few of the album’s singles made a little noise, which was enough noise for Relativity to give him a follow up. Common would return at the end of 1994 with his second album, Resurrection.
On CIBAD the production duties were pretty much split between Twilite Tone and No ID (who went by the alias of Immenslope at the time), and collectively them dudes put their foot in it. For Resurrection, gone is Twilite Tone (which I’m still curious as to why), which left No ID at the helm to sculpt Resurrection, sonically (Common’s buddy Ynot gets a few production credits as well). Resurrection would go on to receive favorable reviews (largely due to the first single) from critics and fans alike, and in 1998 The Source would include it on their list of 100 Best Rap Album, even though they only gave it 3.5 mics upon its release. I can’t knock them for that. Sometimes we have to give music a little time to marinate before we can really appreciate it.
Because…time is illmatic.
Resurrection – Common kicks off the album with the title track which was also the album’s second single. No ID builds the instrumental around a jazzy piano loop, as Common displays his potent flow and wordplay that had clearly improved since CIBAD. Our host mixes clever punchlines (“I’m Nestle when it’s crunch-time, for your mind like one time, if poetry was pussy I’d be Sunshine, cause I deliver like the Sun-Times”) with insightful rhymes showing depth and maturity (“Proceed to read and not believin’ everything I’m readin’, but my brain was bleedin’, needin’ feedin'”), and he also gives a shout out to one of the finest BET personalities of all-time, Video LP’s Madelyne Woods (whom Phife first immortalized on a ATCQ’s classic, “Electric Relaxation” (Tribe Degrees of Separation: check), and even today, well in to her fifties, she still looks amazing). Extra P did a remix for this song (which along with the single mix had slightly different verses) which was also pretty dope. This is an underrated classic and arguably one of the greatest opening songs on a hip-hop album.
I Used To Love H.E.R. – No ID chops up an ill George Benson loop and Common brilliantly uses hip-hop as a metaphor for a woman he once loved, and with great detail he illustrates the path she took over the years to end up where she’s at now. I recently heard Common say in an interview that he wasn’t really dissin’ any artist on this song, but it definitely sounds like he was taking subtle shots at West Coast rappers and some of the East Coast groups he thought were gimmicks (“I see niggas slammin’ her and takin’ her to the sewer…i.e. Onyx and Das EFX). Regardless, this song did start the beef between Ice Cube and Common, which would inspire Common to write one of the most underrated dis records in the history of hip-hop (“The Bitch In Yoo”), bodying the once seemingly bullet proof, Ice Cube. Ironically, the two would patch things up and 20 plus years later Common would star alongside Cube in the Cube Vision produced movie Barbershop: The Next Cut (time is truly illmatic). This song is flawless from top to bottom (I absolutely love The Five Heartbeats snippet at the end of the song) and easily one of the top ten greatest hip-hop songs off all time (yeah, I said it!).
Watermelon – Our host sounds more like the CIBAD Common on this one, as he hits the listener with witty punchline after punchline. No ID lays down a bare back drum break and lays a deep bass line underneath it, as Common annihilates the damn thing with ease.
Book Of Like – A young Common’s pondering life and questioning his purpose on this one. No ID’s slightly somber backdrop serves as the perfect canvas for our host’s introspection.
In My Own World (Check The Method) – No ID not only produces this song but also shares the microphone with Common. Part of the hook and song title come from a portion of Extra P’s verse on ATCQ’s “Keep It Rollin” from the Midnight Marauders album (there’s a double dosage of Tribe Degrees of Separation for dat ass!). This is one of the few songs I skip on the album.
Another Wasted Nite With… – Common uses this hi-larious voicemail from one of his homies (or “cat daddy” uncles) to set up the next song…
Nuthin’ To Do – The final song on the “East Side of Stony” finds Common bored and idle, as he reminisces about his reckless days as a youth in the streets of Chicago. I love No ID’s jazzy instrumental and the clever ODB vocal sample.
Communism – Our host taps back into his creative juices and comes up with a clever song title and concept, as he strings together a verse full of words that begin with a “com” prefix (“Now Com could get the penny, but I want my own company, 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”). No ID’s warm backdrop suits Common’s communist verse, perfectly. My only issue with this one is its too short.
WMOE – Short interlude that sets up the next song.
Thisisme – Common uses this one to celebrate just being himself. No gangster, no criminal, just plain old Common. He also saves room to talk a little shit as well (“rappers are like jobs to me, because they get done”). No ID provides the feel good breezy backdrop for our host to freely and confidently walk in his own shoes and create a dope song.
Orange Pineapple Juice – More quality rhymes and dope production work, suitable for midnight marauding.
Chapter 13 (Rich Man Vs. Poor Man) – This is the first song of the evening that No ID didn’t produce, and the second song of the evening that I deem skippable. Ynot joins Common on the mic as they take turns spitting underwhelming freestyle rhymes over a boring Ynot produced instrumental. Next…
Maintaining – No ID quickly gets thing swinging back in the right direction with this dope instrumental that Common completely obliterates (“I’m as dope as PCP, MC’s see me, and they start having flashbacks, I don’t flash scratch, I gotta watch my back, nowadays blacks don’t know how to act, besides Larry Fishburne, Charles Dutton, and Wesley Snipes, marks wanna test me because I test mics, but I check ’em sound, and like Goose I’m down, plus I done got better since “Soul By The Pound””). This shit is dope.
Sum Shit I Wrote – This is one of my favorite songs on Resurrection. Ynot quickly redeems himself from the mediocrity that was “Chapter 13”, and lays down this bumpin’ mid-tempo groove. Common’s in a zone and raps his ass off on this one: “I don’t see nothin’ wrong with a little bump and grind, but there comes a time when you gotta come off that booty, the facts of life I didn’t learn from watchin’ Tootie, but livin’ in the big city, but I still like Tootie cause she got big titties…my style is steep, I rip rhymes on the incline, splat guts, bust fat nuts and lay up like a crip line…I’m slammin’ jammin’ on the one…I’m a bad man…you’re just a good son”. Brilliant.
Pop’s Rap – Common brings back the “Thisisme” instrumental for his Pop Dukes to get on the mic and get some shit off his chest. Poppa Common offering a few words of wisdom would become the traditional way for Common to end his next several albums. Sadly, his pop’s passed away a few years ago. He dedicated the song “Little Chicago Boy” (which Pops also appears on) from the Black America Again album to him.
Hip-hop has seen many artist go from wet behind the ears to fully grown adult, but rarely does a rapper’s catalog show their progression with each of their works. Common is one of the exceptions. Throughout his catalog his music has documented his maturity and growth as an emcee, and more importantly, as a man. The animated immature kid from Can I Borrow A Dollar? still appears from time to time throughout Resurrection, but you also see that same kid blossoming into a man with maturity and depth. But don’t get it twisted, he can still bust your shit on the mic. No ID provides a nearly flawless soundscape (props to Ynot for “Sum Shit I Wrote”) for Common’s brilliant metaphors, witty punchlines and potent battle raps, and despite a few hiccups, the duo collectively birth a great album. No sophomore slump for Common, cause as he so confidently states on “Maintaining”: I done got better since “Soul By The Pound”.