With Resurrection, Common began his run as a lyricist who could deftly move from one topic to the next while retaining what has helped him remain poignant today: his soul. Sure, you can prattle on about how he has written some of the best hip-hop songs ever, namely “I Used to Love H.E.R.”. And you can mention that he had one hell of a run of albums with Resurrection, One Day It’ll All Make Sense, and Like Water For Chocolate.
But what makes Com’s music resonate is the soul breathing through every track he releases. That is, of course, not to say that his track record is flawless. This is the same cat who dropped a weirdo-coaster, Electric Circus, and one of the most blatant and terrible sex-rap albums of all time, Universal Mind Control. Yet as dud-ridden as those records were, at least EC had some relevant, still-listenable moments like Pharrell’s remix of “Come Closer”. The same obviously can’t be said about UMC, but … yeah.
As frustrating as those projects were, they were important steps in Com’s process as an MC. He can’t just churn out albums like Be, Like Water for Chocolate, or even The Dreamer/The Believer every time he hits the studio. It’s become apparent that he enjoys challenging himself and entering new musical spaces, even if it means him falling flat on his face. But it’s that failure that in turn allows him to adapt and make some of the best music of his career. Remember: We couldn’t have the modern classic that is Be without Electric Circus. Just think what could have happened if that album succeeded: Com’s still be rockin’ colorful clothes and hats like it was 2002. Oh wait, he still does.
But a piece on his fashion this is not.
Let me break down Com’s evolution in the cleanest way possible:
- 1992 Can I Borrow A Dollar – Squeaky, awkward, and ultimately gifted MC
- 1994 Resurrection – Fully realized artist with a wealth of knowledge, concepts, and content
- 1997 One Day It’ll All Make Sense – Deeper blend of street/socially conscious writer
- 2000 Like Water for Chocolate – An artist at his peak, save a few cringe-worthy homophobic rhymes
- 2002 Electric Circus – The curse of Erykah Badu strikes
- 2005 Be – An artist completely revitalized, hungry, and confident
- 2007 Finding Forever – Com treads similar, all-too-comfortable territory
- 2008 Universal Mind Control – A headfirst dive into the abyss
- 2011 The Dreamer/The Believer – Short of Be, it’s his return to glory
So where will Common head next? Well, as you can tell from the above list, no one really knows. What we do know is that he’s working with No I.D. and, hopefully, Kanye West on his follow-up to The Dreamer/The Believer. Said album is reportedly due out in January, but we’re doubtful considering we haven’t heard anything a single dropping soon. Maybe we’ll be surprised in the next month or so, but color me doubtful about hearing a new record so soon.
That being said, I’m nothing short of confident about the fact that I—and you, I’m sure—will purchase the album, keep it on repeat all day, and have nothing else to talk about for at least a week’s time. And who knows, maybe he’s got another Like Water for Chocolate up his sleeve.
Happy 20th, Can I Borrow A Dollar?, we love you.