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Common (Sense) is a rapper/actor/artist/wellness expert who I personally believe acted as tennis superstar Serena Williams’ beard for some time and holds the dubious honour of managing to date Erykah Badu without siring a child. Since his humble beginnings as the first Chicago born and bred winner of The Source magazine’s ‘Unsigned Hype’ column, he’s produced two classic rap albums (Ressurection and Be) and become one of the most respected members of the hip-hop old guard for grown folks. He’s also responsible for much of the “Fake Deep” rap movement and an insufferable bore who takes himself far too seriously.

After a shaky start with the gimmicky Can I Borrow A Dollar LP in 1992, which found Lonnie busting out a squeaky-voiced, nervous style that was an unfortunate sign of the times as Das-EFX and Fu-Schnickens ruled the airwaves of ‘da underground,’ Common Sense went back to the lab and returned with the musically self-assured Resurrection, even managing to tone down the vocal acrobatics to a slightly less irritating level. By which I mean he stopped the random donkey noises. At this point, he was embraced as the patron saint of self-important backpacker types, who saw themselves as the protectors of The Real Hip-Hop.

Things only got worse once Com fell in with a bad crowd—aka Questlove the Elvis Costello apologist and all those Neo-Soul types who think it’s still acceptable to sport leather trousers. Before long, he was dashiki’d out in an attempt to channel the powers of Curtis Mayfield, Isaac Hayes, and Al Greene into a rapper dude. This is all fine and dandy, but with this new focus on spirituality and vague, feel good consciousness came a level of hubris befitting of Bono or Chris Martin (the guy who used to stick it to Gwyneth ‘Goop’ Paltrow, not DJ Premier). To make matters worse, some of his observations proved to be problematic amongst the Woke Rap community, with lines such as ‘Rappers take a dive like Greg Louganis with his faggot ass’ (De La Soul’s ‘Tha Bizness’), ‘Most sell out—like a dread with a white girl’ (‘Heat’) and ‘Black men see ’em, with white girls on their arm, I be mad at ’em, as if I know their mom’ (‘Real People’).

In a misguided attempt to shed his sensitive image, the rapper now formerly known as Common Sense (until a reggae group sued him for using their name) recorded Universal Mind Control, where he attempted to put the ‘sexy’ back into ‘grown and sexy’ but just came off as creepy over some bizarre semi-techno Neptunes tracks. After focusing on his acting career for the next three years, Common reunited with No I.D. for The Dreamer/The Believer, but by this point he had become the milquetoast sensible rap guy that your mother felt comfortable playing at the family BBQ.

His finest moment was undoubtedly when he dismantled Ice Cube and his Westside Connection over a Pete Rock track on the sublime ‘The Bitch In Yoo,’ which still stands as one of most level-headed and logical diss records ever recorded. After O’Shea, W.C. and confirmed wife-beater Mack 10 (putting your hands on T-Boz from TLC is grounds for the firing squad) attempted to troll Common after a line in ‘I Used To Love H.E.R.’, a painfully earnest and, let’s be honest, not particularly interesting love letter to ‘real hip-hop’ which the Okayplayer crowd undoubtedly consider to be their ‘The Bridge Is Over.’

When Common said, ‘I saw Friday, it was good’ he changed the landscape of diss records forever by adding in the previously unexplored element of the snide backhanded compliment. Yet when he was called up to the plate again in 2012 after Walking Wet Wipe Drake called him out on ‘Stay Schemin’,’ the best that Common could muster was calling him Canada Dry. I mean why even bother if that’s all you have in the chamber? If the reviews are to be believed, Nobody’s Smiling and Black America Again were important statements about the current state of Chicago and cemented Common’s place alongside the greats of ‘conscious rap,’ whatever that means.

And yet, try as I might, I just can’t find anything inspired or exciting about Common’s output since 2005’s ‘The Corner.’ Admittedly I’m not part of his target audience who like to look down their noses at what they consider to be be ‘non-progressive’ rap music while sipping on white wine spritzers and leaving comments on J.Cole YouTube videos about how you have to possess a certain level of intellectual capacity to even be capable of ‘overstanding’ his genius. Common has been ploughing the same barren soil of Chi-town nostalgia interwoven with inspirational quotes that he read off of his desktop calendar for so long that I can’t listen to more than two minutes of him rapping before it’s unsafe for me to operate heavy machinery. To make matters worse, he has a tendency to weigh every song down with overwrought, melodramatic music more suited to soap opera with twenty singers crooning over it. Is this a rap album or a film on the Hallmark channel? Add to that an unholy affinity for turtlenecks and the fact that he let John Meyer appear on one of his albums, and you have the recipe for recipe for living, breathing human porridge.

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