Old School Reviews: Common – Resurrection

30 07 2007

by mr. travis

Common - Resurrection

Artist: Common
Album: Resurrection
Label: Ruthless Records
Release Date: Oct. 25, 1994

In a lot of ways, it’s a shame that Common’s first brush of mainstream attention was due to his “feud” with Ice Cube over the lyrics of “I Used to Love H.E.R.” a scathing review of hip hop (and the gangsta culture permeating throughout mid 90’s rap) cleverly disguised as a lament for a lost lover, one of the highlights on his sophomore album Resurrection. A shame, because the east/west feud was used at the time to gain record sales, something that Common was not going to achieve due to his underground status, but to which Ice Cube used to not only propagate his own image, but to further sales for his group effort Westside Connection. Common was such a small factor in the scene at this time, that it almost seems like Cube was sitting around a table with his friends, combing every new release for some sort of semblance of a “diss” (even odder is the fact that Common hails from Chicago, which has never been considered “east coast”) Unfortunately, Common had to reply with his DJ only single “The Bitch in Yoo,” only furthering the feud, leading to an intervention by Louis Farrakhan after the deaths of Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls.

All ridiculous feuds aside, Common’s second album (his last under the name Common Sense), Resurrection, is a huge step forward from Can I Borrow a Dollar?, eschewing a lot of the misogyny and sing song delivery that could be found throughout his debut release, instead coming through in a slow, steady, and strong flow that serves as the foundation for the rest of the artist’s career. The record is treated as a loose concept album, with side one (Tracks 1 – 7) titled “East Side of Stony” and side two (Tracks 8 – 15) titled “West Side of Stony” (both named after the street on the south side of Chicago where Common was raised). It’s a great release, especially considering the mid 90’s glut of mainstream hip hop, in which most artists, mired in the aforementioned east/west feud, kept the state of rap stagnant with albums more interested in singles and sketch comedy than perusing the depths of the album as an art form.

Treating the album as a palate to paint a work of art, Common creates words and rhymes reflecting his own self, instead of the life on the streets game that so many played at the time. In a way, Common comes across as hip hop’s own Bob Dylan, mixing the political with the personal, building upon what came before yet making it seem as if it’s all new. On his first record he served as an extension of such greats as A Tribe Called Quest and the Beastie Boys. Here, he becomes the leader, taking those blueprints and making them his own. It’s an amazing feat, especially in light of how his first debut was all over the place, making such a jump in talent and production a surprise. Where Common seemed like a kid in a candy store on Dollar, he comes across as a man with a mission on Resurrection.

Opening with the vague drum loop and jazz backgrounds on the first track “Resurrection,” Common pushes the boundaries of both hip hop and jazz. The combination of the two can be a treacherous trap, but Common uses them to further both genres, not a surprise considering the musical roots of old Chicago. His flow matches well with both the rhythm and the jazz, his personal stories of Chicago sounding like manifestos, each one blistering with life. Where the aforementioned “Used to Love H.E.R.” dealt with hip hop as a lost woman, “Book of Life” runs through a gamut of double entendres dealing with Common’s own goals and frustrations with making a run of it as a young man in his 20’s. Even his own father, ex ABA basketball player Lonnie Lynn, comes in on the act, doing a spoken word number to close out the album, something that would become a tradition for several of Common’s subsequent releases.

It’s a good thing that Common’s own talent and vision could bring himself above the nonsensical attacks by Ice Cube and his Westside Connection, for despite his brief foray into the feud, in the end, it was Common who would thrive and push the boundaries of hip hop and his own artistic sensibilities with the acting projects that he has chosen, whereas Ice Cube squandered his talent with a string of lackluster albums and even worse acting choices. But, Common would thrive and continue to grow, becoming a star in his own right, and it begins here with the album Resurrection one of the best hip hop albums of the 90’s and one of the best albums in Common’s impressive discography

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4 responses

6 01 2009
Overman

Just discovered this record. Awesome.

29 09 2011
BeatGenerator

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11 01 2012
Common vs. Drake | JUICE MAGAZIN - HipHop since 1997 -

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