Review Summary: Better than Resurrection.
My journey into music was kicked into shape properly around about 2000. I'd basically been vaguely aware that music existed throughout the 1990s, but for one reason or another I never really became a true fan of anyone. I guess part of that was the fact that most of my favourite songs at the time turned out to be one-hit wonders - "Drinking in LA", "Steal My Sunshine", "You Get What You Give", even "Set Adrift on Memory Bliss" - and that left me stranded. Or maybe it was because the biggest influence I had - my sister - was already listening to stuff I wasn't ready for at such a young age. What she did leave me with, though, was a grounding in hip-hop. She listened to ragga and UK garage too, but it was 2Pac, Notorious B.I.G., Wu-Tang, Jay-Z, Nas, and probably a dozen others that really connected on any sort of meaningful level.
I've stated elsewhere that the album that really moulded me as a music obsessive was The Marshall Mathers LP
. In retrospect it's a little annoying, or troubling, that it took a white guy to really make me obsess over an essentially black genre that I should have already loved, but in any case, that was the first album I'd heard that truly meant something to me. I began downloading rap tracks, listening to rap radio shows, watching the rap shows on MTV Base. And here's where the story hits Common. MTV Base used to have this hour-long show that I'd tape religiously, that was devoted to what most people would understand as 'conscious hip-hop', with a little bit of politics thrown in there too. Songs going through from Eve's "Love is Blind", to Public Enemy's "Fight The Power", to Common's own "I Used To Love H.E.R.", to 2Pac's "Dear Mama" and "Keep Ya Head Up", with something like LL Cool J's "I Need Love" wedged in every once in a while for good measure.
The second time I ever watched this show, "Retrospect For Life" came on. My jaw literally dropped, and I was nearly moved to tears. I'd kind of forgotten about that until I got this album, and that memory came flooding back. If I'm being honest, this song is as important to my musical development as any other, both as a listener and as a songwriter. It's just one of the most spiritual, moving things ever recorded to my ears, and it's still the blueprint for what I imagine whenever I hear somebody talking about hip-hop being 'real'. Matter of fact this might be my favourite performance on a single track by any rapper, ever. So many of these lines cut right through. Lauryn Hill singing Stevie Wonder on the hook is almost an afterthought but it still feels perfect.
So it goes without saying that "Retrospect for Life" dominates this album for me, the same way that "I Used To Love H.E.R." dominates Resurrection
. It took me a while to get around that, but guess what? The rest of this album is great. The other tracks that stand out instantly are "G.O.D.", which is almost a companion piece to "Retrospective for Life", "Invocation", and "Reminding Me (Of Sef)", all of which are excellent. Similar credit needs to go to the remaining tracks that feature guests - I can't think of many rap records with a better chosen supporting cast. De la Soul offer the uplift after "Retrospect" on "Gettin' Down at the Amphitheater", Erykah Badu is her usual excellent self on "All Night Long", Black Thought and Q-Tip pop up on parts of the trilogy "Stolen Moments", and Canibus puts in a star turn on "Making A Name For Ourselves". I've never paid a great deal of attention to Canibus, and I've never really dug what I have heard, but he's quality on this.
One Day It'll All Make Sense
is better than Resurrection
. Both albums are solid, boasting one spectacular crown jewel in their armory, but for me the remainder of One Day
is considerably more impressive than the other 14 songs on Resurrection
. Controversial opinion, maybe, but I've plowed through all but one of Common's albums, and unless Like Water For Chocolate
is spectacular, I count this as his masterpiece.