Common’s latest album, “Nobody’s Smiling,” is an epic masterpiece meticulously crafted by the lyrical wonder to transport listeners through the gritty and sometimes violent streets of the superstar mc’s hometown of Chicago. With longtime partner-in-rhyme (or beats in this particular case), No I.D. serving as executive producer, the project already has a major buzz around it…and it doesn’t disappoint.
“The Neighborhood” and “No Fear” provide the perfect introduction. Lil’ Herb truly shines on the former track by conveying the harsh conditions of his environment with his take no prisoners vocal tone and intense lyrics (“Used to post up on that strip, I’m looking like a street sign, I been out there 3 days and I got shot at 3 times”). “Diamonds” featuring Big Sean, finds Common reminiscing about the early days of his career, opening for Big Daddy Kane and Eazy-E & hearing voices telling him to “Stay, stay on your grind, like foreplay”.
“Blak Majik” showcases Common over a moody, unrelenting soundscape (with an assist from Jhene Aiko on the hook), while “Speak My Piece” contains the funkiest, head nodding beat you’re bound to hear for awhile. Combined with a warped, infectious sample from Biggie’s, “Hypnotize” and Common’s impressive lyrical dexterity, I predict you’ll have this track on repeat for months to come.
Next up is the driving power of “Hustle Harder.” Rising star, Dreezy attacks the track (“the new kid like a transfer, I’m known to set trends, let ‘em copy like the answers”), bringing back that raw, feral nature missing from most of today’s female emcees. The title track, “Nobody’s Smiling,” allows Common to envision himself as one of the stick up kids or dealers running the south side (“…selling on the block like an auction”). He completely commits to the criminal mentality as he spins dark tales of violence and lost hope over a menacing groove.
“Real”(featuring Elijah Blake) is a radio ready R&B flavored track that caters to the ladies. Common flows over the lush production perfectly. “Kingdom” has already received praise for Common’s go for broke delivery and another star turn from the unstoppable Vince Staples (“tried to hop the gate to heaven, ’cause I couldn’t get a key”). “Rewind That” closes out the standard edition of the album with a reflective Common sharing heartfelt memories of the beloved J-Dilla over a gripping track.
For those who pick up the deluxe edition (and why wouldn’t you?!?) there’s “Out On Bond,” featuring another electric verse from Vince Staples, “7 Deadly Sins”, where Common discusses the inner demons we must all struggle to overcome and “Young Hearts Run Free” (featuring Cocaine 80′s) that showcases the hip hop mastermind spitting over a trippy, drunken instrumental (“state of the art, state of the mind, state of the city”).
So if you’re a true fan of hip hop, “Nobody’s Smiling” should be at the top of your MUST BUY list. Pick it up as soon as it drops. Common from the south side does it again!
- Kevin Keith