i’d argue that a lot of things in this world are best in their rawest form; their most true — music being one of those things.
On Friday, 7th October, 2016, Black America Again, and HERE — studio albums by Common and Alicia Keys respectively — were released. Two great bodies of work from artists well into their music careers (with Common being just reasonably a few years ahead of Alicia). Last night and this evening, i put myself to listen to each of them, and weirdly, almost feel this strange honor to have done so.
The reason i felt inclined to write today, was because of — or should i say ‘subconsciously’ linked to — Usher’s eighth studio album Hard II Love (which i was disappointed with, and more openly voiced my opinion, here on Twitter: http://bit.ly/2g0csjV). In contrast to that, i felt that what Alicia and Common brought to the table, was them. [By that] meaning; themselves (of course, obviously); their true artistic selves, and while inspired — it wasn’t so obvious and plain to see. The reason i say so, is because, i do somewhat believe that it was albums delivered by artists like Solange (A Seat at the Table), and Kendrick Lamar (To Pimp a Butterfly) — though considerably younger than the two main subjects of here — that set new standards for elders, who, like i say, are fairly well into their careers now. Despite Alicia (who, might i say, sounds beautifully NY, how she gets on this album) and Lonnie being known to consistently give us great music each time around (and if not, then good at least), it’s nothing new to know that there are plenty of recording artists making music to sound like the times — whatever’s popping right now — hence why i’m happy and me being proud of two of my favourites of all-time. Who knows — had nothing but trash excuses for music been released in 2016, would two remarkable LPs from two veterans have come of this age? Hmmm… — one can only wonder, right? Perhaps they weren’t so inspired to make and release top-tier music. Perhaps they were already in these creative zones of theirs and had the juices flowing.
But anyway, without further ado — and to avoid dragging on (even though that sounds silly to me right now, since i’ve dragged on enough already) — rather than make this like an essay (which, now that i think of it, is actually a type of writing i’ve grown bored of — and again, even though i stated i’m pretty bored of them, this will probably still find a way through me to sound like one… hypocrite; i know), i thought it would be much lighter (HOW?!) to instead just let go of some of what was running through my head, both as i listened to Common’s [new] album, and watched the short film that he dropped alongside it. So — not to in any way disregard what incredible music Alicia Keys put out, but — here are my POINTS:
Me personally, i think that Common is the original Kendrick Lamar, just without the rough edges — a poetic MC; an extremely Afrocentric, woke individual, proud to be where he’s from, who knows the ghetto, and, [being] unafraid to, with confidence, can comfortably and unapologetically speak on issues going on, both within it and outside of it… but also provide suggestive solutions, and always a positive light to the negatives.
Black America Again being a more accessible version of — and easier-on-the-ears-and-to-consume/dissect listen than — Like Water For Chocolate, but just as clearly focused on the message as [he] was in the tail-mentioned (Oxford, you better quote me on this one — i coined it, motherfuckers, a’ight?).
Is Common the blackest light-skin of all-time before Jesse Williams? (this one was just for my own humoring — purely).
i’m super glad that Common switched up “Black America Again” for the short film, showing and bringing variation to a song; stripping it down to the raw and exposing a different side to it. Just when i thought for a second, ‘Aaah — why wasn’t this version on the album?’ i snapped out and realized: it’s art — and fortunately, Common knew how to do it in just the right way.
The only thing that i’d change about this album, would be the placement of “Black America Again.” The climax of that song is so strong, i’m surprised Common didn’t put it at the end of the album. i mean, “Letter To The Free (featuring Bilal)” was super… but the the title track trumps — it be trumping.
Watching the Black America Again short film triggered me to come up with the word ‘glorientacious’ also.
Kareem Riggins did his thiing on the production (along with Robert Glasper) for this project. For Robert, i certainly get why artists such as Erykah have worked with him; and why others are also keen to. And Bilal — well, between being heavily featured on Common’s eleventh solo effort (four tracks in total) and two tracks on [Kendrick Lamar’s] To Pimp a Butterfly, he sure is showing how brilliant he is, to be the go-to — and with a shared chemistry as great as his & Common’s, it’s no wonder they’ve been linking up for over 15 years now.
One of my favourite things about 2016, is the accidental-yet-non-surprising connection between many albums that have spawned from what’s been vividly going on in America over the past three years. For e.g. you could take — as much as they’re the obvious and more favorable choices — A Seat at the Table and Black America Again, put them into a playlist back to back, or Black Messiah and To Pimp a Butterfly, and they’d make the perfect musical companions to each other.
The way how George Clinton & The Parliament Funkadelic and A Tribe Called Quest were probably grooving to TPAB, to me, is likely of the same-natured likeness of gratitude that Marvin Gaye and Gil-Scott Heron would show towards Common’s collection of songs, here in 2016.
Again, it’s no real news that Malibu by Anderson .Paak, has been my favourite album of 2016, as well as the album i regard best this year. But while it’s only been one single listen to Black America Again so far — Common may just have dethroned .Paak, and snatched the A.O.T.Y. title from him. Really, i just hope and pray that Common’s latest album doesn’t become my new and all-time favourite Common album, taking over Be; also meaning that it would become my favourite album, not only in hip-hop, but of all-time altogether, which a huge deal, with the latter being in cemented, firm position for a good three years now.
Without nitpicking, i’d say there’s no way that anybody can tell me the album is not a 9/10 at least. And if Common wanted to, he could really ended on this note, yo.
If John Legend’s new album Darkness and Light is of the stell’ that Alicia (not to cause confusion and have you drifting off into thinking i’ve turned this whole portion of the text into being about her(e) album) and Common gave us, then the fourth quarter of this year has truly come full-circle. First Alicia and Common, then John? *Ron Simmons ‘DAMN!’*.
Oh yeah, and: if Common could grow hair — i have no doubt in my mind that he’d have locs… freeform locs.
It’s easy for me, i suppose, to say, since i’m not a U.S. citizen, living in America — but don’t feel so sad about Trump, folk(s). It’s not the end of the world until it is. You’re still going to wake up. Just change the way how you look at the world. Doing so might not change the world or fix/solve everything, no. However… you might as well make the most of the badness with some goodness, right?