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Newest album mixes old and new

Mark Manley | Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Common’s newest album brings more mack than Steve Jobs.

“Finding Forever” is a solid piece that you can put on and run through even if you’re not a diehard hip-hop fan. It pumps out creative and grabbing beats and mixes in smooth areas with jazz voicings, creating a song that is reminiscent of The Roots.

The producer behind this work is none other than Kanye West, so expect nothing less than a great listen. Though the strongest part of the album is definitely its ability to be played without skipping songs, there are a few songs that stand out.

“The People” is probably one of the best tracks on the album. This song focuses on the daily struggle of the working class and describes how Common relates to them. Musically, it flits in between major and minor, between the more syncopated feel of hip-hop and the smoothness of R&B – thus illustrating the ups and downs of life nonverbally. Meanwhile, the lyrics paint a similar picture.

“I Want You” starts off with a heavy beat but quickly puts smooth vocals on top. This is one of the clearest examples of Common’s penchant for contrast. A song about lingering desire after a breakup, it deceptively sounds upbeat and the only lyrical hook is “I want you.”

Another of the singles is “The Game.” If you have listened to even the tiniest bit of rap, you can guess what this one is about. In this song, Common’s lyrics fail to impress. Here he focuses on his desire to overcome all obstacles and his need to be recognized as strong. As far as the music is concerned, Common does a mediocre job. Although this song fits in well with the album, it does not seem to catch the ear that much.

Lyrically, the album doesn’t break much new ground, despite Common’s solid delivery and tendency to stay away from the typical themes of misogyny and violence. Thus, he keeps his lyrics from being ordinary. Prevalent themes include struggling amidst poverty, black-on-black racism, lost love and self-affirmation.

After a few listens, the album’s content sounds similar to Lupe Fiasco, who recently performed as part of “The Show” last Friday at the Joyce Center. However, Common takes another tone in this album.

While both artists tackle similar subjects, Fiasco tends to take a more violent stance, calling police “pigs,” criticizing the government in an unprofessional, and likely ineffective, way. Common, on the other hand, talks with self-respect and keeps away from being too negative.

Overall, Common does a great job with “Finding Forever.” He creates a cohesive work that strikes the listener on many of different levels and proves, despite a few low points, to largely be a success.