By Grant Golden
August 15, 2019
Few artists have been able to cross generational and cultural boundaries the way hip-hop activist Common has throughout his decades of excellence. Common has long been a champion of the underdog and, despite the Emmy, Grammy and Oscar awards now under his belt, he’s still able to tap into a level of consciousness that speaks universally to his listeners. His music lies somewhere in the thin divide between nostalgia-soaked glory and contemporary, forward-thinking excellence, seamlessly able to harken back to mid-’90s/early 2000 flows while weaving in and out of timeless beats from some of hip-hop’s finest producers. On August 23, Common will be bringing his Let Love Tour through Charlotte’s Belk Theater at Blumenthal Performing Arts Center.
On the heels of his second memoir Let Love Have the Last Word, Common is releasing an accompanying album, Let Love, on August 30. It promises to be one of his most open and vulnerable works to date, which frankly is a lofty accomplishment given his back catalog. Common’s work thrives on its candor; he’s an artist that’s not afraid to make waves with his lyrical content, tackling topics such as toxic masculinity, gender equality, socioeconomic struggles and more. As a hip-hop artist coming up in the early ‘90s when gangster rap was still ruling the charts, Common defied expectations with his faith-fueled, soulful messages. Alongside acts like The Roots, Lauryn Hill and De La Soul, Common’s craft paved the way for the shape of hip-hop to come, but he’s never been one to rest on his laurels.
Let Love will be Common’s 12th full-length album and, if his two 2019 singles are any indication of the rest of the album, it’s going to be another notch in his musical belt. Lead single “Hercules,” featuring Swizz Beats on the track and a Vince Staples-fronted video, shows Common triumphant as ever. Atop crisp snares and a sly bass groove, Common’s flow takes on a life of its own in every corner of the production. “Her Love” brings a previously unreleased J. Dilla beat to the mix with rising Canadian vocalist Daniel Caesar on the hook. The song feels like an enchanting musical playground with Common at the helm running his victory lap. With a fine balance between humility and brashness, Common crafts compelling wordplay around the names of modern rap stalwarts like 21 Savage, A$AP Rocky, Jaden Smith and more.
Whether you’re someone eagerly anticipating the roll-out of new tunes or if you’re biding your time until he plays “Go,” attendees will be awash with Common’s natural charisma, showmanship, and poeticism. The man has a mastery of the English language and boasts a particular cadence that’s both familiar and refreshing.
Common’s consistency is a feat of its own, for over 25 years he’s been starting cultural conversation with his thoughtful output, which is an impressive accomplishment. This August Common appears in two feature-length films (The Kitchen and The Informer) and in recent years has started production companies, clothing lines, appeared in documentaries and still found time to create music that speaks to listeners across generations. Throughout the decades that Common has been releasing his art, the music industry has gone through a horde of changes– labels have fallen to the wayside while streaming giants and algorithms rule the popular culture– but the one thing that has remained constant is that the artist known as Common has been anything but.