Common's Uncommon Hip-Hop

Common - Like Water For Chocolate
(MCA Records)
3 1/ 2 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: June 22, 2000

By Tony Bonyata

For a rapper that tosses electronic beats and dominating turntable scratchings out the window in favor of a more organic sound from real instruments (ala The Roots), and who also seamlessly mixes jazz, funk, soul with his own hip-hop, Common is anything but.
Raised on Chicago's South-side, Common (born Rashid Lynn and formerly known as Common Sense) has been an outspoken commentator on social issues surrounding the hip-hop community, with topics ranging from abortion to black liberation.
Unfortunately, however, not everyone has heard his message. While rappers like Master P., Snoop Doggie Dog and now white-boy turned black wanna-be rapper Eminem have made millions selling their jiggy-Slim Shady-G-thang, Common's music has stayed closer to the street as more of an underground phenomenon.
-"Common On his fourth and latest album, entitled Like Water For Chocolate, after Laura Esqivel's best-selling novel turned movie, Common's musical sense goes much deeper than the more one-dimensional gangsta rap. He gives way to straight hip-hop by adding the jazzy strains of guest trumpeter Roy Hargrove's horn and the ethereal African chants of Vinia Mojica and Femi Kuti on the number "Time Travelin'." The funky rhythms of "Heat" and "Cold Blooded," the latter which features The Roots' human beat box Rahzel and again Hargrove's trumpet, both keep it real with a gritty street groove. The hard-hitting "Dooinit," and smooth number "The Light" would both make strong crossover hits, while the soul drips like honey on the songs "Geto Heaven," which features soul singer D'Angelo, "The 6th Sense," featuring Bilal, and the buttery end of "Funky For You."
"This album is about balance for me," explains Common. "On my last album, One Day It'll All Make Sense, I was stepping into manhood and a certain knowledge and a certain path I wanted to travel. I was so trying to strive for perfection and my music got too overwhelmed by that, and I didn't really show other sides of me. On Like Water For Chocolate I was able to balance the things I'm learning in life and say, 'Look, Rashid, you ain't perfect.' There's things you strive for like a good life and good health but at the same time you do have flaws."
On the fresh and insightful Like Water For Chocolate Common not only finds the balance he was in search of, but also helps point to a new direction of hip-hop music with his uncommon approach. Tony Bonyata

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