If Chicago rap legend Common Sense retired in 2002, he would've been one of, or perhaps the ONLY, artist in rap with a flawless career. Out of his first six albums, three of them are undeniable 5 star masterpieces and the other three are contenders; considered by some to BE masterpieces while others think they are very, very, very, good. At the time of this writing, I have reviewed all but one. In 2005, Common joined Kanye West, one of the biggest names of the industry, on his G.O.O.D. music imprint and released Be to massive critical acclaim. In 2007, Common followed up with Finding Forever, an album that many anticipated would be yet another stellar release. But was it?
Early on, a lot of folks claimed Finding Forever would be a sequel or a companion piece to Be and while it had mainly positive reviews, it was talked of as being a lesser quality Be. I think not. In fact, where Be ultimately failed (if you could call it that) is where Finding Forever succeeded: replay value. Finding Forever has gotten countless more spins than Be and at the end of the day, THAT is what makes a great album. However the comparisons ARE certainly laced in reality. Unlike the Neo-Soul-inspired Like Water for Chocolate or the bombastic and eclectic Electric Circus, Finding Forever is a very humble release that chronicles everyday urban tales, evenly balancing out the positive and negative as opposed to focusing on the bad like a lot of rap albums. Common is the Hip Hop People's Champ, not that jabroni Paul Wall.
Finding Forever is ridiculously awesome. The decent songs on here would be great songs anywhere else and the great songs on here are downright masterpieces. Cuts like the modern street poetry everyday man's anthem "The People", the hood-reppin bouncefest "Southside", and the traditionalist boom bap of "The Game". I love the dichotomy between "Southside", which is bonafied 90s influenced Kanye West, and "The Game", which is a very 1980s-channeling DJ Premier behind the boards. Then there's "U, Black Maybe", which might be the best song on the album; an inspirational look at escaping the hood and making something of yourself despite the world being against you. "Misunderstood" examines racial All of this is Premium Grade-A hip hop: stellar and up-beat production, methodical and charismatic vocals, and purpose!
"Back in 94 they called me Chi-Town's Nas, now the people know that I'm a Chi Town God." -- Common from "Southside".
Other than being the People's Champ, Common's other big claim to fame is his ability to do poetic love songs. When I say that, I actually mean songs about women, not metaphors about hip hop. "Drivin' Me Wild", "I Want You", and "So Far To Go" cover that nicely, all of which being spectacular. "So Far To Go" stands out as the best of these. In addition to the love poetry, Common also examines the other side of the spectrum, with "Break My Heart", an image provoking story of his meeting with what seems to be the perfect woman, but his own insecurities lead him to achieving cold feet and breaking her heart, something he swore he wouldn't do. My only issue with the story is that it really has no conclusion - we don't know if he wound up married to her or she moved on. Maybe someday we'll get the sequel.
I never thought when I first bumped Finding Forever that it would resonate to this day. I assumed it would be like Be, a strong, damn-near amazing record in its first few months, then flop out into obscurity. But no, this album is STILL just as good as it was the first day. If Common were like 90% of the Wu-Tang and did acronyms for everything, the C would probably be consistent, specially in 2007. Finding Forever is yet another masterpiece to add to the pile. But would his consistency continue with 2008's Universal Mind Control?
Find out... NEXT TIME!
Track List & Rating
2. Start the Show (****)
3. The People (******)
4. Drivin' Me Wild f/ Lily Allen (*****)
5. I Want You f/ will.i.am (****)
6. Southside f/ Kanye West (******)
7. The Game (******)
8. U, Black Maybe f/ Bilal (******)
9. So Far to Go f/ D'Angelo (*****)
10. Break My Heart (*****)
11. Misunderstood (*****)
12. Forever Begins (****)
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