Common Market: Tobacco Road

Going down that old Tobacco Road to explore weighty issues of religion, self-worth, history, and socioeconomics, all under the framework of the Southern-to-Northern migration experience, it would seem that Seattle duo Common Market have laid down a heavy path to tread. Thankfully they've got the skills to pull it off—enough to carry 18 songs' worth of complex and subtle emotions and politics over soaring and undeniably dope soundscapes. Call it hip hop as medicine, with enough sugar to get the tough stuff to go down real easy.

Lyrically, RA Scion focuses his sober and critical eye on any number of relevant subjects, almost always leaving us with something fresh and thought-provoking (rather than the indie/conscious soup de jour of paternalistic didacticism masquerading as "edutainment"). Yes, he's been sincerely working on bettering himself and society, and yes, he'd like your help in making those changes, but he's not trying to hate on anyone who's not with the whole activist thing (although converts are always welcome). The density of subject matter is ignited by Scion's versatile flows, recalling AZ in its multi-layered and deceptively smooth mathematics.

The battle over beats or rhymes is a tough call on "Road." Sabzi (of another Seattle duo, Blue Scholars) has crafted thick slabs of funk/jazz/soul-drenched anthems, using a seemingly limitless arsenal of piano loops, warm bass lines, and dusted drums. Point blank, there's not an underwhelming beat on the record. Together they both sound eager as hell—consciously and humbly urgent, relevant, and substantive. Tobacco Road rivals anything out this year in its bid for official soundtrack to the upcoming revolution.

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