Common: One Day It'll All Make Sense

One Day It'll All Make Sense

IN THIS DAY and age, indicting a rap artist for gratuitous braggadocio is akin to faulting a jazz soloist for free-form improvisation. Folks should know by now that self-promotion is fundamental to a proper hip-hop aesthetic, the real lyrical litmus test lying in an MC's balance between acidic metaphor and basic human perspective. And the functional beauty of the hip-hop boast is that it is self-monitoring--betray or overstate your abilities and, sooner or later, you're unplugged.

Music critics, being a typically lazy breed, will likely laud this third LP from Chicago rapper Common as anything but common, and smugly leave it at that. But it takes diligence to appreciate the rare skills that lift this rhyme sayer above the current norm. Among these, surely, is networking, as evidenced here by the roster of cameo contributors on One Day It'll All Make Sense: members of the Fugees, De La Soul, Goodie Mob, A Tribe Called Quest, the Roots and Group Home all appear, as does soul-sister-of-the-moment Erykah Badu.

But none of these names can take credit for "Retrospect for Life," beginning with a sampled ultrasound heartbeat that blooms into a meditation on manhood. Directly addressing his just-aborted child and its would-be mother, Common transcends the murky politics of choice and gathers essential truths: "315 dollars ain't worth your soul," he raps. And yeah, that's femme Fugee Lauryn Hill copping a Stevie Wonder vocal style on the chorus, but next to Common's uncanny brand of candor, she's merely window dressing.

Skip to "Real Nigga Quotes" or "Food for Funk" if you'd rather hear the MC's (prerequisite) playful blood lust, as he teases tasty beats with a healthy ego and even healthier rhythmic flirtation. Then watch as the retro-active "Stolen Moments" trilogy revives the deductive vibe of an old-school story-rhyme; and notice that, from the inside-cover art to the vérité vocals contributed by his father, Common is constantly preoccupied with family, hard lessons, and growing into someone worth bragging about.

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