Fall Into the Crap: Common's Finding Forever
We all should've known this was coming. There were those Zoolander Gap Ads. The burgeoning bad acting career. The Gay Jedi album cover. And that odd-couple b.f.f. relationship with Jeremy "I'm Just Happy I'm Famous and Able to Get Girls Now" Piven. But a decade and half after Can I Borrow A Dollar, Common has managed to drop the worst album of his career. And it isn't even close. With Finding Forever, Common has become the worst type of rapper: one with nothing to say.
Before all the Okayplayers start flashing their back-pack signal (like the bat-signal but more into Mos Def), let the record state that I've always liked Common. Hell, I even really liked Electric Circus, a record that made most long-time Common fans want to show up at Erykah Badu's house with guns and pitchforks. But even the most staunch Electric Circus haters have to admit that there was a something noble about Common's desire to innovate and test the boundary between the worlds of hip-hop, soul, & electronica.
Instead of trying to create up something new and innovative, Common has stumbled into the black hole that often plagues veteran artists: the desire to clone their most popular albums. Indeed, Finding Forever feels like a caricature of Common's most commercially popular records, Like Water For Chocolate and Be. Enlisting Kanye behind the boards, Common reprises his tired "for the people," cracker-averse, loverman persona that he's plowed for a half dozen records, while Kanye lazily attempts to channel the spirit of J. Dilla.
And Then Me and Jeremy Went to the Grove and He Picked Out This Adorable Sweater for me...It was from the Gap...Obvs!Common's strong suit has always been his ability to pare smart lyrics with a smooth, captivating flow. But Finding Forever finds him at his most creatively barren, exhausting everything he has to say. Constantly, the man born Lonnie Lynn treads overly familiar ground, stuck in the Latte Rap, Kingdom Come school of US Weekly lyricism, lamely name dropping the likes of Akeelah The Bee, Finding Nemo, Reese Witherspoon & Ryan Phillippe, & Lance Bass, among many others. I suppose we should all be thankful he didn't refer to her as Reese Witherspeezie (Jay-Z...you are dead to me).
The production matches the listless lyricism, with Kanye sounding stale, as though he's burned through all the good soul samples he knows. In an effort to emulate Dilla's production, West chops his samples up a bit more than usual, but the attempts seem ham-handed, particularly in contrast to one actual Dilla beat, "So Far to Go." Of course, this is still a Common record, and there are inevitably moments when he's able to summon up his old fastball. The first single "The People" finds Common sounding fierce and hungry (if not lyrically mediocre), over a West-supplied MF Doom biting beat. "The Southside" with Kanye West is solid, if nothing else for Kanye's Back to the Future babbling . But those fleeting moments of excellence are few and far between and when they do happen, they're immediately followed up by inane bitching about "white folks focusing on dogs and yoga."
Beyond uneven beats and dull lyrics, it's Finding Forever's dearth of ideas that prove the most damning. Commencing with a tepid minute-plus instrumental and concluding with more of Common's father (Capt. Obvious) rambling about global warming, everything here has already been done before, and done better. When all is said and done, the only way that this record will find forever is in its lot to be permanently consigned to the record store bargain bin.
MP3: Common-"The People"
MP3: Common-"Play Your Cards Right" (UK Bonus Track)