Common's 2005 album, Be - which garnered four Grammy nominations and plenty of good ink - was a tough act to follow. Then again, you could say the same thing for nearly every Common album. Nonetheless, the emcee does it again on his seventh disc, which partly pays tribute to his late, great producer and roommate J. Dilla - whose soulful and jazzy approach helped make 2000's Like Water for Chocolate an underground rap wonder. In fact, Dilla's own beats grace the fresh, crisp "So Far to Go," and Common has said that the title Finding Forever refers to the idea of Dilla living on in music.
Here, the production is handled mostly by another go-to guy, Kanye West, and the results are sizzling. On "Southside," Common and Kanye's home base of Chicago is given its due with a snazzy, somewhat raucous groove, not to mention a rapping duel from the two. "The Game" is another knockout, as Kanye's horn-quenched beats mixed with D.J. Premier's squiggling scratches bring on plenty of boom-bap.
Common's wordplay, meanwhile, urges that now is no time for chillin': "In the middle of whack, my soul sticks to a track / Kickback records get kicked to the back." It's one of the many examples of his inspired flow on this album. And on "The People" - featuring tasty keyboards and a vocal sample of Gil Scott-Heron - Common raps about who he makes music for, and why: "Sick and tired of bunchin' it, I look on the bus at them / When I see them strugglin', I think how I'm touchin' them." On Finding Forever, he's obviously touching them in a good way.
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