Tosten Burks is to hip hop what Bo the Dog is to politics.
Finally, Common has stopped being a symbol, stopped being a Gap-wearing motivational poster, and started being a rapper again.
The revival started with “Ghetto Dreams.” Unfortunately for Common, that song also started the revival of 2011-poet-laureate Nas, who has overshadowed better men than Lonnie Rashid Lynn. But nonetheless, it was a start, and songs like “Sweet” are giving hope that the rapper’s upcoming December album will be full of such aggression, both of persona and of wordplay.
“Sweet” is a No I.D.-produced banger that dresses golden-age boom-bap in industrial epicness. “Ghetto Dreams” falls in that category too: ‘roided-out jazz rap. Common calls it “that 80’s cocaine/something raw, something pure,” but it sounds more like the musical equivalent of some dank, scientific Walter White super-meth. It does boastfully eschew a hook though, which I guess is enough to call this song a “throwback.”
In the same way that the beat just vaguely steps back from modernity and into hip-hop’s sonic past, Common calls for the comeback of an approach to rap that he never fully personified in the first place (save “The Bitch in Yoo.”) In the interludes, he addresses “ho ass niggas/singing all around me man, la la la,” saying to what has to be Drake and his serenading children: “You ain’t mothafucking Frank Sinatra, uh, lil bitch.”
Now, it’s refreshing to hear this Maya Angelou-endorsed memoirist re-acclimate himself so comfortably with curse words. But at the same time, Can I Borrow a Dollar-era Common Sense definitely knew the power of melody. And when he attacks some unnamed person for appealing to the ladies, “Broads be seeing you sweet… it’s over,” it rings slightly hollow coming from a man who once stood in a girl’s front lawn with hand-written signs of his affection.
All of this is nit-picking though, of a song that shows Common can still spit heat. Notable quotable: “I rep the fresh air for you asthmatic rap addicts/pro black magic, this is semi-automatic.”
This is a song in which Common tries to appeal to his original fans with faux-anti-modernism and succeeds in appealing to his original fans with a much simpler equation: good rapping. It’s common sense.