Really, Common? Really?!

I have never been a huge fan of Chicago emcee Common, but I have always given him his props for growing up in hip hop. Starting out as a pretty typical rap dude rapping about typical rap things, Common evolved right before our eyes into a conscious musician with an ear for spiritual, lyrical and musical experimentation. So much so, that he became almost synonymous with conscious rap, and the hinge between the serious lyricists in hip hop and the newly resurgent spoken word poetry movement. I mean, the President actually invited him to perform at a poetry jam at the White House. That is my mental context for listening to Ghetto Dreams, the collabo song Common dropped with Nas last week.  As my longtime readers know, I love it when Nas gets into his deep pro-black, celebratory/revolutionary vibe (as he did on say, One Mic or Black Republican), and that's what I would expect him to do beside Common over a track by No ID. Well, that's not exactly what happened...

Common's verse starts (in what strikes me as very un-Commonly):
"I want a bitch that look good and cook good/
Cinderella fancy, but she still look hood..."
Sigh... This was not starting off well for me.  I decided to listen to the whole thing, though. Maybe Common was going to rap in the place of different characters or something, showing that different people in the hood had different dreams and aspirations, including this character? Nope. He goes on in the second verse about this great woman whose "ass is like a weapon and it's hard to conceal it" with "a baby in one arm, in the other is a skillet"... "my ghetto housewife watch reality shows"..?
Okay. So much for Common... maybe Nas is gonna pick it up for me? Not really. He goes on to brag about how he got "powerful women playing the roles of submission/ lawyers on leashes, congresswomen inflicting pain on 'em..." For some reason, Nas and Common took this opportunity of having two heavyweight emcees on a nice track and used it to endorse the tired and cliched connection between hip hop and a misogynistic, male chauvinist worldview. So disappointing. If you been reading this blog for very long, you may have noticed that I rarely take the time to mention anything I don't like, much less spend time writing a whole post about it. And I'm not the type of dude who hates on thug rappers and pimp types. I've seen it all in my time and as long as there is balance and sincerity, I don't hate the player nor the game. To paraphrase Special Ed. I never lose cause I never play. What bothers me is the degree to which conscious dudes who definitely know better give in to supposed pressure and start making bullshit in some half-hearted attempt to get paper. I don't blame Nas for this record. He does this kinda shit all the time, and the song titles let you know that if you don't wanna hear that shit, you should skip it. I'm insulted by a song called Ghetto Dreams that essentially says dudes in the hood are looking for a "bad bitch" to cook, clean, raise babies and that's it? Come on, guys... way to dumb it down...
Maybe some of my readers will want Ghetto Dreams on their hard drive. As for me, I will definitely pass.  If you want it, click here to cop it free, but keep that to yourself. I listened to it several times trying to see if there was some depth to the record that I was missing (there wasn't), and that was more than enough to last a lifetime. I don't want the backwards thinking contained therein growing on me... let alone my wife or daughter.
Or (for that matter) yours.
-samax.

12 comments:

Robert Trujillo/Tres said...

I agree, its a def fail! I too try to steer clear of whining, bitching, or moaning about current states of music,etc but when do we as fans say. Fuck that bullshit and let them know. Not as haters, but as long time supporters! I knw both these cats frm the records only so i know theyre not perfect-but damn can we paint a picture of a sister who challenged THEM to grow as men aaand have a beat that slaps!!!!? Thx for sayin sumn.

samax said...

yeah, I don't think any subject is out of bounds, but there is a way to do it. Tupac became a legend by showing that thug dudes had more on their mind than the average bullshit, without losing his street cred. In the same way, Common has a responsibility to express whatever feelings he has (or more likely, to rebel against his label as a "conscious" rapper) without pissing on the culture.

If dudes want to make songs about marrying trophy wives, that's their business, but making it a lead single (and calling it "Ghetto Dreams") is a statement that I would rather they not make. Especially coming from Common, who is so closely associated with the grown people in hip hop. I understand so-called "conscious rappers" often feel pigeon holed by the categorization, but I feel the public has been pretty understanding in them expressing themselves in just about every way, but DAMN, son...

Very disappointing. While I was searching for a youTube vid for this, I saw nothing but praise for the song in the comments, and that made me sick.

I had to say something.

bigkuntree said...

my take is this: the song sounds like a commentary of the "prototypical 'Ghetto Dream'"....a few cats that I chop it up with are GHETTO DUDES...who have friends/family/etc that have the GHETTO mindset embedded in them, and THIS song is what their conversations of "coming up" sound like...."yeah man, when I **enter achievement that will result in money** me and my baby-mom's is gonna get that 70" LEDteevee, and I'ma put some rims and sounds on the Escalade...." stereotype...perhaps, but when you see and hear it often enough, for some peeps, it is their reality....IMO this song is THAT....

Sort of like an episode of Boondocks..how it holds a mirror up and shows the ignorance of BET, MTV, the R. Kelly trial, the bastardization of hip-hop music and culture....

my $0.02 love it or hate it...

samax said...

yeah, I get that, but if you make NO attempt to say "this is a certain mentality" (There is NO Huey Freeman here...) I think you are trying to have it both ways, and that's poisoning the well. PLUS it's a lead single.

I think we can make excuses, but this is a money grab. After the album he did with Kanye, Common did several interviews complaining that he was not earning enough money as an emcee, and that he could make more as an actor. This was followed by a slew of small roles and mixed results.

You know there's no hate dude, but I'm not buying it. Common and Nas for that matter are both smart enough to make the type of song you are talking about, but here they have chosen not to, probably because they think THIS will sell better. Where I'm from, that's called dumbing it down.

bigkuntree said...

ah-ha...the "qualifying statement"....that which says, "I don't really feel this way...." Sometimes things just have to be said, and you take it for your own interpretation. My cousin is damn near ashamed of the fact that I watch/like/swear by The Boondocks, because its unapologetic in getting its point across, whether it hurts one loud mouth (Al Sharpton), or major (but niggerdly) media "giant" (B.E.T.)...he felt the show put "put too much responsibility on the viewer"...really, a show that comes on Sunday night at 11pm...the viewers of that show are Adults (hence, Adult Swim)....but I digress, I say all that with basically saying, not everyone interprets everything the same way....I hear this song, and my previous post is how it "speaks to me".....

samax said...

yeah, I hear you. You could apply that logic to anything (2 Live crew = "he ain't talkin' bout me"), and many (including yours truly) do it all the time.

I'm not the cat that can't see satirical content. Frankly, your cousin is wrong about Boondocks, and I'm not saying that just because I like it. I don't like Southpark, but I know satire when I see it.

I make an effort not to get offended by things when it is clear that it was made specifically to offend me. Life is too short.

My problem here is that Common is not the guy to be doing this. There's only a handful of positive rap dudes who people know by name, and Common is one of them.

I don't think he needs to make it obvious that he is speaking from a perspective, but he probably should make it apparent. As it is, we can only assume what he is getting at. I listened to the song repeatedly, and I think he's trying to have it both ways. Again, had this not been officially dropped as a single, I wouldn't have said anything. Singles are not released to be subtle or whatever, they are released to SELL RECORDS. And this piece would not appeal to Common's main fan base... this is reaching out to the mass audience, including (I would say especially) white suburban kids who idolize thug rappers even more than "we" do.

ADOFO WOLF WINDBLADE said...

i wonder what type of WOMAN Common really likes. Like in real life and stuff. That would explain much. Sometimes I get the hint that being a conscious rapper and having that as his fan base may distract him from developing his own sincere tastes. Going from Chi-town pimpin to Badu to serena Williams says a lot and nothing at all at the same time. Sorta how his raps do. Maaan Samax you may have wasted our time posting this skullduggery. Not a win. ;)

Vee (Scratch) said...

Peace Samax, I'm late but . . .
You got it all wrong. Common was like for quite a while. Throughout his career when people tried to separate him from not-so-conscious emcees, like (insert any one like Gucci Mane) he made it a point to state there's no distinction. He's repeated that sentiment often. He's often had questionable misogynistic lyrics in his work.

Just as quick as some one will say Common should not be recording this type of material, he will be quick to defend himself saying that he can not be pigeoned holed into a category. Apparently he likes to expand musically, I wonder if people bothered to listen to his discs Electric Circus and Universal Mind Control.

Dre said it best, not every brother with dreads is for the cause. Please note, Jadakiss made one song asking WHY, donned a panther-style black leather attire with the hat, secured Common and Talib Kweli for the remix video and some people colored Jada a conscious thug.

Oh yeah, I think 50 Cent is one of the most conscious emcees out there. Well that's if you've heard his interviews and understands where he's coming from.

samax said...

I will give you that I don't listen to all his music, because (like I said) I'm not much of a fan. I guess I probably gave him credit for being something he wasn't.

Vee (Scratch) said...

It's something I noticed with many artist that are/were labeled conscious. I noticed earlier with Queen Latifah. I'm not passing judgement against any of those artist but like some would say, my mind state (conscious-ness) doesn't define my art.

Let's just say that there's so much more to recording artist than their image, even if it is a positive image. Chuck D is one of the few cats that is as real as it gets. His lyrics and music reflects his character. He never flipped the script to endorse or rhyme about liquor*, apologized for the song "Sophisticated B*tch" because he's conscious. And while he may support younger rap acts, he clearly doesn't cosign negative crap. That's very rare in hip-hop now-a-days. I think most artist just play lip service to whatever flavor will get them another check.

So yeah, I'm not surprised.
Guys like Talib and Common often get annoyed by the conscious label, Commone decided to say something about it in a recent rhyme:

"You say be on that conscious tip/get your head right and get on this conscious dick"

Vee (Scratch) said...

My bad, sorry for long comments and the extra-rap-hip-hop nerd moment. But this topic has been in the back of my head for a little minute looking back at hip hop for what it was and what it was not.

samax said...

Are you really apologizing to ME for a hip-hop/rap nerd moment? LOL!

It's all good. In fact, I agree with what you're saying. Had this song been a layered expression of... well, of ANYTHING, I would be okay with it. Dumbing your shit down is wack.

I'm not publicly critical of people who come out the gate dumb (of whom much is given, much is required), but if you rhyme smart, you set the bar high for yourself.

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