Once in a while an album comes along that is just plain perfect. This is that album. I can't give out a 10, because that is simply not possible. I DJ, and i have learned that there is no such thing as the perfect show, so in turn, I've accepted that there is no such thing as the perfect album. So, moving past perfection, the only thing I can say about this album is that it is damn near perfect.
Common has matured in his decade in the rap game. From his first album to his fourth, he has matured at every level, the product shows that, and this album shows his expanse of talent. The album begins with a long intro that just plays with you, a lot of talking, the average Common album intro. Then the album slips into 'Hot Shit' which should have been the first single, banging Jay-Dee produced record, Com is just buggin' over a jazzy beat. Next comes 'Cold-Blooded,' a more laid back and relaxed track, Com is just spitting over a QuestLove beat with a relaxed flow. The Common fan will be a little disillusioned with this album, it's not hard, straight up and down, this is a mature product, with Com spitting conscious lyrics.
The only thing keeping this album from a perfect score would probably be it's softness. The purist would say, what do you want? I guess I would have to reply like I stated above, there is no such thing as perfection. The album has such a flow to it, like no other album that has been released in the past 2 or 3 years, there is no need to reach for the 'next track' button. 'Cold-Blooded' is followed up by the buzz record, 'Dooinit.' They didn't do a video for this track, the first time around it didn't strike me, but after hearing it in the flow of the album, it is much more appreciated.
I have been thinking of an album to compare this to, but I really can't find one. The only thing I can say is that this album is basically the best of what Common has, all condensed into one album. We have every aspect of what he is, blessed on a track. One thing that Common has done over the course of his career is that he's had very sparse guest appearances on tracks with him. Straying from that notion is what makes this album a cut above the rest. 'Questions' with Mos Def is a classic track, both spit well constructed lyrics over a laid back beat with Mos stealing the show with the line about needing ID...Classic.
Next up is the standout track, the DJ Premier produced '6th Sense' which is a huge buzz record on the radio right now, and will remain as a classic record in years to come. We all knew Common would be dope over a Primo beat, but for some reason it had never happened until this point. Common shines over this incredible production. But, the track that will be remembered from this album follows the Primo joint, Com connects with MC Lyte for some straight emcee shit. The track is about being a pimp, firstly Com spits lyrics about finding the right girl to pimp, he discovers it is a female...played by MC Lyte. She reappears on the scene to spit a heater, definitely holding her own on this track with Com, some may say she even outshined him.
Slum Village drop by for a decent appearance on 'Thelonius,' they don't outshine Com by any stretch of the imagination. Common returns to the family crime story track on this album, he talks about his Grandmother getting robbed. He spells out a classic story with a perfect execution. Common has secured himself on the level of Slick Rick with his storytelling ability. What we have here is a mature album in a pool of immature music with immature subject matter. Common has gone and put out an album well ahead of its time. This album is near perfect, we'll wait and see what the picky and uneducated public decides to view it as.
The most unfortunate thing about this product is that it very likely won't go platinum. I think that the hip-hop world should develop a better rating system, that doesn't rely on record sales. Look at Jay-Z's last album, the album was a banger, and it's got the multi-platinum sales to go with it, that earns him respect and makes fans salivate for album #5. On the other end of the spectrum, you have someone like Common or Mos Def. Mos' debut album barely went gold, but in the opinion of true hip hop heads, this was deserving of much more respect than this. Mos' is making solid power moves in the industry, but if he was the average emcee who barely went gold, his record label would strongly consider dropping him and signing the next Eminem or DMX clone. I'll end the review with a question, it's well known that underground artists deserve the same respect that the DMX's and Ja Rule's get, in fact on the whole more, what can we do to make this happen?