Common’s seventh surrender to the search for a lasting funk comes in the form of Finding Forever. His Chicago-originated semi-drawl subtly went from a classy underground thing to a cool mainstream breakthrough with the help of his provincial brethren Kanye West on 2005’s Be. Jazzier and slower, the music’s safe study of Black classical (jazz) music in cahoots with hip-hop’s aesthetic made the album a good choice but boring. He was suffering from a similar problem that Redman had years ago when he released Whut The Album in all its Jersey griminess full of weed and urban references of the day.
But when he returned with the Funkadelic-inspired Dare Iz A Darkside touting a cosmic-slop meets the hood type of vibe, fans said the music did not make sense and he “fell off.” Redman responded with Muddy Waters, a world of chickenheads, hoes, blunts and Erick Sermon’s trunk-humming beats. Common betrayed rap music’s supposed dedication to the streets with Electric Circus’s brave adventures in mild Black psychedelia and soul attracted essentialized and misogynistic criticisms of his muses. “Why doesn’t he do another “Resurrection; hanging with Erykau has made him wack.” Whenever Black artists travel outside rote territory they become suspect of betraying their fans and true Blackness. No one can accuse Finding Forever of being ethnically shy even when “Drivin Me Wild” has Lily Allen’s waifish singing on it she bends her voice to fit the style of hip-hop and not the other way around. The grainy P.A. system entrance of “Start The Show” flashes Wu-Tangish sounding tympanis, dramatic strings and Common’s voice coming through the rain of static rhyming as a gladiator forever committed to defending the southside of Chicago. Those populist sentiments also surface on the Kanye West collaborations “The People” and “Southside.” West produces the helium-heavy ode to the common man that oversimplifies the differences in people with lyrics like:
Why white folks focus on dogs and yoga
While people on the low end tryin to ball and get over
But the presence of Dwele’s gentle falsetto and those melodies of stevie wonderized computer horns that flitter over the repetitive “survival” worded sample resolve any sonic confict. Their work together on the sweaty testoterone-thick “Southside” is accentuated by some generic comfortable guitar constantly advancing on their words. Common’s versatility as emcee who can cover more than material for the boys comes up nice in the sensually-slanted “I Want You.”Will.I.Am takes those favored drums from Minnie Riperton and nuances them with soft touches that effects a silky magnetism around Common’s love rap. Dilla makes an appearance on the hackneyed D’Angelo cut “So Far To Go” that can not stand on its own despite Dilla’s genius with the machines.Ambition is better served on the reworking of Syreeta and Stevie’s “Black Maybe” that was born as a hymn of coy intensity rising from Syreeta’s emotive voice and a mostly acoustic order of strings with a hint of spacey keys. In Kanye’s hands the song gets a chorus, sped-up vocals, bass and more body to give it the weight of a Gil Scott Heron and Bilal is a guest. Common sought to make an album that would become a rhyme inheritance for the culture of hip-hop, Finding Forever will be one of those albums because of his commitment to the roots of hip-hop no filler and no pop.