us on Twitter for updates as they happen and sarcastic commentary.
us on Facebook for updates in your feed, special offers, and more.
if you're one of "those" people.
our mailing list. It's so wizard.
24 July, 2014@12:35 pm

Pretty much every album that Common has released since One Day It Will All Make Sense has been reviewed on this site, and been rated @@@@ or above. With the exception Universal Mind Control, even his critically panned Electric Circus scored highly here, despite everyone complaining that Com was under a spell of “Baduizm” at the time. Com has not really been one to repeat himself, as each of his albums have a distinct sound; even the differences between Can I Borrow A Dollar? and Resurrection were stark.

So when he announced that his new album, Nobody’s Smiling, which takes its title from a line in Eric B. & Rakim’s “The Ghetto”, would be a concept album that deals with the gang violence epidemic currently in Chicago, our interest was peaked. And when it was announced that longtime producer No I.D. would be at the helm, that interest doubled. But like Watch The Throne or Cruel Summer before it, perhaps the bar was raised too high, as Nobody’s Smiling is a bit of a let down.

Let’s begin by saying that there are some truly great moments on this LP, despite the fact that it loses its path somewhere along the way. The Curtis Mayfield-sampled “The Neighborhood”, which opens the LP, is the perfect setup for the album, instantly giving it a dark, brooding 70′s feel. Later on the hypnotic “Speak My Piece”, Common spits raw over a pared down, almost Schoolly-D “Saturday Night” style track, while elements of B.I.G.’s voice are chopped up for the hook, with your subconscious mind filling in the blanks.

Those choppy hooks are in fact a big part of the issues with Nobody’s Smiling. Common’s lyrics and flow are on point, as usual, and the beats aren’t particularly bad, yet the overall song structure is problematic. With No I.D. responsible for the classic beats on Resurrection, we didn’t necessarily expect that album all over again, but his approach is a little too off kilter this time around. Songs like “No Fear” and “Blak Majik” beat the listener over the head with repetitive, inaudible “hooks” (more like just one word, repeated over-and-over). A similar issue plagues “Diamonds”, which to put it bluntly, is destroyed by wack verse and even worse hook by Big Sean.

There’s an element here of Common trying to adapt to the sounds of the younger generations, yet despite a bad appearance from Big Sean, for the most part, it works. Lil Herb’s appearance on “The Neighborhood” fits in well with the theme of the album, as does Dreezy who offers the unique perspective of a prostitute and/or stripper on “Hustle Harder”. Both appearances make sense and fit with the theme of the record.

The album’s greatest achievement, however, finds Com in his element on “Rewind That”, a heartfelt jam true to his original sound. Here, he remembers “trading” No I.D. for J Dilla, with guilt of turning his back on a friend, as well as in turn, losing Dilla, as well. Its very well done.

Not overly preachy, Nobody’s Smiling is not a conscious rap album, and doesn’t solve the problem of Chicago’s violence. Instead it paints a picture of it, drawing awareness, which is perhaps just as important. Despite its flaws, it’s an honest effort, and all around a pretty decent LP.

Related Articles
15 Responses to "Common – “Nobody’s Smiling” – @@@1/2"
  • will350 says:

    A very fair review. I think that most of the reviews out there have been lazy. I thought maybe I was slow or something. E’eryone was talking like yeah, Common’s taking a stand against Chicago gun violence, blah blah blah, yadda yadda yadda and I wasn’t really hearing that in this album. I think that this is a great display for the peeps in the Chi’ to see how real Hip-Hop is done but I didn’t see the theme of the album being married to stopping or curbing youth gun violence in Chicago. I think the record label tell the magazines/blogs whatever what to say and everyone falls in line. But, artist to it to themselves because they may start out with a certain idea but somehow don’t always fully follow through. Hell Nas’ last album was supposed to be the Hip-Hop answer to “Here My Dear”. Accident Murderers and Reach Out really speaks to divorce in my book.

    Anywho I think the album should have been sequenced like this:
    1. The Neighborhood feat. Lil Herb & Cocaine 80′s
    2. No Fear
    3. Diamonds feat. Big Sean
    4. City To City
    5. Out On Bond feat. Vince Staples
    6. Young Hearts Run Free feat. Cocaine 80′s
    7. Hustle Harder feat. Snoh Aalegra & Dreezy
    8. Nobody’s Smiling
    9. Real feat. Elijah Blake
    10. 7 Deadly Sings
    11. Kingdom feat. Vince Staples
    12. Rewind That

  • OptimusPrimeRib says:

    This album was the biggest disappointment. The first two songs were good but when I heard Big Sean I honestly swore something happened and another album got mixed in with this one. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case. Besides two good songs and one okay one, the rest was just Common selling out. It’s like he went to the dark side and sold out terribly. And No ID was a major letdown. Being that this is Common I give it one star and I’m being generous. This was an absolutely terrible album.

  • Chad says:

    I wouldn’t say that common sold out, but gave the wrong young guys a guest spot and it hindered the message, he would’ve benefitted from better lyricists and a little more studio time ironing this LP out, great idea, rushed product=poor execution, not a bad record, just not what it could’ve been.

  • Tom says:

    Common sold out long before this album.

    Anybody ever heard Universal Mind Control?

    Common is a puppet. Not only by trying to get money in the music industry, but in the political world as well.

  • The Man the Myth says:

    Of course Common is sellout. Anyone who shills that hard for a POS like Obama is a sellout supreme. Which makes Jay-Z king sellout, but that’s been obvious for ever.

  • Leave a Reply

    Name (required)
    Mail (will not published) (required)
    Spam Protection by WP-SpamFree

      Mixtape D.L.
    • No items.
    Recently Commented On