Common is a 48-year-old rap legend who is unanimously considered one of the best to ever grace the microphone. This week, it was a delight to all when he announced a brand new album titled A Beautiful Revolution (Pt 1). While known for his passive yet powerful songwriting, Common’s latest venture seems to have taken him down a darker path due to all that’s transpired in the world this year. Being the first installment in a new series, will Common be able to create another groundbreaking classic 28 years into his career?
Attempting to achieve something much greater than himself, Common puts everything left in his tank towards the record’s conceptual development. As clearly stated in “(A Beautiful Revolution) Intro”, we have been left in shambles due to the crimes against humanity committed by groups ranging from the earliest slave traders to our modern politicians. While they have tried to knock over and divide us repeatedly, the opener states that we must come together and make a force more dominant than anything they can fathom. Reinstating these ideas, Common’s down-to-earth songwriting is some of the most thought-provoking of the entire year. Whether he’s inspiring the hopeless on “Courageous” or teaching of the oppression his people face on “Fallin'”, the depth and richness embedded in each word he excretes is genuinely remarkable. At the peak of this is “A Place In This World”, which beautifully captures the enduring struggle of people in modern America with a dynamic created from Common’s dark lyricism and featured singer PJ’s bright hook. While talking about Los Angeles, based artist PJ, her other guest appearances on “Courageous” and “Don’t Forget Who You Are” are near flawless due to her angelic vocals and inspirational messaging. Despite the previously stated song’s vast array of stories and topics, they all contain the same delivery and demeanor, which can somewhat be an issue. For those who desire a more intense side of Common, there is the Lenny Kravitz collaboration “A Riot In My Mind”, which shows the Chicago MC with a burning sense of urgency in his flow. In all of its glory, “Say Peace” is the LP’s ultimate highlight as fellow rapper/activist Black Thought joins Common for a legendary clash between God-level MC’s. Wrapped up by the “(A Beautiful Revolution) Outro”, Common steps back as he lets close friends and fans speak on what the albums name means to them. In a year where everyone has attempted to add forward-thinking social commentary to their music, Common proves he is still cream of the crop in this regard.
Behind the boards, the production is stripped and shackled, but that’s far from a bad thing. Consisting of simple string patterns, drum rhythms, and horn sections, the instrumentals are pretty straightforward, but that is needed to get across the raw feel that Common’s lyricism must be coincided by. Songs like “Fallin'”, “Say Peace”, and “A Place In This World” are prime examples of this. The definite highlight here is “Courageous”s beautiful harmonica outro as on top of being a real tear-jerker, it is one of the only moments that even sticks out within the soundtrack. “A Riot In My Mind” is certainly a close second as its screeching horns, scratchy vocals, and chaotic background feels like something off J Dilla’s iconic album Donuts. Even though it lacks the sonic memorability of other projects, A Beautiful Revolution (Pt 1)‘s attention to detail makes it an ever-growing and consistent experience.
Overall, A Beautiful Revolution (Pt 1), is a testament to Common’s legacy and ability to thrive under pressure. In the midst of one of the scariest times to be an African American leader, the 48-year-old steps up fearlessly, displaying ability that solidifies his place not only among the best MC’s but also the great modern philosophers. Only suffering from lack of versatility and a short length of nine songs, it’s hard to complain about what’s given. Going forward, I hope part two comes sooner than later because if it’s anything like this, we are bound to see the quality only go up from here!
- Common moves up the all-time lyricist list
- Only records in contention with its level of consciousness are Streams of Thought Vol. 3 & RTJ4
- Features play their part perfectly
- Leaves room for an even better sequel
- Lack of versatility
- Instrumentals feel too repetitive at times
Written By: Marc Dator
Scored and edited by: Marc Dator, owner and founder of Fantastic Hip Hop