June 13, 2010
Common - One Day It'll All Make Sense (September 30, 1997)
I realized that it has been a while since we explored Lonnie Lynn's discography, so I might as well pick up where I left off: with Common's third album, One Day It'll All Make Sense.
Released three years after Resurrection changed the way that everybody looked at hip hop (okay, that was more "I Used To Love H.E.R." than anything else on that project), One Day It'll All Make Sense finds the artist formerly known as Common Sense struggling with a new sense of responsibility, directly attributed to his becoming a father during the recording process. (In fact, this album was originally scheduled to drop in 1996, but was pushed back a year so that Common could go on paternity leave.) The songs on the album waver back and forth between Lonnie Lynn, the working father who wants to provide for his children by providing pearls of wisdom gained from his life experience (this metaphor works if you pretend that we're all Lonnie's children, so just go with it, okay?), and Common, the young Chicago rapper who barely got started in the rap game and still wants to party like a motherfucker. In this respect, most of us can already relate to the dude: everyone struggles with adult responsibilities while wishing they could run away and goof off, which makes sense when you realize that Las Vegas is one of the world's most visited vacation spots.
However, most of us aren't burdened with the pressures of both rapping and acting while getting paid millions of dollars to pimp out a portable mp3 player that nobody cares about (read: the Zune), so fuck that guy.
Naah, I'm just joking: I don't harbor any ill will toward Lonnie Lynn. It would be hard to be a hip hop head without having an appreciation for Common's masterpiece "I Used To Love H.E.R.", in which he utilized a clever gimmick called "an extended metaphor" to talk about our chosen genre as if it was a woman. (I've always felt that the song might have worked even better if Common didn't blatantly give away the twist at the end of the song, but maybe that's just me.) So it's understandable that heads were salivating for One Day It'll All Make Sense, just to see what he would come up with next.
One Day It'll All Make Sense, whose title slyly references the second half of his rap name (which was dropped officially with this release after the threat of a lawsuit from a reggae band from California nobody gives a fuck about), followed Resurrection's blueprint by featuring producer No I.D. behind the boards for the majority of the project, although it should be noted that this was their final joint project together: Common later relocated to New York, signed on with ?uestlove's Soulquarians team, and went a different route. Don't feel so bad for No I.D., though: he would eventually revive his career as an apparent apprentice to his former pupil: the hyperpopular, talented, and brash asshole best known as Kanye West (who, oddly, would also help revive Common's career later on. Weird, that).
One Day It'll All Make Sense received fairly good reviews from critics, but nobody bought the damn thing, something that Common was very familiar with at this point in his career: no matter how much everybody loves that one song that I don't feel like writing out again even though I just used up more words than necessary to explain why I'm not writing it out again, nobody actually purchased Resurrection. But if Common received a royalty check from every bit of praise that particular song received, he could have retired from the game ten times over, choosing instead to only act in crappy romantic comedies opposite Queen Latifah.
Wait, I kind of got off track here.
No matter how clever Common may believe himself to be, he couldn't even hide the fact that this is a rap album intro from the track's very own title. And, in an unsurprising turn of events, this is pretty wasteful.
With the first actual song, Common picks up where he left off with Resurrection. No I.D.'s production is entirely nonthreatening and damn near jazzy, as Lonnie spits a single verse and then puts the mic back into its container. This wasn't bad, but I can't remember anything about the lyrics, so I guess it didn't have that much of an impact.
3. REAL N---A QUOTES
Lonnie comes at the listener with at least eight different forms of aggression. On one hand, this song actually sounds pretty good, even though I felt a bit uncomfortable with the Erykah Badu reference. On the other hand, maybe actual quotation marks should have been placed around the words “real n---a” in the title, as this is actually a masterful parody of the concept of realness within hip hop, from the cursing and the violent content all the way down to the Nas vocal sample and the goofy hook. Not bad, Lonnie. Not bad at all.
4. RETROSPECT FOR LIFE (FEAT LAURYN HILL)
I always thought this was the second single from One Day It'll All Make Sense, but the Interweb tells me it was actually released to radio and BET before “Reminding Me (Of Sef)”, so maybe this was the second Common song from the album to get airplay around my way. For hip hop, this shit runs pretty deep: Common tackles the controversial issue of abortion, from the viewpoint of being neither pro- or anti-, even though Lonnie kind of betrays that conceit by repeating the phrase “Three hundred and fifteen dollars ain't worth your soul” before deciding to keep the baby. Within the song's context, Common's waffling makes perfect sense. I'll be honest, I never cared for this song when I was younger: I found it far too serious for my tastes, and I didn't really like Lauryn Hill's vocals, either. Today, I appreciate this song much more.
5. GETTIN' DOWN AT THE AMPHITHEATER (FEAT DE LA SOUL)
While not a natural transition from “Retrospect For Life”, this still fucking rocks. Over a familiar sample that I can't place at the moment, De La Soul return the favor Common paid them in 1996 for their own “The Bizness” for a corny, feel-good song about, lyrically, gettin' down. Whether or not an amphitheater is involved is up to the listener to decide. Lonnie's lyrics are those of a man who was still taking his rhymes too seriously (there most certainly aren't any Universal Mind Control missteps here), but Posdnuos and Trugoy save the day by making this sound like a leftover from the Stakes Is High studio sessions. This shit is dope.
6. FOOD FOR FUNK
I thought No I.D.'s beat was lacking, but Common's lyrical delivery carries this track over the threshold, and then makes sweet, passionate love to it in that cozy bed and breakfast that they were staying at when Lonnie first proposed the idea of marriage. This song does suffer from a dip in quality when compared to the last three tracks, though it isn't more than a mild hiccup.
7. G.O.D. (GAINING ONE'S DEFINITION) (FEAT CEE-LO)
The Common who was more concerned with spitting than the whole of society's ills no longer exists as of One Day It'll All Make Sense. (Occasionally, this older persona checked in on later projects, but for the most part, he was killed off on “Real N---a Quotes”.) Common was about to have a child (or maybe he already had one at this point: I'm not privy to knowing exactly when this song was recorded in relation to his daughter's birth), and his internal soul-searching, realizing that he was responsible for another person for the rest of his life, was hitting him hard, and it redefined his musical output, altering it from a mere appreciation of hip hop's constructs into an appreciation of life in general. The good thing is that Lonnie is equally adept at serious songs as he is the boastful ones, although I hear a tinge of affirmation that this rap shit is what will pay the kid's bills within his verses. Cee-Lo's guest appearance was much more straightforward, and the song is all the better for it.
8. MY CITY (FEAT MALIK YUSEF)
Beware: this is not a spoken word interlude. This is a full-length spoken word track. And while I have my reservations about the style in general and will never pay any attention to this track ever again, “My City” somehow fits into the mosaic that Common has created for One Day It'll All Make Sense. Guest star Malik Yusef also comes across as much more engaging than most poets tend to on hip hop albums. Besides, the underlying music was also pretty good.
After vanishing halfway through “G.O.D. (Gaining One's Definition)”, Lonnie Lynn reappears to rip shit over No I.D.'s True Master-esque instrumental. This sounds much more like a (pre-written) freestyle than a coherent song with any sort of structure, but fuck it, Common walks away with this shit as if he stuffed it in his jacket pocket and whistled past the security detectors.
10. ALL NIGHT LONG (FEAT ERYKAH BADU)
Remember earlier, when I mentioned that I felt uncomfortable with a reference made to Erykah Badu? This just made me cringe, since all I could think of was Electric Circus and...oh, wow, there goes that chill down my spine again. I didn't care for this song at all. The instrumental is weak, the guest vocals are flat, and Common isn't even trying on here. Also, there is no reason for this to run nearly six minutes long (over seven minutes if you count the unnecessary skit tacked on at the end). What the fuck, man?
11. STOLEN MOMENTS, PT. 1
Okay, I suppose the skit from the last song wasn't entirely unnecessary, as it sets up this three-part suite, in which Common discovers that someone broke into his house and stole all of his shit. Although Lonnie proceeds to recount, in rhyme, the events that we just fucking heard transpire in the skit, this still wasn't that bad.
12. STOLEN MOMENTS, PT. 2 (FEAT BLACK THOUGHT)
The previous installment leads directly into this track, which continues the tale over a much better instrumental. It even morphs into a Black Thought-dominated homage to A Tribe Called Quest's “Sucka N---a” toward the end, which is a twist that I didn't see coming. This shit was nice, but it leaves you hanging.
13. 1,2 MANY
Dug Infinite's beat sounds a bit too whimsical for Lonnie's angry observations. The contrast makes for some entertaining listening, but Common sounds like he's trying too hard to prove something that nobody is going to believe regardless, so why waste your breath?
14. STOLEN MOMENTS, PT. 3 (FEAT Q-TIP)
Features another shout-out to “Sucka N---a”, although this time around Common managed to obtain a guest spot from Q-Tip himself. The final part of this trilogy finds Common still trying to determine who stole all of his damned away from him. It ends in an anticlimactic fashion, as you never find out who the culprit is. I have to give Common credit for not easily submitting to the need to tie things together into a nice little package.
15. MAKING A NAME FOR OURSELVES (FEAT CANIBUS)
Common and/or Canibus fans may recognize this song as the one which contains the infamously incorrect mathematical equation: both Lonnie and Germaine (who should probably know better) yearn to be “your worst nightmare squared”, but then go on to explain that threat as meaning “double, for n----z who ain't mathematically aware”. Um, what the hell? While Common's line about being “as relaxed as Dru Down's hair” is hilarious, this collaboration is all sorts of underwhelming, especially as Canibus sucks all sorts of balls on here. Yeah, I said it. Balls.
16. REMINDING ME (OF SEF) (FEAT CHANTAY SAVAGE)
I always thought this was released as the first single from One Day It'll All Make Sense, but I am apparently wrong. This comes across as having been custom-built for radio airplay, from its polished-to-a-sparking-sheen production to the Chantay Savage-assisted R&B hook. Back in the day, I could take or leave this piffle, and today I feel the exact same way.
17. POP'S RAP PART 2 / FATHERHOOD (FEAT LONNIE LYNN)
Lonnie's father ends the festivities in much the same manner as he did on Resurrection. You can hear in his voice how proud he is to be a grandfather, so that was an unexpected twist for a hip hop album. But you still probably won't listen to this more than the once.
FINAL THOUGHTS: One Day It'll All Make Sense is a strange duck. It starts off as a banging companion to Resurrection, coming across as both more mature and more real simultaneously, but then the train slips from the track and crashes into a seemingly endless wall of tedium. Common's rhymes are of the same caliber as Resurrection for more than half of the project: the songs which feature an older and wiser rapper are so aesthetically different than the rest of the album that (1) it's entirely possible that they were all late additions to the album, leaving me to wonder what happened to the tracks that originally appeared on here, and (2) it's almost impossible to tell that they're from the same artist. The production on One Day It'll All Make Sense tends to get a bad rap: not for nothing is this the last Common album that frequent collaborator No I.D. participated on. But my beef is with how the second half of the album, for the most part, falls the fuck apart, all in the name of socially conscious (read: boring) hip hop.
BUY OR BURN? While there are some really fucking good songs on here, I recommend a burn. Save your hard-earned cash for an album that has a better understanding of what it wants to be when it grows up.
BEST TRACKS: “Real N---a Quotes”; “Hungry”; “Gettin' Down At The Amphitheater”, “Retrospect For Life”
Catch up on Common (Sense) by clicking here.