By Griffith Fuller
By Griffith Fuller
For those who yearn for 21st century Black Panther music, two of Chicago’s best lyricists have the answer, and so much more.
The recent releases of Common’s Be and Kanye West’s Late Registration proves that the essence of hip-hop will not be lost amongst the superfluous rhymes of ostentatious southern rappers with little to no talent.
Since Jay-Z declared his retirement in 2003, Kanye West has carried the torch and run with it as the most prominent voice of Roc-A-Fella Records. Late Registration is a revolutionary hip-hop album; it exceeds many other recent releases. The album has enough quality to receive five stars from Rolling Stone magazine.
“Heard Em Say” featuring Adam Levine of Maroon 5 is a soulful introduction to the album. Common’s verse on the 1 minute and 43 second “My Way Home” is brief, but like poetry, packed with meaning. West expresses his love for his mother and grandmother on “Roses” and “Hey Mama.”
The remix to “Diamonds From Sierra Leone” featuring Jay-Z answers Roc-A-Fella fans’ questions about the dispute between Jay-Z and former Roc-A-Fella CEO Damon Dash. West creatively sampled Shirley Bassey’s “Diamonds Are Forever” West states “Good morning, this ‘aint Vietnam still/ people lose hands, legs, arms for real.” Jay-Z sums up the triumph of his career in one line, “I do this in my sleep/ I sold kilos of coke, I’m guessing I can sell CDs.” It’s an obvious understatement; Jay-Z is an entrepreneur who went from selling cocaine to selling out the Madison Square Garden in one day.
Even though West produced the historic Nas bash “The Takeover,” he managed to have Nas make a special appearance on “We Major.” The album ends with the very elegant sounding “We Can Make it Better.”Besides putting together his sophomore album, West also made time to produce Common’s follow up to 2002’s Electric Circus.
If Common’s latest album Be could “be” summed up in one phrase, it would probably be “power to the people.” One of the generals of Black Panther hip-hop, Common proves that he gets more innovative with each album. “The Corner” is as powerful as a fist in the air at an antiwar rally. The speech in the track, “Power to the people. Black power. Black is beautiful,” speaks for itself.
West protÃ©gÃ© John Legend lends his vocals on “Faithful” and “They Say.” One of the highlight tracks on the album is “Faithful.” Soul singer Bilal is also featured on the track. Common asks “I was rolling around, and in my mind it occurred/ What if God was a her?”
The influence of jazz is evident at the beginning and end of the album. “The Food” is a live performance featuring Kanye West from The Dave Chappelle show. Common’s father closes the album with a thought-provoking poem.
The most intriguing song on the album is its first single, “Go!” which features background vocals from John Mayer and Kanye West. It includes one of the cleverest lines in hip-hop “Freaky like the daughter of a pastor/ She said that I was bait for her to master.”
Any hip-hop fan should have these two albums.