This story first appeared on voices.suntimes.com.
— — — —
Attending an album listening party is sometimes a hit or miss. Many are dull, accompanied by humdrum music. Quite a few are full of earnest-to-the-point-of-rudeness fans and self-important music bloggers who talk more than they listen.
But Common, always the consummate professional, managed to pull off a top tier listening party this week complete with an intimate crowd of about 200, a dash of local celebrity, an revealing on-stage interview with fellow rapper <a href=”http://www.suntimes.com/entertainment/25895584-421/rhymefest-stays-close-to-his-roots.html” title=”Rhymefest talks to the Sun-Times Adrienne Samuels Gibbs about new album Violence is Sexy” target=”_blank”>Rhymefest,</a> two internationally known deejays and, of course, a rousing examination and explanation of the work and worth of his upcoming album<a href=”http://www.okayplayer.com/news/common-announces-nobodys-smiling-lp-with-no-i-d-revolt-video.html” target=”_blank”> “Nobody’s Smiling,”</a> due out July 22.
Not one to mince words, Chicago’s own <a href=”http://www.suntimes.com/24319954-421/leaders-of-chicagos-new-school-hip-hop.html” title=”King Louie sits down with Adrienne Samuels Gibbs and talks about Chicago’s new hip hop” target=”_blank”>King L</a> only had this to say about it: “It was dope.”
Here’s a bit of what I heard and saw:
I heard portions of each song off the sometimes moody album. Some of the tracks add perspective to the ongoing discussion surrounding Chicago’s violence, minus the glorification. Others are hip hop club bangers. And one in particular, “Hustle Harder” will be a hit with the ladies since it features Common giving a big ups to women who are the mother and father in the home. That track specifically features Snoh Aalegra and local on-the-rise lady rapper Dreezy.
<a href=”http://voices.suntimes.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/COMMON_NOBODYSSMILING_DLX-copy.jpg”><img src=”http://voices.suntimes.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/COMMON_NOBODYSSMILING_DLX-copy.jpg” alt=”Adrienne Samuels Gibbs” width=”250″ height=”250″ class=”size-full wp-image-191699″ /></a> This is the album cover for the deluxe edition.
Common doesn’t shy away from his city and the album is amazingly, and refreshingly, Chicago-centric. First off, it’s on a new label overseen by well known producer No I.D., who is Chicago born and went to school with Common all the way back to the duo’s Luther South days. (This album is Common’s first release from <a href=”http://www.defjam.com/artists/?label=artium-records”>I.D.’s anticipated Artium Records</a>. Note to newbies: No I.D., though young in years, is almost an old-head experience-wise on the music scene and has had his hands on production of most of what’s hot, including cuts by Jay-Z, Jim Jones, T.I., Drake, Big Sean and Rihanna.) Continuing the Chi-town-ness of the album, the South Side’s own Lil Herb figures prominently on a track entitled “The Neighborhood.”
<a href=”http://voices.suntimes.com/arts-entertainment/the-daily-sizzle/chicagos-lil-herb-a-key-voice-in-nicki-minajs-latest-song-chiraq/” title=”Lil Herb shines in Nicki Minaj’s song, “Chiraq””>Lil Herb</a> and Common?!! Yep, that’s what I thought too. Common deftly addressed the age, and topical, differences: “Man, he came on that track and ..he blessed it. [Herb] got an introspective which sometimes you don’t get from some of the younger artists… He was talking about how he grew up in a small house and was staying with his grandmother and you kind of get to know somebody through that… He really stepped up when it came to being on that type of track.”
Who else was there? <a href=”http://tv.suntimes.com/video/entertainment/sunday-sitdown-hebru-brantley” title=”Hebru Brantley talks to the Sun-Times’ Mike Thomas about his new exhibit, Parade Day Rain” target=”_blank”>Hebru Brantley,</a> <a href=”http://www.suntimes.com/news/27541587-418/attack-on-chiraq-activists-want-the-word-to-die.html” title=”King Louie talks to Adrienne Samuels Gibbs about the creation of the word Chiraq” target=”_blank”>King L</a>, <a href=”http://voices.suntimes.com/arts-entertainment/israel-idoneji-and-the-prince-of-wales/” title=”Izzy meets the Prince of Wales” target=”_blank”>Israel Idonije</a>, DJ Timbuk2, <a href=”http://www.suntimes.com/photos/galleries/24319954-417/leaders-of-chicagos-new-school-hip-hop.html” title=”Rockie Fresh talks to the Sun-Times Adrienne Samuels Gibbs about local hip hop” target=”_blank”>Rockie Fresh</a>, Rhymefest, Dj Jermaine (who spun for part of the night) and superstar hair stylist AJ Johnson (who once starred in the Style Network show, ‘Chicagolicious’.)
<a href=”http://voices.suntimes.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/hebru-brantley-at-Commons-listening-event.jpg”><img src=”http://voices.suntimes.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/hebru-brantley-at-Commons-listening-event.jpg” alt=”Hebru Brantley and friends at Common's album release party. Image by Desmond Owusu.” width=”300″ height=”250″ class=”size-full wp-image-191745″ /></a> Hebru Brantley and friends at Common’s album release party. Image by Desmond Owusu.
Some outlets are reporting that there are seven or more album covers, each giving shine to a local rapper. The label only provided me with two covers, the one you see higher up and another featuring just Common. The deluxe cover, shown higher in this post, is a composite of Common’s face along with King L on the right and on the left, Lil Johnny.
For hard core fans, the deluxe CD or the CD sold at Target will be the best bet. The Target version has 14 tracks, including the bonus track “City to City.” The deluxe version has three bonus tracks. The standard version has 10 tracks. There’s also a vinyl edition being released as well for turntable aficionados.
The event was hosted by <a href=”http://www.complex.com/music/2014/06/common-finds-his-fortune” target=”_blank”>Miller Fortune</a> (an un-distilled “spirited” golden lager that debuted in February 2014 and was presented to the crowd in pretty little tumblers,) and <a href=”http://www.complex.com/music/2014/06/common-finds-his-fortune” target=”_blank”>Complex</a>.
— Adrienne Samuels Gibbs