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Common - Let Love (Album Review)

Tuesday, 03 September 2019 Written by Jacob Brookman

‘Let Love’ is Common’s 12th studio album and serves as the self-declared musical iteration of his New York Times bestselling memoir Let Love Have the Last Word. 

It treads familiar lyrical ground, with his complicated family upbringing, political commentary and religious faith permeating a soft hip hop record of warm, soulful reassurance. It’s a clear departure from 2016’s more proactive and politically motivated ‘Black America Again’.

The opener Good Morning Love—one of several songs to feature elegant contributions from Samora Pinderhughes—is a low-slung meditation on faith and the concept of essential morality.

It doesn’t always make complete sense. “In the hood sense, we all good anyway / That's why you always hear another dollar, another day,” Common declares.

Here, he appears to be drawing a direct line between the pursuit of money and ethical decency. That might make sense in a society that has economically marginalised African Americans throughout its history, but it still feels like an odd sentiment. In another setting—an infomercial, for example—it might be the claptrap of a huckster at a megachurch. It's a surprisingly poorly thought out line, and sticks out as such.

That said, the production, and Common’s bars in general, are excellent. Though this is not one of his best records (tracks like HER Love, Leaders and Hercules pass without landing a punch) the quality of his storytelling and ear for hooks keep the record ticking. Similarly to contemporaries Yasiin Bey (Mos Def) and Talib Kweli, you always get the impression that Common’s work ethic and natural intelligence are a key reason why so many other wordsmiths have had shorter careers than he has.

Fifth Story is indicative of this—a powerful hood tale with intersecting bars from mask wearing New Yorker Leikeli47. The track has a stop/start rhythm combined with sinister chords that build and build with compelling tension, and the perfectly executed male and female vocals give it great integrity. It’s a relative standout on an otherwise slightly underwhelming album.

At this point, Common has become a bit of a vaudevillian: an all round entertainer and public intellectual whose main artistic medium is no longer clear. As such, he can certainly be forgiven for taking his foot off the pedal with ‘Let Love’. That said, this is a deeply autobiographical album and one does feel that there are more musical avenues and sonic directions to explore than the finished product suggests. It passes without much endeavour or innovation, which is unusual and unwelcome for a musician of Common’s quality. 

Common Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Tue September 10 2019 - LONDON O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire
Thu September 12 2019 - MANCHESTER O2 Ritz

Click here to compare & buy Common Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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