I Can't Call It: Nobody Smiling: Common

Posted On Saturday, August 2, 2014


I know watching reality TV is like the 2014 version of Public Enemy's "She Watch Channel Zero" but there is one reality show that I think even Chuck D would co-sign and that's CNN's Chicagoland. The show deals with three key power players in the Chi. Rahm Emanuel, the city's new mayor, police superintendent Gary McCarthy and Liz Dozier the principal of Fenger High one of the Chi's most notorious high schools. The dopest thing about the show for me is you get to see the direct coarlation between the violence that's going on in the city and these 3 individuals and the offices they each hold. You can see how Emanuel's decision to close a rack of predominately black and latino schools forces kids to travel to rival gang neighborhoods which increases gun violence, which in tun puts McCarthy under fire, which leads to more violence for Principal Dozier's students as well as a decrease in school attendance, which in turn leads to teacher layoffs. It's basically like watching reruns of the Wire but in real time. So with Chicagoland being my favorite television show, it's a no brainer that Common's new album "Nobody Smiling" which is going to be dealing with the violence that's going on in the Chi is one of my most anticipated albums of the year, right?



"Nobody Smiling" sets off with "The Neighborhood" featuring Cocaine 80's and Lil Durk and maaaaaaan, does this jawn go hard! No ID samples one of my fave Curtis Mayfield songs "The Other Side of Town" and both Com and Lil Durk put in work. "I'm wishing for a samuria suzuki and a lil gucci/a bad hoe to BBD Do Me, you heard of Flukie/Stokes, it was folks and coke and dope/fiends chocked off of smoke, heringbone and ropes" is Com's take on the hood while Lil Durk comes with "have you ever heard of no limit, three hundred, six hundred/folly boy, O block, eastside/where it ain't no conversation they just let them heats ride/can't nobody stop the violence, why my city keep lyin/niggas throw up peace signs but everybody keep dying/used to post up on that strip, I look like a street sign/I've been out there three days and I got shot at three times/felt like every bullet hit me when they flew out each nine/I be happy when I wake up and I have a free mind/I know haters wanna clap me up, watch the morgue grab me up." "No Fear" has Com telling the story of a shorty growing up in these Chicago streets, "Sitting on stairs, in street affairs/jordan airs, he got at least seven pairs/his voice rare, talk with a mumble/Chicago Bear hat, quarterback the huddle/call an audible if trouble came, His name Chris, Black is his hustle name/raction to his chains, it's like a basketball game/watch him winning, hope your team do the same/a menace, he O-Dog, Caine, he wish a nigga would go against his grain/used to staying but moved up in the game/take a nigga spot, take a nigga fame/the fortune of a caine, long live his reign/he do it for a son, he do it with a gun, whatever he do, he do it till it's done/a team full of hitters, so they hit and run/the priest don't even want none/walk with the G's cause the G's never run/something to be from the slum and be the one/this is where he at, this is where he from." "Diamonds" featuring Big Sean and "Speak My Piece" both bang and I dig 'em but I don't know what either has to do with the Chi. Com gets back in pocket with "Hustle Harder" featuring Dreezy where he's breaking the down the hustle of a shorty in the game, "Red lipstick bold, french press cold/you know she queen bee by the way she wear her gold/honey gettin' money the ass is stupid/she far from a dummy, funny I thought she came from money how she makin' money/at the club going hard like liquor/shots of ciroc she can out drink a nigga/niggas dig her think they can take her to the crib and break her mover her shake her you can't fake her/she knows time is paper."
 

There's no need to go into how incredible "Kingdom" is cause the track and rhymes speak for themselves, "second row of the church with my hood on/my homie used to rap, he was about to get put on/at his funeral, listening to this church song/his family yelling and screaming, I hurt for ‘em/a cold world that’s why we pack heaters, listening to this preacher as he tryna reach us/I’m a need to go back, I gots to get 'em/back and forth in these streets, that’s the rhythm/revenge is supposed to be the Lord's but I use my own accord/when I seen him on the porch, cost my man his life, I can’t afford not to hit him/shots ripping through his True Religion denim/these streets was my religion/I stood over him, his life is over then, now these keys got me locked up with older men/thought these was the keys for me to roll a Benz, they ended up being the keys for my life to end." "Rewind That" is Com's trip down memory lane breaking down his beginnings with No ID & Twilight Tone, him regretting No ID not being a part of "Like Water for Chocolate" and his time with the late, great J. Dilla. "Out On Bond" featuring Vince Staples is cool and "7 Deadly Sins" is Com's take on B.I.G.'s "10 Crack Commandments" with him breaking down the seven deadly sins and how they play out in the streets. "Young Hearts Run Free" featuring Cocaine 80's ends the album and that's what's good with this album. Now, since spoke about the good stuff on the album, let's chop it up about the bad. Let's start with "Black Majic" featuring Jheno Aiko. Now first things first, I don't even know what the hell is going on here. The beat is wack, I have no idea what Com is rhyming about and unless I gotta play Jheno Aiko's chorus in reverse to hear her saying "help the youth of Chicago I've have no idea what this hoopla has gotta do with the Chi. And if you thought this jawn was bad, just wait til you get to the title track. At least with "Nobody Smiling" I hear some references to the Chi but it's the horrible beat that I can't get past. And "Real" featuring Elijah Blake is better then both of 'em, but the problem is it feels completely outta place on this album.
 

At the end of the day, "Nobody Smiling" is a real solid album...it's just not the album I was expecting. I really thought this was gonna be Com's "It Takes A Nation..." 5 mic classic where he becomes PETV to give us an up close and personal look at what's going on in Chicago and for me, he doesn't. And I'm sure that's where the bulk of the disappointment comes from. There are songs that touch on the Chi and those are the songs I LOVE. But on the flipside, there are songs that I feel have absolutely nuthin' to do with nuthin. And the craziest thing to me is the songs that were leaked before the album dropped liked "War", "Black America" and "City to City" that fit the mold of an album about the Chi MUCH better then most of these songs that made the cut which leaves me scratching my head. I remember when I first heard what the concept of the album was gonna be I was thinking that Com couldn't do this album the right way from Hollywood, in between movie shoots and reading scripts. I felt like him AND No ID were gonna have to post up in the Chi for a good 6-8 months and really be in the fabric of the Chi. These dudes were gonna have to be at Fenger High walking the halls and talking to students. And not just on no assembly ish but really talking with the youth one on one to really get to know them and their struggles. They were gonna have to be at the funerals of not only the innocent bystanders but also the thugs that Chiraq's violence has taken from us. They needed to be at the rallies in the Chi about the school closings and the gang violence. They needed to visit the prisons and talk to everyone from the lifers to the cats who are about to get out and hit the streets again. In a nutshell, these dudes needed to become Chicago. Then after feeling the pulse of the city, they needed to go hit up the studio and make music that reflected the emotions they just witnessed. But you can tell that's now what these cats did. Now, I'm sure cats are saying "come on Kil, who's got time to do all of that?" And my answer would simply be the person who wants to do it RIGHT way. See, I'm cut from the cloth of Duck from The 5 Heartbeats, that if we're gonna do it, let's do it right. And this go round, it's obvious Com and No ID didn't do it right. 

3.5 outta 5
 

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