Common Sense, Day 2: “…As my equal is how I must treat you…”

Editor’s note: After yesterday’s post about Common went so well, I decided to do a series of posts from now until either the conservative right drops its opposition to the Chicago MC/Poet/Actor making an appearance at a White House event, or the event itself takes place. Trust me, there are plenty of songs in Common’s catalog to dispel this fallacious claim that he’s a “controversial” rapper known for “misogynistic, cop-killing lyrics.”

I will never forget the first time Common caught my ear. It was August 2000, and I was on US 75 North in the Dallas Metroplex – Plano to be specific – on my way home from my honeymoon to begin a new life with my wife. I had found a real R&B/Hip-hop station and was going to hang onto it until it became too fuzzy to hear. It was then that I heard “The Light,” off of Common’s album “Like Water for Chocolate.” That song is the subject of today’s Common Sense.

Here’s the link. Go listen to it, let it resonate in your dome, then come back and read the rest.

The timing of my first listen to this song was perfect. It’s a love song, an ode to special woman. It manages to be sweet without becoming saccharin. He is elevating his woman for the special being she is, without putting her on a pedestal and setting her up for a fall. The chorus samples Bobby Caldwell’s “Open Your Eyes.”

A notable line comes at about the 2:45 mark, when Common says, “Truthfully it’s hard trying to practice abstinence.” Yes. That’s right. A pro-abstinence message in a hip-hop song. Tell me again why the conservative right is going apoplectic?

So here are the lyrics. Go back and listen again, soak in the lyrics. This good man – and talented MC – is being slandered by the conservative right as a misogynist, and I won’t stand by and let it happen.

I never knew a luh, luh-luh, a love like this
Gotta be somethin’ for me to write this
Queen, I ain’t seen you in a minute
Wrote this letter, and finally decide to send it
Signed, sealed, delivered for us to grow together
Love has no limit, let’s spend it slow forever
I know your heart is weathered by what studs did to you
I ain’t gon’ assault ’em cause I probably did it too
Because of you, feelings I handle with care
Some niggas recognize the light but they can’t handle the glare
You know I ain’t the type to walk around with matchin’ shirts
A relationship is effort, I will match your work
I wanna be the one to make you happiest, it hurts you the most
They say the end is near, it’s important that we close..
.. to the Most High
Regardless of what happen on Him let’s rely

There are times.. when you’ll need someone..
I will be by your side..
There is a light, that shines,
special for you, and me..

It’s important, we communicate
and tune the fate of this union, to the right pitch
I never call you my bitch or even my boo
There’s so much in a name and so much more in you
Few understand the union of woman and man
Sex and a tingle is where they assumin’ it land
But that’s fly by night, for you and the sky I write
For in these cold Chi night’s moon, you my light
If heaven had a height, you would be that tall
Ghetto to coffee shop, through you I see that all
Let’s stick to understandin’ and we won’t fall
For better or worse times, I hope to me you call
So I pray everyday more than anything
friends we’ll stay as we begin to lay
this foundation for a family – love ain’t simple
Why can’t it be? Anything worth having you work at annually
Granted we’ve known each other for some time
It don’t take a whole day to recognize sunshine

There are times.. when you’ll need someone..
I will be by your side, oh darling
There is a light, that shines,
special for you, and me..

It’s kinda fresh you listen to more than hip-hop
and I can catch you in the mix from beauty to thrift shop
Plus you ship hop when it’s time to, thinkin’ you fresh
Suggestin’ beats I should rhyme to
At times when I’m lost I try to find you
You know to give me space when it’s time to
My heart’s dictionary defines you, it’s love and happiness
Truthfully it’s hard tryin’ to practice abstinence
The time we committed love it was real good
Had to be for me to arrive and it still feel good
I know the sex ain’t gon’ keep you, but as my equal
is how I must treat you
As my reflection in light I’ma lead you
And whatever’s right, I’ma feed you
Digga-da, digga-da, digga-da, digga-digga-da-da
Yo I tell you the rest when I see you, peace

There are times.. when you’ll need someone..
I will be by your side..
There is a light, that shines,
special for you, and me.

–QCFM

“…The present is a gift, and I just wanna be…”

Common, courtesy of (Mis)Speak MusicFirst things first. Click on this link to go watch the video for “Be” by Common.

It’s important to call out ignorance, so Emily Esfahani Smith doesn’t get a free pass for calling Common a “controversial rapper known for misogynistic, cop-killing lyrics.” Common probably isn’t that controversial to most people familiar with his music, and he isn’t known for misogyny or violent lyrics. Pick a Common album…any of them…and you’ll realize that tracks like this one are a far more important part of Common’s body of work.

Smith tries to play the Jeremiah Wright card, which is certainly code that readers of The Blaze – Glenn Beck’s knock-off Huffington Post, which Smith contributes to – understand. Smith doesn’t cite any examples of those “misogynistic, cop-killing lyrics” in her story, which I won’t dignify with a link, but instead posts a YouTube video of an appearance Common made on Def Poetry Jam.

So since Smith didn’t post any lyrics, here’s what this song says.

I want to be as free as the spirits of those who left
I’m talking Malcom, Coltrane, my man Yusef
Through death grew conception
New breath and resurrection
For moms, new steps in her direction
In the right way
Told inside is where the fight lay
And everything a nigga do may not be what he might say
Chicago nights stay, stay on the mind
But I write many lives, they lay on these lines
Wave the signs of the times
Many say the grind’s on the mind
Shorties blunted-out and everyone wanna rhyme
Bush pushing lies, killers immortalized
We got arms but won’t reach for the skies
Waiting for the Lord to rise
I look into my daughter’s eyes
And realize I’ma learn through her
The Messiah, might even return through her
If I’ma do it, I gotta change the world through her
Furs and a Benz, gramps wanting ’em
Demons and old friends, pops they hauntin’ him
The chosen one from the land of the frozen sun
When drunk nights get remembered more than sober ones
Walk like warriors, we were never told to run
Explored the world to return to where my soul begun
Never looking back or too far in front of me
The present is a gift
and I just wanna be…

But please don’t take my word for it. Look up Common, listen to his music and make your mind up for yourself.

–QCFM

Friday Soundtrack, or a mental break

Oh, Régine.

Well, just when I thought it was safe to poke my head out again, here come the Republicans and Democrats to shut down the government over .17% of the federal budget. It’s the same games we’ve come to know and despise – an unrelated rider is attached to a bill, and the whole process of actually doing stuff grinds to a halt because of the unrelated rider. Beautiful, ladies and gents. Way to earn the paycheck.

Ugh.

I need a mental break. My latest checkout from the incredible Springfield-Greene County Library system is the Grammy-winning album “The Suburbs” by indie rockers Arcade Fire. Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains) is my favorite track of the album, as they lovely Régine Chassagne coos over pulsing synth: “Living in the sprawl / Dead shopping malls rise like mountains beyond mountains / And there’s no end in sight / I need the darkness someone please cut the lights…”

Appropriate, I guess, since the federal government looks like it’s going dark for a little while. But I’m going to try not to think about that tonight and try to enjoy my weekend, at least for a little bit.

–QCFM

 

 

Friday Soundtrack, or is this Fiasco’s fiasco?

There are very few artists that, when they put out a new album, I will buy sound unheard. One of the dropped a new joint – as the kids say – this week.

Lupe Fiasco, born Wasalu Muhammad Jaco and raised in Chicago, first caught my attention with his 2006 debut, Lupe Fiasco’s Food & Liquor. He’s a different kind of MC than people are used to. That album’s lead single, for instance – called “Kick, Push” – was a skater-boy-meets-skater-girl love story. One of my personal favorites from that album is a track called “Daydreamin’,” featuring the divine Jill Scott. That song mocks the excesses of most rap music and its videos before Lupe says “I had to turn my back on what got you paid / I couldn’t see half the hood on me like Abu Ghraib / But I’d like to thank the streets that drove me crazy / And all the televisions out there that raised me…”

Fiasco continued to do his own thing on 2007’s The Cool, which was nearly a concept album, building off a couple of tracks on Food & Liquor. As AllMusic.com said, “a fatherless boy is raised by supernatural characterizations of the streets (named the Streets) and the game (named the Game), squanders his potential, becomes motivated by greed, turns to dealing drugs, gets caught up on a few levels.” This album continued to distance Lupe, a clever lyricist, from the hip-hop morass.

So it was with great anticipation that I waited for Lupe’s next album…and waited, and waited. The album, Lasers, was delayed several times and Fiasco had to make several artistic concessions before the label would finally release it to an audience so eager to hear it, that 30,000 of them signed a petition demanding Atlantic release the album and many other fans held a protest outside Atlantic’s offices.

What did Lupe Fiasco’s fans get? Depends on who you ask. Some Web sites have given it horrible reviews, while AllMusic.com gave it 3 out of 5 stars. Rolling Stone, however, loved it. They gave it 4 1/2 stars (out of 5), saying “Lasers, is shorter, brighter and — most admirably — more optimistic. It places Lupe in a tradition that runs from Marley to M.I.A.: the soul rebel who refuses to believe righteous struggle has to be a grind.”

I, of course, will make up my mind for myself. This Friday Soundtrack is the lead single from Lasers, “The Show Goes On.” Here Lupe reworks the chorus from Modest Mouse’s “Float On” and defiantly raps that, even when people try to bring him down or mistreat him:

…I don’t switch up I just laugh
Put my kicks up on they desk
Unaffected by they threats, then get busy on they ass
See that’s how that Chi-Town made me
That’s how my daddy raised me
They glittering may not be gold, don’t let no body play me
If you are my homeboy, you never have to pay me
Go on and put your hands up, when times are hard you stand up…

Good stuff from Lupe, bright and optimistic as Rolling Stone said. This one’s going to power my weekend. Enjoy yours.

–QCFM

Friday Soundtrack, or Relax…it’s the weekend

Emiliana Torrini

Emiliana Torrini

How messed up has this week – with all its snow days and kids at home – got me? I almost didn’t post a Friday Soundtrack because I forgot it was Friday. Unacceptable.

This week’s soundtrack fell into my lap at work tonight, when I heard the soothing voice of Emiliana Torrini. I fell in love with her music about four years ago, mostly because of her angelic voice. The Iceland native blends elements of folk, electronica and pop together, and does so beautifully. Her 2005 album “The Fisherman’s Wife” comes highly recommended by me.

That’s what album this song, “Nothing Brings Me Down,” comes from. It’s a perfect Friday night song, as Emiliana coos “…Home alone and happy / Nothing brings me down / My love for you is ready / Nothing brings me down…”

Here’s hoping nothing brings you down this weekend. It’s Friday. Let’s relax, y’all.

–QCFM

Friday Soundtrack, or John Legend and The Roots get me movin’

John Legend and The RootsThanks to the phenomenal Springfield-Greene County Library District, I’m currently spinning “Wake Up” by John Legend and The Roots. It’s an album that I had high expectations for. Combining my favorite band of all time with my favorite R&B singer? Potential rockability is off the charts here.

“Wake Up” is everything I imagined it could be. The album puts a modern spin on some protest songs from the ’60s and ’70s, giving them a modern feel. The songs retain their classic feel without sounding dated, thanks in part to verses from MCs Black Thought and Common. These songs, though written in another era, have messages that are just as relevant today.

That includes the Friday Soundtrack selection “Wake Up Everybody,” originally done by Harold Melvin & The Bluenotes in 1975, with Teddy Pendergrass on lead vocals. Legend and the Roots are joined by Melanie Fiona and Common in their version. Enjoy.

–QCFM

Friday Soundtrack, or music that’s new to me

Mumford & Sons

Mumford & Sons. Not really new, just new to me.

I always appreciate a heads-up from a friend about a band they love. I got one this week and, after listening to one song, I’m ready to dive head-first into exploring this band.

Mumford & Sons hail from London and play a brand of music inspired by folk, rock, country and bluegrass…in other words, right in my wheelhouse. Marcus Mumford, Winston Marshall, Ben Lovett and Ted Dwane joined forces in 2007, fueled by a shared love of rootsy music. The band is part of a powerful underground folk scene in London, which includes the delightful Laura Marling as well as Noah and the Whale.

Their first EP, self-titled, came out in June 2008, followed by an EP called “Love Your Ground” in December of that year. Another EP led to a deal with Island Records and their first full-length album, “Sigh No More” in 2009. That album was issued in America by Glassnote Records in February of 2010.

Mumford & Sons has been nominated for a pair of Grammy awards, one for Best New Artist and one for Best Rock Song for this track, “Little Lion Man.”

YouTube won’t let me embed, so click here to watch the official video. Enjoy…but if you don’t like the F-Bomb, you may not want to watch it.

–QCFM