Out of body experience, hard to explain
Like the pyramids and gods I remain
I know pain, like Kurt Cobain,
Or hate. Or AI playing hurt the whole game.
Dig into the Earth's brain for worse gain;
Focused like Young Blood on his first chain.
I used to write shit to please niggas:
Now I write shit to freeze niggas.
Whether iced out, or American Pie sliced out,
I sit in the room with the lights out.
Whether diced out, or with the hair spiked out,
I sit alone in the room with the lights out,
Electric! Wire! Hustle! Flower!
Electric! Wire! Hustle! Flower!

--Common--from "Electric Wire Hustle Flower"--Electric Circus

There's something about Erykah Badu. Not only is she a former teen rapper turned the most soulful and expressive singer of our generation, but she also has the Earth Mother quality of being to be able to inject that soul and expressiveness into others. She dated André 3000 of the brilliant hip-hop duo OutKast and it wasn't long before he was experimenting wildly in music, helping bring about the commercial and critical phenomenon of the group's Speakerboxxx/The Love Below. album.

After Badu and André broke up, an event that led to the sublime emotional event of Badu's Mama's Gun, she took up with Common, who could already make a fair claim to be the best lyricist in Hip-Hop (and the sort of mind a lot of today's insipid literary poets could learn from). The result was Electric Circus, a truly daring and musically inspired album. I hope no one thinks I'm using a disrespectful terms term if I echo what someone said on (I think) OkayPlayer: Badu reverse thugged both Common and André in the sense that she catalyzed their transformation from intelligent hard-core to the multidimensional.

"Electric Wire Hustle Flower", for example, is a very well crafted collaboration with hard rock band P.O.D.. Too often in Rap/Rock collabos the energy of the instrumentation overwhelms the lyrics. No such problem when Common is the lyricist. It's refreshing for someone of Common's caliber to admit:

I used to write shit to please niggas

And this song is arresting proof of his boast:

Now I write shit to freeze niggas

Building on Black Power imagery, and touching on the famous Grunge icon, he flips it smoothly into appreciation of Allen Iverson's ankle-breaking skills (or is that a reference to increasingly smart computer game AI)? He keeps working in this way until he closes the verse with the vivid image "Whether diced out, or with the hair spiked out, I sit alone in the room with the lights out,

Wicked stuff if you can see beyond the next DJ Kay Slay tape, but the problem was that Common's fan base had always been the hard-core underground crowd, and they were not amused at this transformation. See Art of Rhyme's interview with Common:

[AOR]: Out of your body of work, fans were most divided by Electric Circus, how would you personally rank that amongst your albums?

[Common]: I feel it was the most diverse and out-there album, I can't say it's one of the best or weakest. It got the weakest response, but that don't necessarily make it the weakest. Later on people may respond and say that was some creative stuff, we just weren't there at that time. I may have taken them too far at that time. I would say that it's still a good album to me. It wasn't one of my best if I look at it right now, but it may eventually be something that people say is very, very good. How I feel, it's still an expression of me at that time. It's hard for me to say it's one of my best, but I know this album is one of my best.

Apparently he was too far ahead of some of his fans, but I'm grateful for his daring, and I know that Chimezie is, too. It gets the Copia stamp of approval. We're definitely looking forward to Common's new album BE, especially given his hot single "The Corner" and the other advance song, "The Food".

More on Common later on today.

[Uche Ogbuji]

via Copia
2 responses
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