Friday, August 03, 2007

Sesame Chicken, Maybe

Just had me some sesame chicken. Mmm-hmm. That takeout shit, with a side of rice, you know that spot up the block, that second generation Asian joint. That spot where you get the same dish every motherfuckin time! And they never give extra soy sauce packets? No matter what I’m going through, that sesame chicken—all that breaded goodness—does the heart, well maybe not the heart literally but c’mon, good. I know that chicken was sitting under a heat lamp for the last hour and change but shit still tastes good to me.

Picked up that Common earlier this week. Finding Forever, expansive title... sounds
huuuuuge. When I heard the album name I got a little giddy. Com bout to find forever, transcend space and time, are you serious? That told me the beats and rhymes—everything—was about to be a classic. I mean I’m not a Common head, I know the “Light” and his M.O., that peace & love shit, but I don’t know Common’s in and outs. I never did get BE but heard most of it and from what I remember it was plenty good. So when I heard, “The People”, I was convinced Com had found forever.

I blame the
internet a tad on this one. I waited until earlier this week to give Com a listen but I’d be lying—and a damn fool—if I didn’t say I snuck a listen to shit that’s been leaked through the months. “People” and “Game” completely sold me but the rest of the album is kind of stale. Like, when I take those two jams out of the picture, Finding Forever struggles. It’s like “ah, damn that’s it?” Twelve tracks means classic. Forget the intro. Minus them two tracks. Take away that Dilla throw in, “So Far to Go”, from over a year ago. Add the fact that I’ve heard parts of “Black Maybe”, “Southside” and “Misunderstood” a few months ago. What’s left isn’t too mesmerizing.

I dug “Start the Show” and “Forever Begins” like crazy probably because I had not heard them before. “Start the Show” is concise. With lyrics such as “the C-O double M O-N synonym for fresh, truth is the emblem… shakin in they timberlands… been a master since p was no limitin… q infinitin down the old blocks… you sing along with it, inside you know its wack… sounding soft as Jojo… with 12 monkeys onstage its hard to see who’s a gorilla… and half is style… verses touch the youth like catholic priests”, he gives his impression on the game. And when he mentions “it’s a festival in Hip Hop” the production reminded me of a merry-go round. Kanye over a distorted megaphone sounds as if he’s a carnie hand. And I can picture Com riding on a horse, while the pole pokes up and down, having fun wrecking his fellow riders.

Common’s after thoughts on “Black Maybe” hit a nerve: “Situations of people of color, you endure obstacles and opposition… sometime it come from your own kind or even your own mind… the struggle of being you”. Even your own mind? I did this, thought this? Don’t I feel that way sometimes, shit, and he wraps it up with a reaffirming “the struggle of being you.” There are no answers, just feelings and finding the right channel to
express them.

I had skipped over Dilla’s “So Far to Go” but then realized it carried new verses. The old version’s first verse was… words cannot describe. “You’re breaking my concentration.” So, a little frustrated with the new verses, I ran to the old version. I’ll just say my brother caught—abruptly and rudely interrupted—me when I was dancing to “sticky… depict me as conscious, yeah I use my head”.

The introduction to “Misunderstood” sets the mood. The pull of the guitar strings screams: blues! The beat provides a perfect backdrop for Common to speak. The fluttering flute and the “I’m just human” snippets provide Common ample accompaniment.

The three woman songs are all weak, like chewy gristles—I’d really like to spit them out. Com’s pen game for these love tracks sounded as if he’d only went through one Bic, a few napkins and a few cycles of E!. His mediations on love felt distant; it’s like he closed the door. For some reason I can listen to that Lilly Allen Joint “Drivin Me Wild” only when I’m doing something; when I pay attention and listen, it wanes. Lilly on the hook is too loud, fast and annoying yet I like her in the background, waling, sounding like a drunk siren surrounded by an enthusiastic (or Ritalin stricken) piano player. I thought about “Drivin Me Wild”'s statement of “love is not a mystery, it’s everything”. It doesn’t mean anything; it’s a dead end poetry line. Encapsulating love with a lofty “everything” or even a “mystery” is vague and uninteresting. And then struck out; the track gets tolerable towards the end. I was hoping the beat would stretch out. How does that “Break My Heart” go? If the album had 14 or 15 tracks, I would excuse these three missteps.

Expectations ruin things but we have to have them; it acts as a type of checks and balance system. For eleven tracks and Common, I expect to go to sleep to this; I still can but it won’t inspire visionary dreams or thoughts. His flow and lyrics became predictable. I credit Ye with diversifying his sound on Finding Forever but he didn’t offer the sky for Common. Just add more soy sauce. Features run thin for a reason but I’d like to have seen a different, even outlandish, collabo. Kanye’s help on “Southside” was almost worrisome—what punch line will he come up with next? His flow is rusty! Damn Kanye, stop with the marching band drums already!

I read reviews of the album in the last week and they both echoed predictability. Common is great yet he’s supposed to push himself. It is uncommon for him to rest on his laurels.

I know Common had this shit warming up for a while under the heat lamp. It tasted very much like heated up left-overs—from a good cook, mind you. I imagine myself never hearing most of the album, just “Game” and even “People” on television as singles. Like what if I hadn’t smelled that sesame chicken wafting through the air from two blocks away; if I hadn’t eaten that chicken in my mind with those tiny sesame seeds stuck on splotches of sticky sauce surrounding the chicken?

Common delivered, so quit the bitching. Press play and be content. Sesame chicken, maybe? Turn that indecision into a fork. You should be hungry, er, starving because
there’s not much else around. Scoop it up; this Common is good. Although it won’t be your best meal, it’ll be enough to keep you full for weeks. It’s good for the body, for the heart but it falls short of its intentions of serving enlightenment.

However holy “Forever Begins”, the send off, sounds—we are marching towards the light, right?—as if Common is still searching. He even embellishes, “Forever Begins just because I thought about it.” Finding Forever keeps us at bay until he finds it—I mean I still believe just because he thought about it. Yet Common provides insight on the conundrum of a classic “I wonder when the road call for heaven gone come, forever gone come”.


At 7:12 AM, Blogger Enigmatik said...

excellent post, Major. you captured the overall impression of this album perfectly. Be smashes Finding Forever in my opinion. FF has its moments, but Com mailed it in on some of these verses.

At 7:16 PM, Blogger 1980 said...

what he said.


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