Just in case you missed them, check out Part One and Part Two, so that you can follow this unique perspective on Common's albums through the lens of Stevie Wonder's albums. Do know, this isn't a comparison; yet, it is quite simply one way to enjoy two artists' music in one forum.
Finding Forever & In Square Circle
I have never created an album of music and I have certainly never blessed the ears of the world with a classic album. So my credentials for the following comments should be taken with a humongous grain of salt. With that considered, I'm not sure how many Hip Hop artists have been able to pull a one-two punch of classic albums. Eric B & Rakim's Paid In Full, Follow The Leader, and Let The Rhythm Hit 'Em is a trifecta of Hip Hop excellence. Public Enemy's A Nation of Million To Hold Us Back and Fear of a Black Planet are so sonically similar that they feel as though they were created in the same recording sessions. As it relates to Common, Finding Forever is not the knockout punch that Be was; instead it is a win by points on the scorecard.
The last Stevie Wonder album covered in this series, Hotter Than July, is a classic or like Common's Be, a knockout. Also comparable to Common's Finding Forever, In Square Circle is a scorecard winner.
Both albums contain singles that are mandatory inclusions in conversations about Common's & Stevie's best songs. The People was one of the songs I used to introduce my children to Hip Hop (I would rhyme along while driving and when I got to the part where he says, "my daughter found Nemo" both of my girls would rock excitedly in their baby seats).
It would be inaccurate to say Overjoyed is slept-on, but I seldom see it on any of Stevie Wonder greatest hits albums. More than likely it is due to the expansiveness of Stevie's catalog. But Overjoyed always stood out to me. It (along with LL Cool J's I Want You) was one of the first songs where I actually copied the lyrics down verbatim. Even as a ten-year old, I thought the song was enticingly poetic. I was also hoping that I could compose a love letter that was equally enchanting. I wasn't too successful with that letter. In fact, I opted to impress the girl by riding on the bumper of the school van. Truly, a terrible idea and instead of impressing the girl, I busted my nose on the taillight. The scar remains etched over the bridge of my nose. I probably would have been more successful giving her my handwritten lyrics to Overjoyed.
I mentioned earlier that I haven't created any albums, but I if I had, one of my songs would build from the instrumental breakdown at the 4:00 minute mark of Forever Begins. It segues perfectly into Pop's rap and caps a really good album.
Universal Mind Control & Characters
Perhaps you may recall the music video for MC Hammer's Turn This Mutha Out. There is a moment in the begining of video when some random dude is like "Hammer! You ain't hitting in New York, so what you gonna do about that HAMmer!" I imagine someone is like "PRENTIS! You defended Electric Circus, but what you gonna say about Universal Mind Control?!"
I can't say a thing. This is the one outlier that messes-up my little experiment. In retrospect, when I didn't buy the cd in the first few weeks of its' release should have been a clue. I eventually copped it from the bargain bin at the resale shop. I got madd respect for Common, so I made sense of this album by viewing it as artistic experimentation. The vibe made me feel as if I were some college rave party. It felt like when your good friend is dating an unattractive person. He is still your guy and because you got good history, you just sort of give him a pass. Common has enough credibility with me to get a pass.
With Stevie and Characters, it is apparent that the golden era ended with Hotter Than July. His genius shines through on You Will Know. While all knew that the glory days had passed, we also knew a post-glory days Stevie is still more talented and more engaging than a great percentage of singers and songwriters. You Will Know is one of those songs that you forgot you liked. But when you hear it, it conjures a certain calm that only the greatest of songwriters can convey.
Another song from Characters you may have forgotten about was Skeletons. Stevie took us to church with this one. In fact, let's take a moment and revisit it. Check back soon for Part 4.