Common – One Day It’ll All Make Sense

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His most undeservedly overlooked album. Critics at the time gave this a lukewarm review, and as lukewarm things are wont to do, it just cooled off into obscurity as time went on. People who want to get into Common will obviously (and rightfully) be directed to Like Water for Chocolate and Be, but One Day It’ll All Make Sensedeserves to be third up, NOT Resurrection, which gets a lot of attention for housing “I Used to Love H.E.R.” – which is better than anything on One Day It’ll All Make Sense – but whereas an album can carry one song, one song can’t carry an entire album.

“Real Nigga Quotes” one of the few times where rapper and producer work together in unison (more on that latter), “Retrospect for Life,” where Common deliberates between abortion and childbirth and vies for the latter (especially poignant when you remember that One Day It’ll All Make Sense was delayed a year so Common could be there for his newborn daughter) and “G.O.D. (Gaining Our Definition),” where Common and Cee-Lo tackle religion over well-timed piano and string flourishes, are the album’s biggest draws. But you’ll also want to keep “Invocation,” because the jazz-inflected melody makes it one of the most immediately bracing beats on the album (even though the healthy amount of scratches forming its bridge makes you think something even bigger and badder is on the way and the track just patters out afterwards); “Gettin’ Down at the Ampitheater” because psychedelic beats are a rarity in 90s hip-hop and because the cowbell in the chorus was a damn good idea (hilariously, this track offers a lot more food and funk than the following “Food for Funk”); “1’2 Many,” even though the whimsical beat doesn’t really work with Common’s visceral verses and “Making a Name for Ourselves”; even though this is the famous track where both rappers involved completely fuck up on their grade school math (“Y’all niggas is scared / I’m your worst nightmare squared / That’s double for niggas who ain’t mathematically aware”).

Look: I’m not claiming the album’s perfect – far from it. When No I.D. supplies a jazz beat, Common sometimes completely disappears under them – the best example is the spoken word track, “My City,” but “Invocation” and “Pop’s Rap Part 2 / Fatherhood” are other good examples. On the other hand, when No I.D. supplies a more minimal, boom bap beat, it becomes clear how much of a non-persona Common is when he’s not doing his typical conscious thing. The best examples of this is on the tripartite “Stolen Moments.” Though none of its constituting parts are bad individually, it’s nowhere near the centerpiece that Common wanted them to be. Mostly because he sacrifices lyrical integrity for storytelling, and the Yoda-ing of lines like “For him to have done it, a babysitter and a car he would need” and “I confronted her with it, to her story, she was sticking” leave a bad taste in my mouth, because no one talks like that. Elsewhere, I s’pose “Somebody had broke in like a mitt / My mind started swinging and who I thought the glove fit” is a clever line because of the hand metaphor, but it makes less and less sense the more I think about it…not to mention no one talks like that, especially when they learn someone broke into their house and home. I’ll still keep them around for No I.D.’s production though –  the whistled hook and string flourishes of Part I and Part II respectively some more of the album’s better earcandies (and I’d like to point out how the backbone of Part II sounds like a dry-run for “The Light”). Also, if you’re like me and get excited when you see big names like Black Thought (of the Roots fame) and Q-Tip (of A Tribe Called Quest fame) attached to these songs – don’t – they’re blasphemously delegated to intro/outro duty on their respective songs.

I don’t mean to suggest Common completely sucks. Actually, he gets in a couple ofgreat lines from time to time like “I flow and go / On and on, like Erykah or etcetera” (“Real Nigga Quotes”), or momentarily forgetting about flow to deliver the touching “It’s too many black women that can say they mothers / but can’t say that they wives” (“Retrospective”), and despite what I said about it, his first verse on “1’2 Many” is easily the album’s best – exploring every possible avenue of the word ‘hard’ for the first half of the verse (“Pussy MC’s stinking so I can’t get hard”). After that, the second best verse on the album is Canibus’ first on “Making a Name for Ourselves,” with the internal rhymes and bone metaphor in “Lyrics unravel, faster than bullets travel through barrels / Niggas be digging my styles like fossils and pterodactyls / Who want to battle? / I’m bad to the bone marrow” and when he says “I’ll hit you in the chest so hard your shoulders will touch,” you’re left thinking, damn, that is hard.

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