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Preview: Common

Noah Bonaparte Pais on the artist coming to The Howlin’ Wolf Dec. 3


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If you haven't been keeping up with Lonnie Lynn lately — between books, films and television, Common's music has become anything but — he catches you up on "Rewind That," the closer to his 10th album Nobody's Smiling (Def Jam/ARTium). The track is split between two sides, each celebrating a mentor: the first commemorating his split and eventual reunion with producer No I.D., the Chicago guru with whom he made his name on mid-'90s classics Resurrection and One Day It'll All Make Sense; the second dedicated to rap godfather J Dilla, who, with the production collective and Native Tongues offspring Soulquarians (Questlove, Erykah Badu, Mos Def, Q-Tip, D'Angelo), helmed Common's 2000 breakthrough Like Water For Chocolate, before dying of a blood disease in 2006. It's a lot to tackle on a five-minute track, but that's Common's stock-in-trade: "I Used to Love H.E.R.," from Resurrection, spins the rap game into a story about an ex who went astray, boiling down 15 years of hip-hop history into three cleverly verbose verses. Nobody's Smiling is a more direct piece, more in line with contemporary trends than any album before it, evidenced by its Big Sean takeover single "Diamonds." But No I.D.'s splattered sonic palette and Common's rhythmic simmer dominate, and a crew of Chicago up-and-comers give voice to the tales of inner-city violence spilling out of Chitown. Dreezy paces the swagger on the Camp Lo rip "Hustle Harder," and spoken-word artist Malik Yusef drops the record's top rhymes on the title track, over a menacing lurch and ominous dispatch hook: "Out of 10 people that was shot, seven ate 9's"; "Face on T-shirts with no hashtags/ Just big-ass trash bags tagged hash." New Orleans native Jay Electronica and Fly Union open. Tickets $30.


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