A Review of Common’s ‘Black America Again’

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It’s been a little over 24 hours since the 2016 presidential election concluded, and I, like millions around the world, still find myself asking, “He really won?” What I get as an answer are pictures of protests and uprisings in the country’s metropolitan centers; a sense of despair, confusion and rage in the social media posts of some and unbridled joy and emboldened hate in that of others’. Donald Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton feels a significant milestone for not just where we are in the country today, but how far we still have to go.

Waking up with a feeling of helplessness, I’ve needed something to make me feel that soldiering on will feel worthwhile, and I feel I’ve found my grail: Common’s Black America again. Since Wednesday morning, I haven’t been able to turn it off.

The politically charged record, released last Friday Nov. 4, tackles the very themes this election has served, in part, to decide our path forward: racial tension, police violence, the rewriting the history of black culture and people. Many in this country deliberately chose a path of hate and dehumanization, and the album acknowledges these people exist, perhaps to a greater extent than many liberal voters did. But it also charts a path forward. Black America will persist and thrive, the album insists, the way it has at so many crucial turning points in the past. No message seems more necessary to push forward in the shadow of the election 2016.

The album unites past and present by building its sonic foundations out of core, soulful hip hop. Celebrating black excellence, the album samples luminaries such as a Minister Louis Farrakhan on the Bilal-assisted “Home.” In a song where Common champions famed writers Ta-Nehisi Coates and James Baldwin, he samples Wu-Tang Clan member, Ol’ Dirty Bastard. It bridges and blends different shades of the black experience rather than seeking to compartmentalize and hold one expression as more significant than another.

Speaking about the album to Billboard, Common explained as much.

“I felt like Black America Again was a strong statement and it also was a way to start the conversation to say Black America Again isn’t only about the protesting and the justice … Black America Again is about humanity and how we express ourselves, love and ways of feeling free.”

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Source: Mic | Muktaru Jalloh