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5 Quintessential Tracks By Common

Get through the midweek blues with some introspective and incredible songs by one of Hip Hop’s best to ever do it.

Common’s music career now spans 30 years, and there’s no doubt he’s one of the greatest to ever step up to a mic.

The Chicago native’s debut album – 1992’s Can I Borrow a Dollar? – was released 30 years ago in October. Entirely produced by No I.D., the LP was a strong debut but didn’t receive the initial attention from Hip Hop fans that it probably warranted or that his later releases did.

In subsequent years, the rapper formerly known as Common Sense would drop some of the 1990s and ‘00s best Hip Hop albums, including Resurrection, Like Water for Chocolate, and Be, among others. Those projects helped the Windy City gain more prominence in Rap culture, and overall, provide some of the most thoughtful music the genre’s ever encountered.

RELATED: Common Talks Making Broadway Debut In Play, 'Between Riverside and Crazy,' Getting Into Therapy

So in celebration of Common’s now-over 30-year run, and just to give one of Hip Hop’s best his flowers, we present 5 quintessential songs by Common.

  1. “Retrospect for Life” feat. Lauryn Hill (1997)

    The first single from Common’s third album One Day It’ll All Make Sense, “Retrospect for Life” is extremely introspective and has him speaking about the consequences and fallout from an unexpected pregnancy, including ponderance over abortion. Featuring Lauryn Hill on the hook, the song screams classic in every way, with the legend channeling Stevie Wonder’s song “Never Dreamed You’d Leave in Summer.”

  2. “The Light” (2000)

    The second single from Common’s 2000 album Like Water for Chocolate, “The Light” is a love letter devoted to Erykah Badu, who he was in a relationship with at the time. Produced by J Dilla (RIP) it’s one of Common’s most recognizable songs and biggest hits. It also showcases the emcee’s ability to intertwine music into his real-life experiences.

  3. “Resurrection” (1994)

    As the title track of Common’s break-out sophomore album of the same name, “Resurrection” serves as the perfect opening for the project, which is Hip Hop’s most beloved. The No I.D.-produced track showcases Common’s lyrical ability at its peak and contains free-associative lyrics by common and scratches by DJ Mista Sinista – mixing Hip Hop and jazz during a time many did so, but not always well. It’s beautiful in its simplicity.

  4. “The 6th Sense” (feat. Bilal) (1999)

    “The revolution will not be televised,” opens the 1999 classic. Produced by DJ Premier in what many consider his prime, “The 6th Sense” is one of the songs that is uniquely Common. It’s also arguably the best and most notable single from the rapper’s fourth and excellent studio album Like Water For Chocolate. In the song, Common uses beats and rhymes to discuss music, life, and provide a reminder of the true essence of Hip Hop during an era where champagne poppin’, Versace shirts and shiny suits were taking over music videos, television, magazines and more (no shot at Puff, just saying).

  5. “I Used To Love H.E.R.” (1994)

    Obviously the song many identify as quintessentially Common, “I Used To Love H.E.R.”, from his sophomore LP Resurrection from 1994, is a Hip Hop classic. In it, he brilliantly describes his changing feelings for a woman, but it ends up actually being about his ever-evolving relationship with Hip Hop. It’s a masterclass in using an extended acronym for a song and has inspired artists for decades. More specifically, the song tracks the direction Hip Hop culture took during the late 1980s and early ‘90s and the fall of consciousness in lyrics in favor of a then-blossoming Gangsta Rap subgenre and the commercialism that came with it.

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