Chicago-born rapper common has a passion for creating conceptual suites of art rather than collections for commerce. With his fourth album, Like Water for Chocolate, he seems no closer to gaining platinum discs on his wall, but the listener might be all the better for it. Make no mistake: Dance jams like "The Light" and "Funky for You" bump like acne. But what might keep them from heavy club rotation is Com's need (quoting the Pharcyde) to kick something that means something. "I pray every day," he raps, "more than anything, friends we'll stay/As we begin to lay/This foundation for a family/Love ain't simple." Then there are numbers like "A Song for Assata," a Cliffs Notes version of Assata Shakur's struggle against the American government. Com also has fun with politics: On "A Film Called (Pimp)" — a duet with the sorely missed MC Lyte — he playfully wrestles with his own image by donning the mask of Cornbread Com, a vegan, bean-pie-pushing pimp. A hip-hop MC willing to actually examine himself through his art? There's nothing Common about that.
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