34. Common, 'Black America Again'
Common, whose talent for composing understated gems makes him a perpetually overlooked G.O.A.T. candidate, is at his best when he's as serious as cancer. Black America Again arrives during a year when his usual intensity seems timely. It may have not yielded much radio support – programmers didn't know what to do with its main single, "Love Star," just like they underplayed its 2000 predecessor in neo-soul romance, "The Light." But his call to arms on "Black America Again" resonates, as does his claim, "We need Avas, Ta-Nehisis and Cory Bookers/The salt of Earth to get us off of sugar/And greasy foods." "The Day the Women Took Over" is a fantasy about "Michelle, Oprah and Rosa/The mayor of Chi is Liz Dozier." "Joy and Peace" is a lyrical fever dream; "Pyramids" is a throwback to the Afrocentric attitudes of golden-age rap. The boom-bap classicism of Karriem Riggins and Robert Glasper's production holds him down. So does the knowledge that, as he explains on "Letter to the Free," he's still standing despite the fact that, "We staring in the face of hate again/The same hate they say will make America great again." M.R.