Common Reminds Us That G.O.O.D. Music Was Once Rap’s Cutting Edge

When it was announced that Desiigner had signed to Kanye West’s G.O.OD. label following his breakout hit “Panda,” some hip-hop fans applauded the move, seeing it as proof that West & Co. were still at the forefront the culture’s fast-moving push into the future. Others, however, lamented that in following trends the label had lost its way. In their minds, Desiigner embodies everything that is wrong with rap now. Common, one of the trio of artists who made up the label’s early roster (him, West and John Legend) is reminding both fans and detractors of the Desiigner signing just how important the label was when it started, how it not only reflected a sea change in hip-hop’s aesthetic and political landscape, but paved the way for many artists both (hip-hop and R&B) who you might not immediately think are indebted to the good that G.O.O.D. wrought.

The irony, of course, is that Common – once heralded as one of hip-hop’s all-time giants of rhyme – has been musically adrift for a while now, and his last single “Black America Again,” featuring Stevie Wonder (with Esperanza Spaulding on bass and Robert Glasper and Karriem Riggins in the producers’ chairs) is yet another disappointment. Common’s robust spitting can’t mask the triteness-bordering-on-corniness of his lyrics, which strain hard for relevance and topicality but seem almost a parody of “conscious rap.” The upside? The video was directed by the brilliant Arthur Jafa, who is in the same fertile creative zone that gave us his jaw-dropping 2013 documentary Dreams Are Colder Than Death (which he directed,) and Solange’s videos from her career-changing Seat at the Table music opus. (Jafa was the cinematographer on Solange’s project.) Check out the Jafa/Common collaboration below.

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