Elevator Pitch: At his career’s gestation, 22-year-old Common Sense—a future progenitor of “conscious” hip-hop—was a drunken bruiser in industrial Chicago, pissing Icehouse and brawling extemporaneously with ticket scalpers outside the United Center. But even sandlot goons like Com can make holistically sound music. Exhibit A: Resurrection, 1994’s gonzo exfoliation into big-city youth ennui. Pity Reddit for omitting this joint from their jazz-rap appreciation thread.
Peak Moment: “I Used to Love H.E.R.” starts with Com basking in the company of a mythically glamorous, hotly coveted new chick on the block. Ol’ girl soon attains a measure of monetary wealth in the ever-humming sex economy; Com balks at her gradual commodification.
“She’s not the same, letting all these groupies do her,” Com frets. “I see niggas slamming her, and taking her to the sewer.” Two bars later: “Who I’m talking about, y’all, is hip-hop.” “H.E.R.” is a major allegorical coup, upbraiding hip-hop for its decline in probity and submission to exploitative corporate wildcatters.
Best Deep Cut: Com wasn’t always the pamphleteering vegan we know now. Yogurt snobbery takes up little real estate on “Book of Life,” a rain-slicked monument to dietary—and spiritual—malady. Depressed over his stillborn collegiate career (he dwelled for a spell at Florida A&M), Com “funnels through the tunnel disgruntled,” subsisting on fast food and 8ball, the wistful man’s malt liquor.
Timeliest Track: A bitterly prescient treatise on wage stagnation and income inequality in Chicago, “Chapter 13 (Rich Man vs. Poor Man)” could’ve been made today. Guest rapper Ynot sounds blunted as fuck, but we don’t castigate him. He’ll need a Dutch if he is to endure the trials of his topography-defying defection from apartheid purgatory. That mountain up ahead is a bitch to move.
Scribble Jam: The title track is a feat of rhyme choreographed to spasmodic perfection. “I ride the rhythm like a Schwinn bike/When in dim light, I use insight to enlight…words of wisdom wail from my windpipe,” Com raps. We’d be remiss not to mention No I.D.’s beautifully baroque piano sample.
Most Slept-on: The saxophone-haunted “Nuthin’ to Do” plays like a scene fromPixote, with Com and his rapscallion friends stalking a derelict stretch of Chicago’s southern lakefront, playing Knockout King on hapless passerbys. There’s a sense of imminent brouhaha here. Nothing like a starless, deathly humid evening in these parts to stoke the flames—no pun intended, UIC faithful—of adolescent delinquency.
Bet You Didn’t Know: Com’s father, Lonnie Lynn Sr., has the sonic-boom voice of a Barry White doppelganger and frequently kicks spoken-word poetry on his son’s albums. Resurrection kisses us goodnight with the whistle-blowing epilogue “Pop’s Rap,” where Papa Lynn scolds junior hustlers for too loosely observing the code of ethics by which he’s always lived.
Synopsis: Autonomy has its limits, and Com is a good case in point. There was a time when many believed him to be a theological figure that’d been divinely dispatched to bring hip-hop back to the essence. By 2002 or so, Com’s flock was prepared to defrock him, citing a spate of flagrant misjudgments on his part.
For much of his career, Com had a habit of biting off platefuls more than he could chew; too often his music was a compendium of bougie political clichés and tone-challenged stabs at electronica, acid rock or Coltrane jazz. Com has been spitting professorial fantastic for several years now, having regrouped on The Dreamer/The Believer in ’11, but Resurrection is still his best album by a millennium mile.
More than a masterpiece of ribald comedy rap, Resurrection is a smart, affectionate coming-of-age yarn. There’s a good chance hip-hop will never come closer to equaling The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger’s decorated novel about what it means to be young and confused fuckless.—M.T. Richards