Real featuring Elijah Blake
Label: Def Jam Recordings
Common's Nobody Smiling marks an improvement over The Dreamer, The Believer. This time, he's not overly anxious to reclaim his hip-hop bona fides; in fact, he's subtle to a fault with these vignettes seemingly inspired by Chicago's intractable murder epidemic. No I.D.'s beats are admirably cryptic, too, especially on the title track and "No Fear." "You created me from dust, that's why I did dirt," raps Common as he asks for the keys to God's "Kingdom." Save for "Real" and the nostalgic "Rewind That," there are no grandstanding speeches here, but listeners should get the point.