Verse Of The Week: Common
Before we get into this week’s verse, I have two things to say:
First of all, I’m sorry that it’s been quite a few days since my last post. It has been one heck of a week. Any college students out there know how hectic things get as Finals Week approaches.
Secondly, I want to thank everyone for making the first and experimental Verse Of The Week article such a success. It featured the highest number of comments I have ever had on a single post and was even posted to Lupe Fiasco‘s Twitter page (of course, BIG shout-out to Lupe and whoever informed him about the article).
I even got new Facebook friends who added me after reading the article. It was quite a rewarding experience and I certainly appreciate it.
With that said, we’re going back to Chicago. However, this time we’ll allow Common to be our tour guide of the South Side.
Before we do, here’s a little background info about Common and the masterpiece album on which this week’s verse can be found – 2005′s critically acclaimed and Grammy nominated Be.
Common, widely appreciated for his wholesome and revolutionary lyrical content, had been going through creative difficulties before this album. His previous album, 2002′s Electric Circus was quite a departure from what is generally considered hip hop – both lyrically and sonically.
He had been dating Erykah Badu during this time, a move which some infamously blame for the drastic changes in his musical and fashion tastes (see Andre 3000) which brings me to the fashion element of this article.
Pre-Erykah Common used to dress like this:
Very militant and revolutionary. It screams “Rebel Without A Pause,” if you will.
Post-Erykah Common? There are quite a few notable changes:
He’s just as bold with color choices, just less edgy and militant and more chic.
Anyway, Electric Circus received plenty of unfavorable reviews and caused many to question the credibility of a man long recognized as one of Chi Town’s finest. It seemed that the people had spoken and they wanted quintessential Common – no changes.
After a three year interim between albums, it was time for the man who once battled Ice Cube to show and prove.
I believe this verse to be proof that he did indeed deliver. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the second verse from the last song found on Common’s album Be. That song, of course, is called “It’s Your World.”
“Life and death blow around us
Four-pounds and pounds
of herb from out-of-towners
it’s hard to stay grounded.
We stay high
that’s why old-folks down us
Lost, nobody found us
The force that surrounds us.
Ain’t wit us
they get us on the ground and hit us
we paint pictures of the change
under they names and scriptures.
Removed from Earth
only to return through birth
Knew this girl, sellin’ her body
wish she knew what it was worth.
Between God and trash
Lookin’ in every car that pass
With a walk that suggests head.
To milk n****s, she was breast fed
She know dairy,
so she say cheese to get bread.
In the ar-e (area) where it’s
more weaves and less dreads
Kind of scary
amongst thieves and base heads.
Said it was her toes,
but I could tell her soul hurt,
she was cold turk
growin’ up she got to know hurt very well.
In the world where
self-hate is overt
Her step-father thought he was Ike
so her mother he’d strike
She got to like like-minded n****s
who like crimes and figures
Doin’ white lines and liquor
See hard times had kicked her.
In the a**,
it used to be thicker.
Life is fast,
some choose to be quicker.
I remember in high school
she had a passion to sing
now she see herself
in a casket in dreams.
These are the children of crack and rap
Blacks that lack
yo we forgot the Dream.
On our Jeffersons ya’ll
but we forgot the theme
in the Chi
we even rootin’ for a garbage team.
never seen herself on this corner
She still wanna see California
But this is her world.”
That was the verse, now for the analysis.
Common starts this verse by mentioning the fact that marijuana seems to have claimed a much larger part of our culture than it should have, and that this is somewhat to blame for our generation gap with our elders. Without the guidance of those with an abundance of years and wisdom to match, we’re lost and have yet to truly be located.
He switches subjects immediately to police brutality, and quite brilliantly uses a Star Wars reference to do it. Common also talks about the use of graffiti as monuments to those who have fallen at the hands of police – “we paint pictures of the change under they names and scriptures.”
The next two lines refer to the Shakespearean notion that when people leave this earth, someone comes along to take their places and fill these roles with similar personalities.
We then get to the central story and theme of this verse. Common refers to a woman selling her body although she knows that she is worth much more than such a lifestyle. He goes on to narrate her life story. She grew up watching her stepfather abuse her mother and found herself in relationships with the same types of guys.
The weight of her hard life even affects her physical appearance, aging her well beyond her years. She once had dreams of being a singer, now her dreams concern her death.
Common uses this woman to provide a look into a major crisis within the urban community: lack of self-esteem (otherwise known as self-hatred) and complacency.
The “Dream” that Common refers to in this verse is, of course, that of Martin Luther King, Jr. – a dream that we seem to lose sight of. He suggests that while we are free from a lot of things, we have not yet become free from the thing that keeps us from living life more abundantly.
I believe that thing to be “Our Deepest Fear.”
Common continues to provide us with a long, hard look at ourselves. We are about our money, he says. “Jeffersons,” as in $2 bills, but we neglect to use it to “move on up” like The Jeffersons.
He also notes that the dreams of many urban dwellers are so skewed that they choose to root for a losing team – something he sees as indicative of the low standards and living conditions many of us have come to accept and even glorify.
Common refers back to the woman whose story he has narrated and ends it by commenting that this was not her original desire for herself and she still wishes to escape her current existence.
However, this is her world.
I find this seemingly all-too-practical observation quite profound. It means that despite her upbringing and the things that she has seen, her choices are still hers to make. She must live with the consequences of her actions – those are what make up her world. Her actions, however, can also be her saving grace and bring about redemption.
The same opportunity is afforded to everyone. After all, it’s your world.
Main Image: MarshallMatthews