“I met this girl when I was ten years old, and what I loved most, she had so much soul..”
The lyrics. The vibe. The love story. It takes me back to one of my favorite movies, Brown Sugar, where Sydney Shaw (played by Sanaa Lathan) would start every interview of hers the exact same way… “So, when did you first fall in love with hip-hop?”
For me, it was the first time I heard the song “I used to love H.E.R” by rapper Common, then still known as Common Sense. It was the first time I could actually feel the connection to a song or body of work. Every album since, has been an educational experience.
From his debut album, Can I Borrow a Dollar? in 1992, to his most recently released album Nobody’s Smiling, ironically and appropriately titled for 2014; I learn something every time, and the concert on Tuesday night was no different. Common performed at Warehouse Live as part of his Nobody’s Smiling tour, and was opened up by Jay Electronica. It was a crowd full of cultured, lovers of all things real hip hop. What I appreciated about Jay was not only his love for his fans, or his moving tribute to the late, great hip hop Guru J. Dilla, but I was captured by how he kept cutting the beat off, to spit certain verses A cappella, and slow..as if he’s talking to the crowd with a particular intention for you to listen to what he’s saying. These are the kinds of fresh artists we need to nurture in today’s society, to keep the voice of real art alive. I mean, people have been waiting on a Jay Electronica album for years, and he’s just trying to teach us about ourselves. It was a great opening act for the veteran to follow.
After a brief intermission, Common entered to nothing but a snare drum beat, and a dark stage. Just him, and the microphone. All he needs to make magic. Things quickly escalated and he had the crowd going up, on a Tuesday, when he started performing his classics such as “Go”, “Ghetto
Dreams”, “I used to love H.E.R”, “The Light”, “Come Close”, and one of my favorite songs off of the new album, “Hustle Harder”. Not to mention his a cappella version of “Testify” gave me chills. Every now and then between songs, he would take a trip down memory lane and show us pictures while he reminisced on moments from his life. Like his experience with his first
Range Rover. And then, he served Houston with an extra special treat as he brought Scarface and the Geto Boys out on stage for an EPIC performance of “Mind Playing Tricks on Me”. The entire evening was extraordinarily refreshing. I met Jay and Common (real name Rashid) last night, and thanked them for their music and their art. I’d met Rashid once before as freshman in college, while writing an English term paper on one of his songs. Not many artists are able to establish such a consistent career; where at 10 albums you’re still a very relevant force in the music world, making major contributions to the art. That’s how you know its real.
Thank you to Common, and Jay for your presence, your performance, and your knowledge…..and for reminding us of how it felt when we first fell in love with hip hop, all over again. Namaste.♦