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Artist: Common
Album: Like Water For Chocolate
Label: MCA
Production: The Soulquarians, DJ Premier.
Guests: Cee-Lo, MC Lyte, The Roots, Rahzel, Mos Def, Slum Village, Bilal, Roy Hargrove, Femi Kuti, Vinia Mojica, D'Angelo.
Stats: 2000; 16 tracks at 77mins:51secs
Reviewed by: Eitan Prince

You probably already know who Common is. No introduction is needed for easily one of Hip Hop's leading lyricists and most introspective individuals.

It's 2000. And much has changed since Com's playful "Can I Borrow a Dollar" debut, eight years ago. His follow-up "Resurrection" and "One Day It'll All Make Sense" showed signs of maturation as an artist. And while the former-Mr Sense had to field some flack - perhaps unfairly - for the R&B flavour which permeated "One Day...", you still couldn't fault his lyrics nor his honourable intentions (dealing with topics ranging from abortion to overcoming the death of a close friend).

Has anything changed in the three years since his last release? For starters there's a noticeable gravitation towards the soulful production of the Soulquarians (a collective consisting of smooth crooner D'Angelo, ?uestlove of The Roots, as well as Jay Dee of the Ummah). In this process, Common has effectively dumped No ID, Doug Infinite and Ynot, the trio that provided those jazz flavoured beats on his first three albums. I'm loath to suggest that the switch has compromised Common's material, but it certainly suggests a change in his musical direction.

Spirituality was a running theme throughout the "One Day..." and it continues on "Like Water", particularly on the soul flavoured efforts such as "Time Travellin'", "The Light" (a beautifully crafted tune that reads like a letter to Common's significant other), "Nag Champa" and "Geto Heaven Part II". Fans of the intellectual depth expressed on the last album will not be let down with this effort and will indeed find that it is far more coherent and cohesive. Sadly, the roughneck straight-up lyrical fans will still not discover in this album the rebirth of Common circa 1994. "Like Water" does have it's moments of grittier displays, but Common delivers these on his terms and leaves no doubt regarding his musical ideology: "Inspiration when I write, I see my daughter's eyes/I'm the truth, across the table from corporate lies/I'm on the live by the realness, I bring to it/If revolution had a movie I'd be theme music" - quoted from the banging DJ Premier produced "6th Sense", Common rips it like there's no tomorrow, but clearly indicates a shift in his musical focus. This isn't an raw, talented adolescent MC talking about hoes and clothes, instead Com has taken on a responsibility as a Hip Hop overseer.

And that is exactly how we should make sense of this album. It's about carefully crafting creative music for an audience prepared to open-mindedly embrace innovative approaches to music. Yes Common does take potshots at those elements that threaten to disturb the underground-overground equilibrium in his beloved Hip Hop culture, but that's a sign that of real passion for what he does.

This is a quality album, and yet another step in Common's journey towards mature musicianship. In some ways, the album is an improvement on his previous efforts, but by no means is it flawless. Ultimately, you need to appreciate even the album's flaws to truly understand where Common is at. [9/10]

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