January 30, 2003

Test Spin: Common

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Electric Circus is one of the most interesting rap/hip-hop records I’ve heard in awhile. Less a record than a parade of all the genres rap music has ventured into since the days of Run DMC. Common’s new record pulls off an uncommon feat — a hip-hop record that is driven by the diverse musical styles of each track as opposed to by the MC himself. It is really quite impressive, the musical arrays Common dares to venture into. There’s D’Angelo-like driven soul, smooth R&B such as the first single “Come Close” (featuring Mary J Blige), distorted rock guitars courtesy of the Neptunes production team; tripped-out psychedelic horns; charged traditional rap; and the best song on the album, “I Am Music,” which couples swinging ’40s jazz with driving beats to create an incredibly cool result. Musically, this may be the most diverse and innovative hip-hop record to ever come out. Personally, I find some aspects of the record much more successful and accessible than others. The slower R&B numbers, while a nice change of pace, seem derivative. Yet despite these occasional misfires, this record should be heard.

Archived article by Maxim Pozdorovkin