Common – Nobody’s Smiling
Common’s own brand of hip-hop is honest, provocative, and most of all bristling with confidence that fits his sharp rhymes and tight flow.
‘No Fear’ makes use of a heavy bass thud for its foundation, with Common’s raps shooting across like machine gun shots that contrast with the glacial, spiralling cutaways that add a glass cathedral aesthetic that sits comfortably alongside the religious imagery. ‘Diamonds’ features super-modern sounds like those found on Glasgow producer Rustie’s debut album Glass Swords, while ‘Blak Majik’ gets things a little more hyper with relentless rhymes and continuing the pummelling beats.
There are touches of more world music sounds too, like on ‘Speak My Piece’ with its bouncy percussion, and ‘Hustle Harder’ balances staccato rhymes with deep echo laden beats, creating a darkly cavernous space for Common’s message.
Title track ‘Nobody’s Smiling’ features some delicious chiptune style 8-bit synth sounds with classic 808 beats, all laying the foundation for squawking, heavily treated vocals – and the notable mention of an ostrich. There’s certainly a good deal of contrast to be found, as ‘Real’ stands out as a more classic rap/soul track in the vein of R Kelly – smooth and swaying throughout.
Common’s work presented here on Nobody’s Smiling is incredibly rich and laced with a powerful attitude, without a lot of the silliness, bravado, or gimmicks so often found across much of modern hip-hop, and for that Common is to be commended.