“The revolution will not be televised / The revolution is here.” When Common proclaimed the dawning of a new era in the fight for racial equality over the opening crackles of his DJ Premier-produced 2000 anthem ‘The 6th Sense’, extending the poetic resonance of the late Gil Scott-Heron’s iconic wake-up call, it signified the arrival of a revitalised and refocused Lonnie Rashid Lynn. The rapper, who up until that point had toed the line between underground rap renegade and conscious visionary, decided he wanted to dedicate his platform to highlighting injustice and inspiring people to take action.
Fast forward 21 years and Common is still a vessel for the disenfranchised. ‘A Beautiful Revolution, Pt. 2’ – a sequel to last year’s politically charged EP of the same name – looks towards a brighter future. It’s rich with Afro-centric grooves and dusty drum breaks, the spirit of James Brown weaving in and out of the pro-Black messaging, which emphasises hope and progress but still acknowledges the pain and suffering endured along the way.
On the galvanising ‘Get It Right’, Common tips his hat to US voters who helped elect America’s first woman vice president, Kamala Harris. “We can say it Blacker / We can say it prouder/ A woman vice president that went to Howard,” he raps, as the retro-fused drum loop bounces back and forth at double time. His adoration for Black women continues on ‘Majesty (Where We Gonna Take It)’, where Common promises his queen: “I’ma treat you the way the Lord created you to be.”
’Imagine’, an uplifting, sun-kissed record that blends the philosophies of John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ with Nas and Lauryn Hill‘s ‘If I Ruled The World (Imagine That)’, sees Common visualise a world untarnished by inequality. Elsewhere, ‘When We Move’ asserts Black culture’s creative dominance, anchored with a stellar verse from Black Thought of The Roots.
With few other big-named guests, the inclusion of LA singer PJ, who appears on five tracks, adds immensely to the overall allure of the project. She’s served well by her limitless range and ability to work with any type of production and flourishes particularly on ‘Set It Free’, gluing together Common’s message of self-acceptance, which he delivers with ultimate conviction.
‘A Beautiful Revolution, Pt. 2’ is the soundtrack to a new revolt. It’s about unity in the face of adversity and bringing awareness to the Black struggle. But at its core it’s a celebration of Black pride that sees Common in full swing as a champion of peace, love and freedom.
Release date: September 10
Record label: Loma Vista