Perhaps it shouldn't be surprising that Common is starting to think about his own legacy. He's 15 years and seven albums into his career; is still grieving the death of former roommate J Dilla; and is cognizant of the omnipresent argument that "hip hop is dead." And so his desire here to both honor his friend and try to cement himself firmly in history should be understood and even ultimately forgiven as an honest attempt to remain both relevant (hiring producer Kanye West, who also helmed the boards for Be, as well as guests like Lily Allen and will.i.am) and respectful (including Dilla beat and scratches from DJ Premier) to the music he clearly loves. Not that Finding Forever is a failure in any sense: Common is still as fluid a rhymer as they come ("They tried to box me in like Cassius/Clay, hey, I'm like Muhammad when he fasted/Opposing the fascists"). But the production does sometimes suffer from a lack of focus. And thematically, he sometimes tries too hard, like on the corny-but-conscious "Drivin' Me Wild" or the syrupy "Break My Heart." Common has enough talent, and Finding Forever makes significant steps toward defining his artistic contributions. But it's also quite clear that he's still very much searching for what that is instead of knowing exactly where he stands.
Marisa Brown writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.