Release date: July 22, 2014
After 2011's very slept on "The Dreamer, The Believer," Common returns with his 10th studio album, "Nobody's Smiling," produced entirely by No I.D. I'm not sure what I was looking for when I heard he was coming out with another album, all I recall was being happy to hear that he was releasing one.
The apply titled opener "The Neighborhood" (featuring Lil Herb and Cocaine 80s) was very good, as well as the seemingly energetic "No Fear." While I didn't care for the way Notorious BIG's "Hypnotize" was sampled for "Speak My Piece," it was still a good song (nothing more) and the very unique title track (featuring Malik Yusef) grew on me a bit towards the middle of the song. "Rewind That," the album's best song, is very nostalgic and soulful. Common shows mad love to No I.D., considering their history dating all the way back to 1993's "Resurrection" and he has very heartfelt words dedicated to the late J. Dilla. This would've closed the album on a great note, but for those who copped (or plan to cop) the deluxe edition would be treated to three additional tracks, including the very good "7 Deadly Sins," which also featured production by Adrian Younge.
The one thing that stands out about this album is Common's lyricism. I felt that he was still sharp in certain areas, but sadly it was the production that brings this album down. Furthermore, "Diamonds" (featuring Big Sean) is a song I didn't care too much for and it doesn't help that I'm not a fan of Big Sean, so in my view he brought nothing to the table. I think I understood what Common was going for with "Blak Majik (featuring Jhene Aiko). Lyrically it's on point but in the end it sounded like something straight off of the "Electric Circus" album. The remainder of the album is rather hit or miss, and it pains me to say that about a Common album.
Overall, I'd have to go with a 3 star for this. I know that may be underrating it some, but at this point I stand by that rating and I don't see it changing anytime soon. Like I said, lyrically Common still has it, but the production was not as slammin as I thought it would be, and compared to "The Dreamer, The Believer," this is quite the step down. I'm honestly not even sure where I stand in terms of a recommendation, even to long time Common fans. If you're going into this expecting anything close to his more essential material (Resurrection, One Day It'll All Make Sense, Be, Like Water For Chocolate, and Finding Forever), you'll be very disappointed. I have mad love and respect for Common, but this album will not be making my Best Albums of 2014 list.