Inner city violence has always been a problem in the US, and violence is reaching increasingly high levels in neighborhoods in Chicago. This violence has led to residents referring to the city as "Chiraq", and it is this violence that rapper and native Chicagoan Common seeks to raise awareness of in his 10th studio effort, Nobody's Smiling.
The album starts out with a stark and atmospheric sampling of Curtis Mayfield, and the concept takes legs from there. Common is in good form here, and apart from a few weak lines ('Go hard like liquor'? Seriously?) his wordplay is very interesting and captivating. His wordplay and message on the bonus tracks on this album are actually superb, and leave me wondering why they weren't included on the regular album, especially '7 Deadly Sins'.
NO I.D. serves as sole producer on this album, and his music definitely suits the lyrics here. I do have to say, intro to 'Blak Majik' got a little tedious though. It's also apparent that the master is taking a little bit from his pupil's playbook, referring to the Yeezus undertones on some of the production. The features on this album are also very good for the most part (the exception being Big Sean, but was that really a surprise?) Vince Staples actually gets pretty close to stealing the show on the tracks he's featured on, spitting some great verses.
As previously stated, Big Sean gives a lackluster performance, and his featured track, 'Diamonds', kind of kills the album's flow early on. It really has no place in the track list, and does not fit the tone the album was going for. That can be said for a few other tracks, but definitely 'Diamonds' and 'Real' in particular.
All in all, this was a solid project, and I liked the thought of Common including Chicago rap's new school on the album, as well as trying to raise awareness of a very serious issue in the city. I'm kind of a sucker for conscious rap albums, and while there were tracks that deviated a little from the point, it says a lot more as a statement of intent and a topic of conversation than most rap out today, and music that gets people thinking is always a good thing.
Out of a total of 5 stars, I give this: