Fox News and other right-wing news pundits are certainly making a big deal out of Common visiting the White House for Michelle Obama's poetry event this week -- but for all the wrong reasons.
Sean Hannity and Sarah Palin are fake-mortified because the rapper/actor, born Lonnie Rashid Lynn, once performed a poem called "A Letter to the Law," which has a few lines like "I got the black strap to make the cops run" that can be taken out of their original context for some hyperbolic rhetoric. And given the significant evidence that Common is a good dude, painting him as some sort of violent cop-killer is just a bad research job.
The man once respected for hard-hitting, thoughtful material like "The Light" and "I Used to Love H.E.R." has eroded creatively for years. Pundits could easily argue Common's 2008 album, Universal Mind Control, is loaded with more deadweight rhymes and whack-ass concepts than Universal Health Care. Here are five examples of the lyrical doodoo that should've kept Common out of any event meant for poets.
"Rap this deep like my man Johnny Depp" from "Inhale"
Plenty of rappers have branched into acting, and it has been a key component of a multifaceted star like Ludacris. (It was the only option afforded to "Marky" Mark Walhberg.) At this point, though, Common's getting to be better-known for his collaboration with Queen Latifah -- not on wax but in the crappy rom-com Just Wright -- than his recordings with J. Dilla and Kanye West.
"Broads say: Are you a philosopher?/Yeah yeah, I philosophize on top of ya" from "Announcement"
This is not the only time of late that he's admitted that all of his "thoughtful" principles of his early work were merely attempts to snag some tang. (Example: "But they say you be on the conscious tip/Get your head right and get up on this conscious dick" from his verse on Kid Cudi's "Make Her Say.") Even if you don't care about the stuff that he "believes," it's still a clunker of a line, which leads us to...
"I like the way it's going down/Hips are moving all around/Round and
round upside down/I once was lost but now I'm found/Sweetheart can you
give me another round/Sweating like you losing pounds/Touch the ground
make it sound/Suga oh suga you wear the crown" from "Suga 4 Sex"
This is just heinous, desperate wordplay. Given that Pharrell and Clipse combined for so much brilliance in their collaborations, it's surprising that his production on Universal Mind Control inspired some of the corniest rhymes this side of a Nickelback song.
Every single line from "Gladiator"
has long been about making comparisons in a boastful manner ("I'm like a young Marvin [Gaye] in his hey," Jay-Z from "Dirt Off Your Shoulder), but
managing to link thyself to Bahamian-American mixed-martial-artist Kimbo
Slice, Paul Revere, Jacob the Jeweler, Batman, Nelson Mandela, Will
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Smith, George Foreman, and Ziggy Stardust is an ego trip that even Russell Crowe wouldn't attempt. Plus, Common admits to having "dreams of breaking Michael Vick out of jail."
There are so many bad lines in "Universal Mind Control," but let's just go straight to the hook:
"Gucci rockin', coochies poppin', movies watchin', booties shoppin', body movin', showin', groovin', stylin', and being fly."
This is what has become of a Chicago rap legend. Aside from the dreck contentwise, it's even more offensive to hear this delivered to the flow scheme from Gil Scott-Heron's "No Knock." The brilliant but troubled Scott-Heron himself has been jailed and battled drugs far too abundantly to ever get a White House invite. Obviously meant as an homage, this street poetry criticizing no-knock warrants issued that allow police to barge into a property without identifying themselves has been repurposed disgustingly -- and they put a Zune in the music video. Still want to stand up for this guy?