D’Angelo’s Black Messiah, Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly, Beyoncé’s Lemonade: In the past few years, black artists have made some of the decade’s most powerful albums with deeply felt documents about the African-American experience in the era of Black Lives Matter. Common’s latest album is nearly as towering as his peers’. Black America Again is a timely statement exploring the ills of police brutality, mass incarceration, and institutionalized racism, delivered with laser-sharp focus by one of hip-hop’s foremost poets. The 44-year-old scored an impressive roster of collaborators — Stevie Wonder, John Legend, pianist Robert Glasper, bassist Esperanza Spalding, singers Bilal and Syd — and those artists help underscore his message by weaving decades of black pop music (jazz, neo-soul, R&B) into a polished set. But it’s the MC’s empathetic and clear-eyed rhymes that truly make this a vital contribution to the national conversation. “We write our own story, black America again,” Common raps on the title track. Once more, he’s a crucial voice in that narrative.
A brassy, autobiographical homage to the Windy City.
“The Day Women Took Over”
Common praises all things feminine with wonderful couplets like “Michelle Alexander wrote the new constitution / Beyoncé made the music for the revolution.”