9/11. A fucked-up economy. West Nile virus. It’s a crazy time for folks, particularly in America where things haven’t been this chaotic since the ’60’s. That may be the real reason why louder-than-a-bomb acts like DMX aren’t selling as well as they were a few years ago — we don’t need music to get us hyped up and angry; we just need to turn on the boob tube or read the newspaper to get upset. No wonder Nelly’s number one. Motherfuckas wanta relax.
Common Ground, straight outta Michigan, couldn’t agree more. You can sleep on it — literally — but you’d miss an EP that is on target, assuming that CG’s goal was for you to mellow the fuck out.
JC, Jayem, DJ Heavy and guest producer/rapper Lacksidaisycal paint a picture that’s more Monet than Dali, opting to smooth things out rather than be subversive. Imagine Digable Planets or ATCQ’s most mellow track being rapped on by the most easy-going vocalist you’ve ever heard. It’s entirely possible to forget that the caramel smooth voices of JC and Jayem aren’t just another high-hat or snare in the complex jazz-inspired tracks. On first listen the subtleties are, well, too subtle to pick up, but on a second or third run you start to understand that CG has something to say.
The beats are pretty much what one would expect — jazzyfatnasty with vibraphones, pianos and horns. The producers don’t break any new ground, but don’t come weak, either (peep the surprisingly satisfying vibraphone breakdown at the end of the first cut, “React”).
The best cut, however, would be “The Ground,” a shot at all Jiggas and Birdmans. They don’t talk shit — that wouldn’t make them any better than the accused parties. Instead they make an intelligent case asking, as KRS said, to get your head off a pillow and put a book in it:
“Live simply, but some of us simply live
Give somethin’, if you have somethin’ to give
With a level playing field we all get our needs satisfied
You better watch out because someone will always try to capitalize on us
These lowercase MC’s go and chase the cheese
Only to face degrees to extremes
Got hold of a dream from reading a magazine that endorses cream
A poor Source it seems
Some think they got it all figured out
Without a doubt
False confidence, bold appearance
Ridiculous rap topics about sippin’ in the tropics!
We’re just doin’ our thing, just sit back and watch them”
The name Common Ground is a bit of a misnomer — it’s more that they’re goin’ after a higher ground, with not a whip, bitch or Cris in earshot. As the group says on the final cut, “Your CD had 20 joints, but not a quality word.” It may be only 6 cuts deep, but it’s rare to see an attempt at quality over quantity. You can’t knoc that (pun intended).