Almost two decades later, Common is still celebrated for his personification of hip-hop on “I Used to Love H.E.R.,” off of the Chicago rapper’s 1994 album Resurrection. In the time since, plenty have mimicked his formula and penned a letter to the culture, though none have had quite the lasting impact as the original. With Nas and Scarface’s “Hip Hop,” off of DJ Khaled’s Kiss the Ring, though, Common sees a contender.
“I really loved the song and thought that the song was right on time; it hit the spot,” the veteran MC told XXLMag.com of the collab, which is produced by J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League and also includes scratches from DJ Premier. “At a certain point in time, you kinda gotta gather and see where the art form is and discuss it. They did it [and] it sounds fresh, even though the idea’s been done, it still sounds fresh. And to hear their take on it, it sounds raw. I like how they’re like, ‘Yeah, I fucked hip-hop.’ Put it this way: many writers can write on the same subject many times, but a great writer can still make it enjoyable and sound fresh.
“The reason why I say it was necessary or it was timely [is] because we do need to be reminded,” Com continued. “I actually feel like hip-hop is in a great place right now. I feel like a lot of the new artists are coming with fresh sounds and being original. You can tell a lot o the new artists care for the art form and have went back and checked for stuff that came before their era.”
The part-time actor actually got a sneak preview of the record before the world heard the finished product. “It’s funny, we was doing the Hip-Hop Hollywood Squares and Khaled played me the song,” he recalled. “I didn’t know if he was considering me being on it or not, but I was open to it. But then I was like, Man, I’ve been on so many of them, I wonder would that be redundant for the listener. I’m one of them dudes, I like being on stuff you wouldn’t expect me on. I always like to challenge myself.
“The sincerity and the purity of the music is what I like,” he concluded. “And that’s what I hear in that Scarface and Nas song. It’s a purity in the song—in the beat, the raps, it got cuts on it. It’s hip-hop.” —Adam Fleischer (@AdamXXL)