On this day, July 31, in hip-hop history…
2007: All eyes were on Common as the hip-hop community was eager to see what he had up his sleeve after releasing the arguably classic Be album two years prior. One major blow to recreating that winning formula was that J. Dilla had passed away from cardiac arrest. However, Common still managed to deliver a solid album in Finding Forever with Kanye West stepping up to the plate once again. The album achieved Gold status from the RIAA in just a few months and went on to win a Grammy the following year.
Finding Forever found Common between a rock and a hard place when it came to pressures to deliver some more quality hip-hop. The loss of J. Dilla pushed Common, as well as Kanye West, to want to create music that would stand the test of time. That would explain why the album seems more serious, exhibiting a new-and-improved dynamic between the two. Kanye experiments with a Dilla-esque approach to the production throughout the album while Common still maintains his lyrical dexterity. The Chi-town MC brought the pain on tracks like “The Game” and “Misunderstood”, but was able to balance it out with a less aggressive approach on songs like “U, Black Maybe” and “Break My Heart”.
With help from singles like “The People”, “Drivin’ Me Wild”, and “I Want You”, Finding Forever became Common’s first album to debut at No. 1 on The Billboard 200 albums chart. The album was nominated for Best Rap Album at the 2008 Grammys, but Com ended up taking home the award for Best Rap Performance by A Duo for “Southside” featuring Kanye West.
Common had a lot to prove with the release of his seventh studio album. With Finding Forever, Chicago’s own proved that he’s a veteran MC in this rap game for a reason. He rose to the occasion once again to release another memorable album. Jay Dee would have been proud.—Jamal Bell