Common has always been Chicago’s ambassador of Hip Hop. Kanye West may be the most influential artist coming out of the Windy City, but Common’s rhymes have always felt like the city’s presence in popular Hip Hop; with his rhymes closely mirroring the state of city along with his pride and confidence. Unfortunately, Chicago hasn’t been in great condition in the past few years. The constant violence there has made the city the murder capital of the country, even to the point where the violence has influenced the Chicago’s new waves of artists, whether it’s in terms of peace or war. This is evident in Common’s tenth album Nobody’s Smiling, a project that illustrates Chicago’s hostile inner-city. Compared to Common’s last albums, Nobody’s Smiling is dark, maybe darker than the Chicago’s inner city streets. However, Common’s consciousness in rhymes shine’s as bright as the street lights that guide someone out of a hostile environment.
There are different factors that make Nobody’s Smiling a complex masterpiece, with one of them being the production. All of the instrumentals are produced by No ID, however, there isn’t any repetitiveness present. Each instrumental fits well with Common’s rhymes, and helps Common paints the gloomy streets of Chicago’s inner-city. One of the songs that makes this evident is the second track off the album, “No Fear”, a track that uses a barbaric bassline and synths to illustrate a man’s competitive nature within Chicago’s hostile inner-city. Nobody’s Smiling production is spot on, using hip hop rooted beats with a darker twist. Thanks NO I.D.!
Common’s conscious rap skills aren’t new, but in Nobody’s Smiling, his skills are illustrated through a point-of-view perspective. His verses puts listeners in the shoes of a young child surrounded by the chaotic environment of inner-city Chicago. This perspective is played out through a plethora of songs in Nobody’s Smiling, one of the best being the track of the same name. The album seems like it’s dedicated to shedding light on Chicago’s inner-city (and it does for the most part), but Real is a song that takes you away from the dark Chi-town streets to see the beauty of the city through upbeat production and light-hearted wordplay. Common’s lyrical ability is as strong in Nobody’s Smiling as it is in his last 9 albums, maybe stronger.
In conclusion, Nobody’s Smiling is a project dedicated to informing listeners about what is going on in the streets of inner-city Chi-Town. It’s serves as the channel news of the inner-city streets, but instead of anchors and reporters, Common uses intense wordplay and first-person perspectives to give you the story, while the dark instrumentals draw you into the hostile streets of the Windy City.