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2005-09-20 20:03:51 (link)
Common in Osaka - Concert Review

I’ve always really liked Common Sense (the rapper—not so much the principle). In terms of intelligence, lyrics and heart there isn’t a better artist in hip hop today. Yeah, he had a bit of an eccentric period there for a while, but the music was still good, so stop hatin’! Anyways, I’ve never had the chance to catch Common live, and one might think that my moving to Japan wouldn’t help much to end this unfortunate streak of not seeing him live, but…hold on! Guess who finally saw Common live despite living across the globe from him? That’s right! This guy! (Note: It’s obviously been a while since I’ve written a lead. I apologize.)

This past weekend, I traveled to Osaka—the 2nd largest metropolis in Japan behind Tokyo, of course—to see Common play at Club Quattro, a delightfully small venue (think Luther’s Blues for you ex and current Madison-ites). Having grabbed an Asahi (brilliant) beer and a cozy spot close up to the stage, I waited for the Chicago-born and New York-based MC to bless us with his unworldly skills, and (sorry to ruin the suspense) I wouldn’t be disappointed.

The first thing I noticed about Common as he took the stage is that dude is buff, and on a purely aesthetic level, not bad on the eyes at all. Moving along, the best part of a rap show is always the first song because of all that pent up energy being released by both MC and crowd, and this was no exception. The crowd, made up of mostly Japanese hip hop heads and a few of us gaijins (foreigners), seemed to understand how cool of an opportunity it was to see Common in such an intimate setting, and the place was accordingly buzzing. Even better, Common was able to keep the momentum going and the crowd vibing with him until the encore.

His band consisted of DJ Dummy (a pretty dope DJ from Brooklyn), a dude on the bongos and cymbals and another guy on keyboard. I’m still not quite sure what the point of having the bongo guy was (he added bongo hits and cymbal crashes to echo, and I guess emphasize, certain parts that the DJ was already spinning), but the rest of the musical elements combined to give Common a nice sound with which to work.

The brother named Sense navigated his way through his latest disc and several (not enough) songs from other releases, and unlike some rappers I’ve seen live, Common’s composed yet potent voice and rhyming style translated very well to stage. In a genre currently dominated by L’il Jon and co. yelling really loud and angry things at us on hooks, Common’s style is toned-down but capable of so much (real) passion even if he isn’t screaming about “fucking someone up” or drippin sweat of various body parts. In addition, hearing Kanye West’s beats in a live setting is always a treat. (Word to Mike Jones and Sasquatch). [Quick Digression] “Late Registration” is phenomenal. As solid as “College Dropout” was, I doubted Kanye’s staying power for a while, but I’m definitely reevaluating that now. He is an extremely talented and varied artist. Yeah, he rhymes the same words a lot, but as a mainstream producer/MC he blows Puffy and co. out of the water, and he’s certainly lyrically better than Dre.

It’s hard to pick highlights, as the whole show was consistently good, but hearing “The Corner,” “Go,” “The Food” and “Testify” was especially cool. In between songs, he bantered in very bad Japanese with the small crowd of about 100, spoke about/against Bush, big up-ed God a lot (surprisingly not that annoying) and dry humped my friend Embry on stage. So in short, everyone came out winners. A bunch of us Americans were able to go back stage after the show and meet the man, so that was cool too. He is just as humble and cool as you would expect him to be. So the morale is…go buy “Be” if you haven’t already and support good hip-hop. I will continue to do my part here in Japan.

As an aside, I wanted to mention how much I miss the old Cardinal crew. I was a brief member, catching on only just in time for my two “senior” years, but I believe some of my best friendships will come from that period. I really do miss you guys and hope you will stay in touch. I also hope that Big Cheese Press will accept more of my writing. Konnichiwa bitches!

by Leif Griffin


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