Common packs his new album, “Electric Circus,” with new and fresh ideas. This Grammy-nominated artist is known for his original beats and style. On “Electric Circus,” the rapper collaborates with many artists like Mary J. Blige, Sonny of P.O.D., Jill Scott, Erykah Badu, and Cee-Lo. In this project, Common crossbreeds different genres of music with hip-hop. Unexpectedly, most of his tracks have the acoustics as the main background beat.
On “Aquarius,” Common has an audible acoustic instrument playing. This idea is very modern and mainstream hip-hop artists usually would not be so boldly different. “Electric Wire Hustle Flower” adds creative yet unfitting sounds to the beat. An alien movie-sounding theme, which does not blend very well, is at the beginning and end of the track.
The best song is track six, his collaboration with Mary J. Blige. The title “Come Close To Me” says everything about this song. This track deals with a man refusing to succumb to the hardships of a relationship for the sake of his love. The slow beats and the smooth, deep voice of Mary J. Blige enhance the calm and lovesick rapping of Common. On all 12 tracks of the album, Common consistently raps with attitude, toughness and passion clearly present in his voice, but in “Come Close To Me” his voice becomes softer and milder, showing his “love” for Blige.
In dealing with his rapping, rhyming and lyrical skills, Common does not brag and glorify the fact that he has women, money and drugs, like many others of his genre. He does mention how he likes to “feel high” in track nine. However, his true focus is on actual romantic love and not just gratuitous sex. He even addresses the social issue of emotionally and sexually abused women and the challenges of becoming a rapper. What Common excels at is his ability to shift from angry and bitter to soft-spoken and overflowing with sensitivity and love on a dime.
Overall, I would give this album a B-. “Electric Circus” expresses the wide range of originality and creativity that is the rapper Common. The best example on degrees of innovations is “I Am Music.” The perfect blend of swing and jazz music takes the listeners back to the Roaring ’20s. Jill Scott sings the hook in a jazzy style, while the trumpets enhance the feeling. However, not all of the songs are a perfect blend. The first eight tracks do not have enough spice to keep the attention of the listener. Some songs are just plain weird; the first track is confusing because of the odd mixture of acoustics and computerized sounds. I thought that these “innovations” were just too unfitting and vexing to enjoy the song.
I would recommend this album to people who are in dire need of a fresh different sound, but one really needs to be open-minded to accept most of the songs on this album.