Words by Daniel Isenberg (@StanIpcus)
I was sixteen when Common released his classic sophomore album Resurrection. I admittedly slept on his first joint, but Resurrection held me down so hard my junior year of high school, and I still bang it regularly when I need a jolt of purity. In fact, I’ve been playing it all weekend, and it’s as dope as it was the day I first listened to it, start to finish, no skips, just pure lyricism and skill over a soulful collection of banging No I.D. beats. Now twenty years later, Common is getting ready to drop his 10th album, Nobody’s Smiling, via Def Jam on July 22nd, and I’m super-psyched about its release, because it once again pairs him with Resurrection producer No I.D. The first single “Kingdom” with Vince Staples is a banger, and his recently released Big Sean collabo “Diamonds” knocks too, so there’s no doubt in my mind this LP is going to be special.
After listening to Common’s interview with Combat Jack earlier this week, I got all fired up and decided to put together this collection of classic ‘90s Common music videos for our latest Video Vault. This is a return to Common’s foundation, which you will see from the visuals is deeply rooted in his hometown of Chicago. From the singles off his debut album, to the breakout clip for “I Used to Love H.E.R.,” to collabos with Lauryn Hill, Sadat X, Black Star, and more, enjoy these 10 Classic ’90s Common Music Videos.
1. Common Sense “Take it EZ”
To start things off, here’s the video for Common’s debut single (back when he was known as Common Sense), off his debut album Can I Borrow a Dollar? Common’s comes with the diggety-Das EFX flow, and for those who miss that early ‘90s rap video aesthetic, it’s all here to soak in, from the graffiti backdrops to Com’s baggy jeans and vest outfit. If you slept on his first album like I did, you may want to revisit it. This track is proof—Common been nice.
2. Common Sense “Breaker 1/9”
Common freaks more of his chiggedy-Chi-Town flows over a sample of the Isley Brothers’ classic “Between the Sheets” on the second single from his debut album, “Breaker 1/9.” Com’s “trying to get the punanny” in this ditty about the opposite sex, which cleverly inserts Phife Dawg’s “Check the Rhime” vocal sample, “And before I get the butt, the Jim must be erect.” Good stuff.
3. Common Sense “Soul By The Pound (Thump Mix)”
“Soul By The Pound” is probably the most well-known cut off Can I Borrow a Dollar?, and the video for it finds Common cruising through the streets in a Jeep as he spits hard raps for the camera. His style is more straight-forward here, giving us a glimpse of what we would get on his sophomore LP. And the Q-Tip, Grand Puba, and Redman vocal samples are placed perfectly on this updated “Thump Mix,” which is different than the original album version. Rap fans like me who may have been thrown off by Com’s Das EFX influence at first came around on this one, as they should have. This shit is dope.
4. Common Sense “I Used to Love H.E.R.”
“I Used to Love H.E.R.” was Common’s breakout single off his sophomore album Resurrection, and the video was definitely helpful in blowing it up nationwide. If you turned on Yo! MTV Raps or Rap City back in 1994, this was in heavy rotation. It wasn’t long before New York rap fans were embracing Common like he was one of their own, which back then wasn’t such an easy task. As for California, well, one particular L.A. rapper didn’t appreciate this song very much and sent some shots Com’s way on wax, which gave birth to the highly underrated diss track “The Bitch in Yoo.”
5. Common Sense “Resurrection”
The title track from Common’s second album Resurrection was the next single and video to be released after “I Used to Love H.E.R.” The single/video version a.k.a. “Resurrection ‘95” had altered lyrics (“Don’t watch the Bulls as much, they got too many white boys”) but the beat was the same as the one found on the album (two great Large Professor remixes would be released along with it containing different beats though). This is one of the more outstanding piano loops ever committed to a rap reel, thanks to No I.D.
6. Just Ro ft. Common “Confusion”
Every list needs a sleeper, so here you go. Just Ro never became a household name, but the visuals for his collaboration with fellow Chicago rap artist Common did get some decent burn on national video programs. If you’ve never heard this song, well, be prepared to get hit with two exceptional Common verses. And Southside Chicago natives should recognize Lem’s Bar-B-Q in the video’s backdrop.
7. Common ft. Lauryn Hill “Retrospect for Life”
Want an early glimpse of Common the movie star? Peep the intro to this video for his One Day It’ll All Make Sense single, where he reacts to his girl telling him that she’s pregnant. Not bad, Com. You’ve come a long way since, though, but we always knew you had it in you. As for the song, you can’t go wrong with a Lauryn Hill chorus, especially when it’s a take on a Stevie Wonder classic, and some high-quality concept bars by Common. He certainly matured a lot between his second and third albums, but as you will hear on this song and see in the video, Common was still working through the realities of fatherhood in 1997.
8. Common “Reminding Me (of Sef)”
To follow up the more introspective vibe of his first One Day It’ll All Make Sense single, Common threw a party for the “Reminding Me (of Sef)” video, and gave his fans something fun to dance to and also enjoy lyrically. It’s got a grown and sexy feel, and like the previous single, it brings forth a new stage in the evolution of Common both as an artist and a man. The apparel is a symbol of it, but you’ll hear it in his raps, too.
9. Common ft. Sadat X “One-Nine-Nine-Nine”
Props to Rawkus for pairing Common with Sadat X for this Soundbombing II single. What a match made in hip-hop heaven. It’s pretty crazy that 1999 was fifteen years ago, but this song and video have aged well. I’d love to hear these two reunite for something soon. Make that happen, fellas!
10. Black Star ft. Common “Respiration”
Common’s made some classic guest appearances during his career (“The Bizness” with De La Soul is a definite standout), but his strongest may be here on “Respiration” with Black Star. Com’s verse paints the picture of his return back home to Chicago to bury his fallen friend. And the video brings all the raw emotion and grief in his lyrics to life. Watch it above, then watch it again. They don’t make rap songs like this anymore, though I have high hopes that Nobody’s Smiling will have some new gems of this caliber on it.
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