Common‘s 10th studio album, ‘Nobody’s Smiling,’ is, arguably, one of the best albums of 2014. It’s a poignant document about the violence and poverty that is currently gripping his beloved native city of Chicago. There’s also a significant meaning behind the LP title.
“The album title, it came from Rakim saying, ‘Nobody’s smiling’ that was scratched in his song ‘In the Ghetto,’ which is one of the greatest hip-hop songs ever made,” he tells The Boombox.
Throughout ‘Nobody’s Smiling,’ the Chicago wordsmith details stories of young men and women struggling to survive in the Windy City. For Common, who worked with veteran producer No I.D. on the project, he felt it was important to explain the social construct behind the violence and despair in the city.
“I was having a discussion with No I.D. and we were talking about what was going on [in Chicago],” he explained. “This ain’t the first time that violence is happening in Chicago. It’s happening in cities all over America.”
“I felt the attention needs to be brought to it because we pay so much attention to what’s going on overseas, but there are young people dying and innocent people dying [in the U.S.],” he continues. “It was something that needed to be brought up and a discussion needs to be started.”
Common compares ‘Nobody’s Smiling’ to Marvin Gaye’s ambitious 1971 album, ‘What’s Going On,’ which addressed some of the social problems of that time including the Vietnam War and poverty hitting blacks in America.
“We needed a project that has that type of impact where you are telling people what’s going on in Chicago,” Com explained. “Like Marvin Gaye’s ‘What’s Going On,’ this [album] is ‘What’s Going On’ in Chicago.”
“You don’t have to live [in Chicago] to relate,” he adds. “It’s something about soul that people understand. Somebody could be saying something in a different language but you understand them because it coming from the soul.”
Watch Common speak more about his ‘Nobody’s Smiling’ album and his future plans to help usher in a new generation of Chicago rappers.Common Speaks on Staying ‘Lyrically Fit’ for 16 Bars