Common Album Preview: ‘Finding Forever’

Rap-Up had the chance to hear 11 tracks off Common’s highly anticipated seventh album Finding Forever due out July 10th. The private listening was held in Los Angeles for about 15 people. Common was in attendance fresh off his appearance on Oprah earlier in the week. Kanye West was also there. Common and Kanye played each track and then spoke about it. Kanye, who Common referred to as ‘Ye throughout the listening, produced the majority of the album which also features production by the late J Dilla. Dwele, Lily Allen, Bilal, and D’Angelo are some of the featured guests.

Be took Common to a new level of commercial success and Finding Forever will put him over the top. After listening to this album, it’s apparent why Common is one of the most prolific rappers out today. Common spoke about his disappointment after losing all five awards he was up for at this year’s Grammys. We bet that he will be collecting Grammys for this album next year. Check out our track by track preview of what will undoubtedly be one of the year’s best rap albums.

1. “The People” featuring Dwele
Produced by Kanye West

“The People” is the first single off Finding Forever and it’s one of our favorite tracks on the album. It’s a declaration of people struggling through everyday life set to a head-bobbing beat that has the potential to be a radio hit. Common calls the song a “declaration of who [he] is.” Dwele sings on the hook, which has been sped up in typical Kanye fashion. Dwele sings, “By the people, for the people…Good days have come to stay.” Common raps, “The people said I was sharp, at the Grammys they tried to India.Arie me.” This is a reference to Common getting nominated for five Grammys this year for Be and not winning any like India.Arie with her seven nominations in 2002. Another sample lyric: “Can’t leave rap alone the streets need me.” Kanye made the beat in Australia when he was on tour.

2. “Black Maybe” featuring Bilal
Produced by Kanye West

Kanye sampled a Stevie Wonder and Syreeta Wright song for “Black Maybe.” A midtempo number with what Kanye calls a “soul authentic” beat. He made this with the late J Dilla in mind with respect to the chopping of the beat. Common explains that this track deals with struggles because of color and beyond. The struggles can come from your own nationality. Kids don’t get the opportunity because of the way they were born. The songs starts off by saying, “I heard a white man’s yes is a black man’s maybe.” Bilal sings on the chorus which goes like this: “Can’t come around, they gon’ wanna put me down, doin’ dope and doin’ time…black maybe.” It ends with a spoken word about race set to the beat of bongos.

3. “I Want You”
Produced by

Common calls this his “love joint.” Reminiscent of “Go” dealing with his attraction to a woman. Hard drum beat with a hook that sounds like Imogen Heap from the pop group Frou Frou. Common first heard the beat when he and were working on the Gap holiday commercial. He told that he had to have it. Sample lyrics: “Thinkin’ about your love, I need another dose.”

4. “Southside” featuring Kanye West
Produced by Kanye West

You may have heard this song by now. It was originally released around this year’s Super Bowl to support the Chicago Bears and was used in an NFL commercial. The song sounds great when it’s performed live. Kanye is the only rapper rapping on Common’s album. The song has a rock edge with an electric guitar. Kanye raps, “I’m Mike and he’s Tito.” Common describes the track as just “two Southside dudes just emceeing.” One of the album’s highlights.

5. “Drivin’ Me Wild” featuring Lily Allen
Produced by Kanye West

Our second favorite song off the album after “The People.” It also happens to be one of Common’s favorite songs. This should definitely be released as a single. A fun song with British pop singer Lily Allen singing on the hook. She sings, “It’s this thing now that’s drivin’ me wild, I got to see what’s up before it gets me down…Love’s not a mystery, it’s everything.” Many pop culture references on the song (“Unbreakable like Bobby and Whit”), which is about people who do too much to fit in or be cool. The moral of the song: be yourself. Common talks about a girl who “be on the treadmill like OK Go, reading Us and People magazine, chasing an actor for a Bentley coupe…Rock a fur in the summer, so somebody would pet it.”

6. “So Far To Go” featuring D’Angelo
Produced by J Dilla

This was originally considered to be the “Go” remix. It’s smooth and sexual with a piano on the instrumental. Common describes it as a “wet and sexy” song. J Dilla finished this song before he passed away and Common held onto it for this album. Common calls JD “one of the greatest producers in music, an unsung hero.” JD and D’Angelo are two of his favorite artists. D’Angelo sings on the hook: “You’ve got so far to go.”

7. “Break My Heart”
Produced by Kanye West

This song had yet to be finished when we listened to it, but it’s about love and breaking a girl’s heart. “Sometimes it happens,” Common laughed. Sample lyrics: “I got my SAG card, baby, I’m an actor…You could be by my side like Flavor and Deelishis.”

8. “The Game” featuring DJ Premier
Produced by Kanye West

This one has an old school beat with record scratching by DJ Premier. Kanye talked Common into using the song on his album. It felt like a Primo beat to him. The hook goes like this: “It’s only right that I address this, gotta be in it to win it.” Common raps, “I want to be like Akeelah, an achiever.”

9. “Start the Show” featuring Kanye West
Produced by Kanye West

This will be the first song on the album. It has a thrashing beat with a snare drum. “To the top of the globe,” Kanye raps.

10. “Misunderstood”
Produced by Devo Springsteen

Kanye’s cousin Devo Springsteen produced this. He produced “Diamonds (From Sierra Leone)” with Kanye and “So High” for John Legend. Kanye sampled Nina Simone on this. Common was inspired by his friends who are good-natured, but made bad choices. He rewrote it many times before getting it right. He talks about a girl who had dreams of being a dancer, but ending up stripping and a guy who had dreams of acting, but got mixed up in the wrong crowd. The hook goes like this: “When everything goes wrong, you see some bad…Please don’t let me be misunderstood.”

11. “Forever Begins”
Produced by Kanye West

The last song on the album and a tribute to the late J Dilla. The title of the album Finding Forever is also a tribute to JD who lives on through the music. This song has an uplifting, soulful, almost spiritual feel. Drums and strings can be heard. Common raps, “We live forever through song.” Kanye is still thinking of more ideas, so more songs may be added or changed. Common says he’s trying to make timeless music that means something to society. After listening to these 11 tracks, he’s definitely accomplished this with Finding Forever.

Kanye added that we should look out for his album in September.