Album review: Common – Nobody’s Smiling

Common’s latest album is a solid comeback - and that’s something to smile about.

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Nobody’s Smiling

(Def Jam)

Four stars

The thing about being a lyrical MC is that you gotta have something to say. Ever since Common's socially conscious 2005 masterpiece Be, it has been diminishing results for the 42-year-old with a string of inconsistent albums. The hunger has finally returned with Nobody's Smiling – the 10th album's subject matter focuses on the spiralling gun violence of his home city of Chicago. Teaming up with fellow Chicago native, the producer No ID, the album has Common chronicling or playing the role of desperate youths caught up in "Chiraq's" ills. In the Curtis Mayfield sampling The Neighbourhood, Common is resigned as he surveys the dour state of The Chi. The bouncy single Diamonds is a winner as both he and the rapper Big Sean skilfully rhyme over a beat that sounds similar to a clattering piano, while the forceful gospel stomper The Kingdom echoes Kanye West's hit Jesus Walks. The levity arrives in the moving closer Rewind That, where Common recalls his friendship with the late seminal producer J Dilla. While it took a bleak subject to rouse him, Common's latest is a solid comeback – and that's definitely something to smile about.