Uncommon Longevity: Analyzing The Drake vs. Common Beef

FSD Staff

Words by FSD contributor Alan (of Hip-Hop Snobs) (@SnobWorthy

Let’s go way back to 1991. The average cost of gas in that particular year was $1.95 and Michael Jordan and the Bulls were on their way to winning their first NBA championship. Before there was such a thing as the XXL Freshmen List or being labeled as (2)Dope To Sleep On by 2dopeboyz there was the Unsigned Hype column in The Source Magazine and a young Chicago MC known as Common Sense at the time was featured in the highly regarded column (B.I.G. and Eminem were subsequently featured in the column as well). Looking back it’s safe to say Common who dropped the Sense from his name has lived up to the hype.

Common, a rapper who is more in the mold of Chuck D than Lil Wayne is a rare breed in today’s hip hop industry. He’s been around since the early 90’s and he’s still regarded as one of hip hop’s best emcees. Sure there’s rappers like Talib Kweli, Mos Def, and a few others with long successful careers still making quality music but they are the exception not the norm. I won’t even mention Jay-Z or Nas because they’re legends in any era. More often a mainstream rapper shelf life is short, they have their five years before their sound and lyrical narratives become stale. Just take a look at 50 Cent’s career or look at Nelly’s career. He was hot, now he’s getting sued by American Express. Wait a minute, he’s in the studio working with Dre? (Detox is never coming out or at least live up to expectations)

Anyways the point is that hip hop music is a young man’s game. Take a look at any blog, the billboard charts, listen to the radio and you’ll hear hip hop’s youthful sounds from rappers that were brought up with B.I.G., Tupac, and influenced from the late 90’s shiny suit era instead of the sounds from hip hop’s rising era of late 80’s and early 90’s of Rakim and Public Enemy. Common is a survivor from a time that has long pass by. It’s a period of hip hop that I personally love but not lost in. Common has survived through many changes within the sound and culture of hip hop.

Throughout his music career he’s released many classic songs and highly praised albums. His longevity and relevance is due to the overall quality of his music and his lyrical prowess on the mic. To hear Common on the mic is the equivelant to watching Leo Messi (Yes I’m comparing him to a soccer player in terms of natural ability in their chosen profession. If you don’t know about the three time Ballon d’Or winner, just think Derrick Rose but on grass) on the soccer field. There both so natural at what they do, it looks like they’re not even trying.

Yes there’s been some slip ups. Some critics would argue his albums Electric Circus and Universal Mind Control were a step down from his classic work but I applaud the fact that he’s willing to take some musical risks and switch up his sound from time to time. Not a lot of rappers would do that. I remember Kanye making a statement during his VH1 Storytellers performance about rappers third and fourth albums sounding just like their first albums. Common has not fallen victim to that. Granted there’s has been a common soulful aesthetic in terms of production to his classic albums such as Resurrection or Be but he has grown on the mic from Can I Borrow A Dollar? to The Dreamer, The Believer. He’s not always rapping about the same things from one album to another and it’s what he’s rapping about lately that has garnered a lot of attention.

You knew it was coming, you didn’t think the rap version of Sade was just going to get away with it. It was only a matter of time before someone of note was going to call out Drake out for being who he is, which is soft. Pusha T has been sending shots lately towards Aubrey’s direction but it took Common’s not so “Sweet” track to finally push Drake into a lyrical beef with a lyrical legend. I happen to like the music of both Common and Drake. You can catch me side stepping to Headlines in the club and listening to I Used To Love H.E.R. on the way to school. Hip hop has expanded enough to allow Drake to be successful and have a lane. His lane has been proven to be successful but his overly emo tracks is too sweet for some in the game. Drake is hip hop but so not hip hop at the same time. If someone who didn’t know anything about hip hop came up to you and said play me a album that’s hip hop. You’re more likely to play Common’s latest album than Drake latest album.

Honestly I don’t mind this beef between Drake and Common. It’s the reaction to the beef that I have a issue with. The reactions could be put into three catogories. Young Drake fans who don’t know who Common is or care who he is, Common fans who don’t like new hip hop, and possible fans of both that say “why can’t they all get along?”. First let me address the first catagory of young Drake fans. They always bring up the age gap between the two, as if Common is sitting on his porch and yelling at Drake for playing to close to his lawn. Drake is 25 years old, he’s not some young kid who doesn’t know any better. This is not Ice-T telling Soulja Boy to eat a d*** and complaining that he killed hip hop. So enough with all the age talk. Drake can only wish for the longevity that Common has in his career and pray he doesn’t end up as this generation’s Ja Rule.

The second catagory of Common fans who don’t like new hip hop. You’re as much of the problem as young Drake fans are. It’s more of a overall general problem with the direction of hip hop that they have a problem with. They need to know that A Tribe Called Quest is not coming back and appreciate the true artists that are making high quality hip hop music now and the evolving nature of the music. Times change, music changes and hip hop is not excluded from that.

The third category of possible fans of both who say “Why can’t they all get along” need to remind themselves of the genre of music that they’re listening to. Hip hop started with rap battles on street corners and this is nothing new. Rap battles have always been a part of the genre. As long as it stays on wax then it shouldn’t be a issue. So no Toure this is not the silliest rap battle ever. I’ll give that honor to Rick Ross and Kreayshawn.

Drake should know better and remember his own words from his own track Successful which are, “Diss me and you’ll never hear a reply for it.” Take heed of your own advice. Also stop with the occasional goon talk. We all know you’re not going to catch any bodies. Now or not ever. So whether this stems from some love triangle between Serena, Drake, and Common is inconsequential. Common has earned the right to call out those that are not living up to the culture because of his status in the game and it’s not the first time he’s done it either but just don’t confuse it with hate or jealousy coming from Chi-town’s Nas. To quote his classic song Sixth Sense “If I don’t like it, I don’t like it, that don’t mean that I’m hating, I just want to innovate and stimulate minds, Travel the world and penetrate the times.” He’s been doing that for a while now. The “sweet” ones might want to catch up to it.

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  • Show Comments (19)

  • iLLaNOiseDotNet

    really dope read!

  • joel

    Great article, interesting take on the beef

  • Dawreck

    Jay z is 43 and still kills it, Common is 39 and kills it, Nas is 38 and kills it,Eminem is 39 and is killing it
    if age is an issue i can’t tell! i think good original MC’s just evolve with time and keep getting better.
    any MC who can keep going for 10 plus years on the charts is gonna be a problem 4 ever!
    this is HIP HOP!

  • DJ HasH

    GREAT write up! Very interesting read. I agree with you on alot of points. It’s funny that you brought up that “Diss me and you’ll never hear a reply for it” line by Drake. The was the 1st thing that came across my mind when I heard the Drake diss. I’m not surprised though. Contradictions are a major part of Hip Hop. Just ask Dr Dre, Nas, Too Short, Jay-Z, and even Common himself. The list goes on and on…

  • Hassan Fuckry (@DLYDJ)

    Interesting read. Dope write-up.

  • rose

    dope write up!! i had forgotten about that drake line sooo true.

  • Twitter.com/djallstyle

    1st & foremost Common will murk Drake lyrically in my opinion. 2nd Great read! I will wait on the collabo record coming soon! lol…. Although Common is a massive legend in hip hop & a historic icon in the Chicago music secene. Honestly, they make a lot of the same type of records. Different sounding, sing songy & lyrical boom baps. Both artist have their lanes. I judge a song by the song. There isn’t much difference with Commons recent works & a lot of what Drake does to me. If you sing or have someone sing for you, it’s essentially the same record. Common has a slew of singy type records(although he didn’t do the singing, except Come Close ft. Mary J. Blige) & Drake did his own singing(saved or made more $)
    Hip Hop must always evolve!!! If you stayed with what made you love hip hop,you would buy it & not complain about the free mixtapes, pirated albums we download regularly. At the end of the day, I don’t hear a massive difference with bottom line material both artist are releasing.

  • Nick

    Do you guys edit any of your articles? Great read, heavily detracted by horrible grammar and various typos.

    • JMac

      Great article but I couldn’t agree more with Nick here. Proofread dude.

  • The Mix Mason

    great read. while obviously siding with the hometown favorite, your writing is still objective and clearly seeing both sides

  • Aaron Frank

    Dope ass read! Who cares about grammar, this is a music blog. If u want to read perfection go find a book or encyclopedia. This is an opinion , I agree with alot on this article. I feel that Common might of needed a bit of publicity- given his last CDs have dissapointed the fans( sales dont really matter, but those were terrible too) So Drake is an easy target, yes the Serena thing is stupid, but it makes Common look like he mad over it. At the end of the day, this is a dumb beef that will not last. No way Drake ends up like Ja Rule. Ja never had the popularity that Drake has at the moment. And totally different situation. 2 thumbs up to Mr. Snobworthy. Looking forward to more of your reads

  • China Ballin’

    The Common supporters are being over simplified as grumpy old men or “haters” of new shit. What Common has tapped into is a growing resentment towards the industry and blatant emasculation of Rap. The softening of hip Hop and the tearing down of strong men of minority in order to pull in white kids who are fearful of “black power” or “gangsta” rap. It’s not just a backlash against rap singers or hipster/fashionista swag rap… but a referendum to the taste makers that they need to stop the disneyfication of a culture they don’t own. Hip Hop came from the streets, it was born out of the worst slums of NY. It’s supposed to be aggressive and at times threatening.

  • elementzemcee

    “Hip Hop came from the streets, it was born out of the worst slums of NY. It’s supposed to be aggressive and at times threatening.”

    And that should be the nail in the coffin.

  • Dope

    I think people are forgetting that Drake even though alot of his music is RnB-ish lyrically when he does rap he is better than most rappers out today. Also Common is not the the same Common that made Be and all those other great lyrical albums. So if they do decide to battle remember that Drake isnt just a RnB rapper but that he is actually lyrical.

  • Learned

    Man… This is a opinion piece on rap beef on a hip hop music blog Poindexter… GTFO with your edits. Keep the opinions flowing and write on Drew.

  • DG

    Now before I start this, be clear I am a Common fan. Unlike the person who wrote this article though I do think he is open to criticism for starting this pointless beef. This was basically written from the perspective that Common has done everything right in his career. Including making two albums that are pretty awful, musical risk or not a bad album is a bad album. I do think Common has had a great career with some amazing music and albums along the way but I don’t really see him as the overseer of Hip Hop. Especially since over the last three years he seems more focused on his acting career then anything else. Plus the main fact is this beef is about one thing, Serena. Saying that whether or not the beef is about her is inconsequential is complete bullshit. If he admitted that this was what the beef was really about then I would respect that. Or even if he called out other rappers guilty of making the same type of music then I would respect it. I do agree though that Drake should not have responded because all it does is add fuel to the fire. At least we all know that it will stay to just music because the last two guys you expect to get gangster are Lonnie & Aubrey

  • antongenius

    Being a long time fan of common, and a new fan of drake, this battle is just what it is…I’m not gonna stop listening to either because of there spat. Now, what i do concern myself with is the coining of hip-hip being a “young person’s” game. I think that is dumb…a true genre leaves room for everybody. Really how long can this genre last with people isolating each other like this??? OVERALL, i enjoyed the read.

  • DJ Marc Davis

    It’s funny, how people don’t know the history and culture of hip hop! All of hip hop’s four elements Mcing, DJing, Grafitti, and B-Boying all battle in the artform!! Drake is a grown man bragging and boasting like an MC is soppose to do! Common is challenging him like an MC is soppose to do!! LL got challenged from everyone from Kool Moe Dee to Ice T and still dropped bombs with “Break of Dawn”.

    If Drake is true to the culture he will respond and if not he will take a big fat L from a lyrical legend!!

  • nytochitown

    LL respond look not see two years later after death essential asking for rematch which one. Though overall mod dee won if true to rhyme shit need to know ur correct hip hop history. As for Common like jay and nas he has stood test of time and fact that he didn’t have pretend to drug dealer like they did makes him even doper. Having grown up Ny until 16 then moving to chi and graduate at uic, l tell Lonnie is closest thing to an authenticate rapper as one can get as are Chicago dudes to being real dudes. We warriors and battling is part hip hop. Drake got offend chose spit bars and in return got so black and white trying live nigga life jab thrown at him now got respond or keep it quite like neutron. Drake 25 and Common 39 so young under 18 fans should know Canadian dry not young I’m 30 so tell five ur will go as quick as finger snap nobody hating on person age just moisturizer swagg.

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