A former Source magazine "Unsigned Hype" winner, Common Sense almost single-handedly put Chicago hip-hop on the map in the early '90s with his excellent debut, Can I Borrow a Dollar?, which displayed a truly unique sound that, nevertheless, situated the rapper somewhere between the ground staked out by A Tribe Called Quest and Gang Starr. Can I Borrow a Dollar? features the fabulous, oddly muted production of 2 Pc. Drk Productions (Immenslope and Twilite Tone). They opt for a spare, minimalist production that prominently features understated keyboard loops over simple drum tracks, occasionally augmented by saxophone or flute for an overall jazzy, laid-back feel. The production perfectly complements Common Sense's hiccuping/singsongy vocal style and involved rhymes. His lyrics are packed with allusions and references to pop and street culture nearly as eclectic as those of the Beastie Boys. Though sometimes lighthearted to the point of aimlessness and occasionally veering into harder-hitting (vaguely misogynistic) sentiments, Can I Borrow a Dollar? acted, for the most part, as an antidote to the exaggeratedly hardcore rhymes of a lot of early-'90s hip-hop. Stand-out tracks such as "Charms Alarm," "Take It EZ," and the only outside production, the Beatnuts' characteristically bell-driven "Heidi Hoe," are calls to arms to all hangers-on and fakers in the hip-hop community. This is one of the most underrated hip-hop debuts of the '90s.
AllMusic Review by Stanton Swihart