Let Love

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Should Common choose to radically change course with his 13th solo album, number 12, Let Love, could be considered the third part of a trilogy that started with Black America Again and continued with the rapper's self-titled album as part of August Greene. Like those LPs from 2016 and 2018, Let Love involves Karriem Riggins on production and drums, Samora Pinderhughes on keyboards and vocals, and Burniss Travis on bass. Pinderhughes and Travis are more involved here -- as writing and production partners -- than on the preceding sessions. The core trio of instrumentalists continues to communicate with fluid, deceptively intricate precision, occasionally easy to mistake for Riggins' keenly sourced, artfully looped, and sparingly placed samples. August Greene was more reflective and somber than Black America Again, and this continues the trend, enhanced with consistently tender secondary vocals from Pinderhughes, BJ the Chicago Kid, Jill Scott, Dwele, Daniel Caesar, Leon Bridges, and Jonathan McReynolds. They're all in sympathetic support of a rapper who, 27 years after his recorded debut and a few months following the publishing of his memoir, has never been more open. In the lead-off track "Good Morning Love," Common rhymes about seeing his therapist, declaring "as a black man, I feel I should be sharin' this," while in "Show Me That You Love Me," he relates a humbling late-night discussion with his daughter about his parental shortcomings. Recollections of his upbringing get as serious as they do in his book, detailing in "Memories of Home" his childhood struggle to cope with traumatic emotional shock. Equally emblematic of Common's growth is "HER Love," a proper full-blown sequel to "I Used to Love H.E.R." (H.E.R. being acronymic for "Hip-hop in its essence is real"). The title switch alone signals maturity and an emphasis on positivity -- the gratitude he feels toward the art form in 2019 -- and a breezy, excavated J Dilla beat deepens its resonance. The benevolent spirit in this and almost all of the other tracks makes the strong-arming "Hercules" and the retribution tale "Fifth Story" seem like misplaced throw-ins.

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