Common & Stevie Wonder’s Snapshot of Black America Is Raw & Uncut (Video)
Common’s 2014 album Nobody’s Smiling not only signified a reforged musical partnership with producer No I.D., but also a concept record inspired by Chicago. The MC’s hometown continues to be plagued by skyrocketing rates of gun violence, and while it manages to be a hotbed for vibrant talent including Chance the Rapper, Jamila Woods, Noname, and others, the Chi is simultaneously infamous for homicides.
A similar source of inspiration is behind Common’s latest single, “Black America Again.” With Stevie Wonder on piano and vocals, Chuck D and MC Lyte providing adlibs, Esperanza Spalding on bass, scratches from J Rock, and production from Robert Glasper and Karriem Riggins, the song is a true product of collaboration. And, despite the fact that none of them appear in its striking video, the end result is, once again, a collaboration of a most powerful kind.
In a beautiful collection of living portraiture of men and women of color depicted bare-skinned and deeply emotive, “Black America Again” also uses a blend of archival and contemporary footage of Black Americans. Malcolm X appears, as do young women of today dancing joyously. The eyes of both the young and old are included, as are their tears. Images of Black love are included alongside images of profound sadness. And, in an example of the complexity that many Black Americans face, footage of Black American patriotism is stitched in, reminding viewers that, for better or for worse, the American flag does in fact belong to all of us.
Common’s words are equally compelling, opening with “here we go again, Trayvon will never grow to be an older man/black children, their childhoods stole from them.” He eloquently references slavery and its disastrous effects on the native names and languages of Africans, the use of whips on the backs of the enslaved, and also the contemporary effects of centuries of discrimination. “Now we slaves to the blocks, on ’em we spray shots/leaving our own to lay in a box,” he raps, adding that killing each other is “part of the plot.”
Heads should be aware that the video begins with raw footage of Alton Sterling’s murder, committed by a Baton Rouge, Louisiana police officer on July 5.
“Black America Again” is expected to appear on a forthcoming album from Common, who discussed it in more detail with Complex.