Winter Orientation organizer Craig Desson said finding the perfect act for the largest Concordia party of the semester wasn’t easy. “When you’re trying to find an act to bring in, you can’t just pick anything off the shelf. We looked for an artist that reflects Concordia and whose appeal was broad enough to pack the Medley,” Desson said.
He was explaining why he and co-organizer Arash Nazhad chose alternative Hip-Hop icon, Common, as the headliner for Thursday’s concert, which is free for ConU students.
Although Common has said he wants to shake his name’s association with “coffee shop chicks and white dudes,” the performer is in many ways well-suited for a university audience.
His music combines soul, jazz and wordplay in ways that make you think as well as dance. The Grammy-nominated artist is a good fit for Concordia in particular because of his socially conscious lyrics.
Without sounding preachy, Common has wrestled with topics such as religion (notably on the soulful “G.O.D: Gaining One’s Definition”), poverty and the black power movement.
Possibly one of the smartest lyricists around, Common’s tracks are also refreshingly conceptual. On the emotionally powerful “Retrospect for Life,” which features Lauryn Hill on chorus, Common tackles the issue of abortion by addressing the song to his aborted son.
Having evolved from his frenetic, yet at times immature, 1992 debut Can I Borrow a Dollar, to the spiritual retrospection and commercial success of 1997’s One Day it Will All Make Sense and 2000’s Like Water For Chocolate, Common is one of few artists from breezy Chicago who has established a solid reputation in the competitive hip-hop world.
On his last album, Electric Circus, the lyrics took a back seat to the spaced-out and funky instrumentation.
Roots drummer, ?uestlove, who also helped produce the album said it “sounded like [Pink Floyd’s] Dark Side of the Moon plus [David Bowie’s] Ziggy Stardust plus Prince Paul in a blender. He is breaking every rule known to man.”
Common’s uniqueness is also expressed in his eccentric styles of clothing, which includes an assortment of colorful Dashikis.
In terms of unconventional wardrobe, he is matched only by Outkast’s Andre 3000, who also dated Common’s current love interest R&B soulstress Erykah Badu.
Of course it’s not for his clothing, but for his fluid and syncopated delivery that fans will be attending the show.
This Thursday, Common will be joined by several other masters of ceremonies including the show’s host, Concordia’s own Rawgged MC.
Montreal-based rap-group Specifics (2/3 of which is pictured on the left) will get things started. The group appeared on the cover of The Mirror’s “people to watch in 2004” issue and the outfit makes it worthwhile to arrive at the concert early.
There will also be Djing by Scott C and breakdancing by the flexible female crew, Solid State.
In the past year, Concordia has seen a lot of cutting edge Hip-Hop acts. At this time last year the school was hosting politically charged emcee Talib Kweli, and last summer it was Blackalicious.
For a Hip-Hop fan, all this is wonderful. But does this discriminate against Concordia’s Hip-Hop haters?
Desson’s response: “I truly believe Concordia is a Hip-Hop school. If we were to bring in Treble Charger or Tea Party that probably wouldn’t fly. We’re not Trent or Queens. In Montreal, Hip-Hop has the largest appeal.”
Common, Jean Grae, The Specifics, Solid State, and DJ Scott C will be performing Thursday at the Medley (1170 St-Denis St.). Doors open at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are free for students. For non-students $25 in advance, $30 at the door. An after party for Concordia’s 3rd Annual Symposium on Hip-Hop Culture will be taking place at S.A.T 1195 St-Laurent Blvd., rumours are Common will be there.