CD: Common, Electric Circus


Ahmir "?uestlove" Thompson already has his name on his band the Roots' recent, superbly inventive album Phrenology, and here he is again, the main producer of Chicago-born rapper Common's fifth album. It's appropriate that the sleeve - which features a crowd of 85 collaborators, heroes and associates, from Prince to Richard Pryor to Jill Scott - nods to Sergeant Pepper; likewise that much of the recording took place at New York's Electric Lady studios, maternity ward to Jimi Hendrix's Electric Ladyland. Electric Circus feels like an epochal blueprint for what hip-hop can be: it is visceral, genuinely experimental and fascinatingly odd while remaining, essentially, a pop record.

The enormously cute Mary J Blige cameo Come Close ought to be a huge crossover hit, while the pricelessly witty Cab Calloway swing of I Am Music, in which Common and Jill Scott hymn a roll call of (black) music's innovators, is Electric Circus in microcosm: a joyous synergy of medium and message.


David Peschek

The GuardianTramp

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