August Greene is a meeting ground for three luminaries: rapper Common, pianist Robert Glasper, and drummer/producer Karriem Riggins. Their self-titled effort is a collection of psalms that encourages the weary spirit to move forward, a warm embrace during cold times. Messages of optimism decorate the walls, but Common also preaches accountability and how progress begins first with the individual. It’s an inspired output that has him delivering some of the best raps he’s penned in years.

Glasper and Riggins’ influence can’t be overstated, and the chemistry is immediate; an easy conversation where each have an equal say. They are vital to the album’s success, creating a challenging soundscape for Common to explore not only society’s ills but his own as well. With no egos to cloud the vision, the ideas never get too didactic and find an even plane to coexist on. Aside from a few bland Common-isms, it’s a collaboration worth celebrating and the hope is that this is just the beginning.

Meditation

Common throws caution to the wind, and tells it like it needs to be told; uncensored and completely forthright. He’s a moral man wrestling with original sin, and he’s hoping that by reconciling with his past he will be able to liberate not only himself but the people around him. At the halfway mark he redirects his focus on the world at large; demanding change, and starting with himself: [LISTEN]

Black Kennedy

Karriem Riggins wets the senses with a stabbing break, which sets the stage for Common to get his JFK on. Glasper’s touch shines, creating a thoughtful and serene mood full of hopeful melodies. Together they make a plea, imploring those who are able-bodied to make a change in their community. Common is throwing his hat in the political arena, and looking to initiate sweeping reform: [LISTEN]

Let Go

The weight of everyday life is dragging Common down, creating a feeling of intense malaise. The promises of yesterday are gone, and he’s desperately looking for a ray of hope. Once again he looks to within, knowing that in order for him to rise above he needs to bring balance to his perspective. Glasper’s magic touch on the keys adds a moody atmosphere; thoughts coursing through a troubled mind: [LISTEN]

Practice

Real change isn’t immediate, and Common is reminding folks that it’s going to take a lot of time and practice to get it right. It starts with simple acts of kindness, and then with a little commitment and work ethic it can grow into something larger. He’s referencing his own past, and concluding that while destiny does play a role it’s up to the individual to take charge and break through: [LISTEN]

Fly Away

Common opens up about his personal relationships, and he’s questioning himself and all the past decisions that lead to ruin. There’s no hesitation, and he even discusses his mental health, which is not a common trope in the entertainment world. This is him practicing what he preaches, a self-analytical tale that has him digging deep. It’s a courageous effort with a mountain of heart at its core: [LISTEN]

Aya

A largely instrumental cut that showcases not only one musical genius but two. Riggins works the skins with expert precision, capturing a magnanimous march towards greatness. Glasper adds a smooth touch of whimsy that makes the whole experience radiate with optimism. It’s a balanced composition that pays homage to Aya, letting her know that she will always find a home here: [LISTEN]

No Apologies

Riggins lays out a dynamic, broken beat break that in the end exposes Common’s weaknesses. He tries to keep up, but only manages to scribble out a handful of uninspiring rhymes. At it’s core he’s trying to let the spirit of the percussion inspire him, in the end however it’s Glasper who takes the narrative to another level. It’s got the right intent, but Common’s presence only dampens the energy: [LISTEN]

The Time

The time for change has come, and Common is looking to the not-too-distant past to inform him on where the future might take him. Knowing where he came from and the modest roots of his success, he’s forging on believing that the best has yet to come. Riggins injects a fervor that has Common digging deep, and Glasper chimes in periodically adding a calming touch to the equation: [LISTEN]

Piano Interlude

Another brief interlude that has Common reciting some mediocre poetry. Normally this is his bread-and-butter, but in that short span he gets lazy, relying on an over-used saying to fill in the blanks. It’s a sour moment that dilutes Glasper’s point-of-view. A moment that would have been far better without Common’s jokey, coffee shop effort:

Optimistic

An easy-to-digest effort that is both safe and predictable. It’s a feel-good moment that has the trio inviting a former pop songstress back into the spotlight. Brandy adds a nostalgic element that speaks to mid-90s r&b, and her presence inspires Common to write from the heart. Optimism is key, and together they’re encouraging all those who’ll listen to stay positive: [LISTEN]

Swisha Suite

Common puts a bow on the package, explaining the sum total of his philosophy. It’s not a profound narrative, but rather a simply put one that explains just how much he’s grown over the years. It’s been a long journey, and unlike his contemporaries he still has the desire to move forward with his craft. His daughter has been his guiding light, and he’s looking to make a better world for her: [LISTEN]