The Washington Post

Lists: Are the lyrics from Common’s five biggest hits really all that “vile”?

Common? Vile? C’mon. ( Rick Diamond/Getty Images for BET)

Oh, right. Sarah Palin doesn’t. Could that be why she tweeted in protest against Common’s involvement in Wednesday night’s poetry event at the White House? Last year, I made the exact opposite argument, explaining why the White House was overdue in formally recognizing hip-hop. I also suggested Common as a possible guest.

Yesterday, Common’s critics took to airwaves, zeroing in on a political poem the rapper delivered at a Def Poetry Jam event during the Bush years. But a look at his lyric book shows a much different guy. Here are some lyrics from Common’s five highest-charting songs — some of which posit him as a man of values.


- “Reminding Me (of Sef),” in which he gets nostalgic for the good old days in his hometown of Chicago: “Before these minds got a hold to some drugs/And start thinkin’ they thugs/ We'd be at the Bismarck, and the Racquetball club.”

- “The Light,” in which he builds a romantic relationship with the help of God: “They say the end is near, it's important that we close to the most, high/ Regardless of what happens, on him let's rely.”

- “Come Close,” in which he promotes fidelity and matrimony: “I just want you to know/ Your whole being is beautiful/ I’m going to do the best I can do/ Cause I'm my best when I'm with you.”

- “Go!” in which he gets a little freaky, but far from filthy : “Free love I wanna see/Uh, hot sex in the third degree/Uh, you gettin' served while servin' me/Uh, dirty words encourage me...”

- “Universal Mind Control,” in which he recycles old school hip-hop-isms: “Some pop, some lock, some move robotic/Like cash money, I stay in pocket/You MCs ra-ra-ra rock, don't stop it.”

More on this story:

Live video, Wed. 7:10 p.m.: Watch White House poetry event
First lady hosts young poets at the White House
White House defends rapper Common against critics
White House poetry night: What’s your favorite poem?
Poets and musicians to take the stage at the White House

Chris Richards has been the Post's pop music critic since 2009. He's recently written about the bliss of summer songs, the woe of festival fatigue and a guide on how to KonMari your record collection.


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