The blog Real Hip Hip Since 79 has posted the original studio recording of ‘The People’ from Common’s album Finding Forever. The main difference between this version and the final cut is the hook, here sung by Common himself. Dwele’s take, used for the album, is obviously more polished, but it’s nice to hear Common’s genuine, if shaky, effort.
‘The People’ is a classic, and was my favourite track on Forever. Common’s lyrics are mostly good. His rhymes touch on a variety of social justice topics (Assata Shakur, urban poverty, the failure of the American justice system), and are delivered with his usual verbal dexterity. The only lyrical flaw is the bridge, on which our boy compares Kanye to the legendary beatmaker DJ Premier (!) and raps about his daughter finding Nemo.
This minor shortcoming, though, is forgivable considering the track’s insane beat. Featuring a sample from Gil Scott-Heron’s 1978 song ‘We Almost Lost Detroit,’ the beat has a distinct, fuzzy, ’70s vibe to it. Its focal point is a saxophone and keyboard loop that exudes analog goodness. The result is a sunny and inspiring and funky melody – the perfect complement to Common’s uplifting tales of the struggle.