In 1994, the artist formerly known as Common Sense was at a crossroads in his career. He was fighting for a spot in the unforgiving hip-hop industry, and it was hardly an ideal time to be a rapper from the Midwest.
Two years had passed since his overlooked debut, Can I Borrow A Dollar?, which largely fell on deaf ears. While the album spawned three solid singles (and garnered significant airplay on BET and MTV), it failed to catapult Lonnie Rashid Lynn, Jr. onto hip-hop’s A-List.
It wasn’t easy to make a splash in a flooded market that now reads like who’s who of hip-hop history. The 1994 freshman class included classic debuts from Nas, The Notorious B.I.G., Outkast, and Method Man.
So Common went back to the drawing board and returned with Chicago’s answer to Nas’s Illmatic, the soulful and lyrically advanced Resurrection. Instead of high-profile producers like Pete Rock, DJ Premier, or Q-Tip, Resurrection featured beats (and rhymes) from two relatively unknown Windy City upstarts: No I.D. and Ynot. Their goal: to put Chicago—a city better known for house than hip-hop—on the map.
Common, No I.D. and Ynot refined the sound they’d created on Can I Borrow A Dollar? (back when No I.D. was known as Immenslope, and Ynot was Twilite Tone), taking tricks they’d learned from their Relativity labelmates The Beatnuts and giving them their own Chicago flair.
Common’s sound matured, at age 22 he returned with a deeper voice, and moved away from the TV jingles and pop-culture references on which he’d relied so much before. Resurrection found Common Sense tackling complex concepts and addressing socially conscious issues. He came of age with a new look on life, Chicago, and the music business.
Although Resurrection didn’t sell big—it moved 2,000 copies in its first week, and debuted at No. 179 on the Billboard 200—it did spawn the seminal single “I Used To Love H.E.R.,” which remains one of hip-hop’s most revered and oft-duplicated records. The album was lauded by critics, and considered a classic among hip-hop aficionados and fans alike, some even considering this to be Common’s best work.
Common’s ascension to hip-hop’s elite class now finds him not only a rapper but also a best-selling author and a leading man in Hollywood. The same can be said for No I.D. who has produced hits for the likes of Kanye West, Jay-Z, and Drake, and now sits behind the desk as Executive Vice President of Def Jam.
With this week marking the 17th anniversary of this classic album dropping, we decided to stage a resurrection of our own and talk to those who contributed to Common’s seminal sophomore set. As you can see, we still love H.E.R....
As told to Insanul Ahmed (@Incilin), Andrew Barber (@FakeShoreDrive), & Keenan Higgins (@HIGzILLMATIC).