But then I take it back to an earlier portion of this decade when the underground's "superstars" emerged. The clan of rappers associated with Common i.e. Mos Def, Talib Kweli, The Roots, and Pharoahe Monch among others really started to be typecast for their type of music (usually Afrocentric, edgy, raw, and heavily lyrical). Can we honestly say Common's #1 pole position on the Billboard charts will elevate their movement?
Talib Kweli's latest album, Eardrum, is slated to come out on Tuesday, August 21st. Despite a huge Internet presence through MySpace, Facebook, and his own website TalibKweli.com, and an enormous following (which I witnessed at last year's Blacksmith Free Concert in downtown Manhattan, NYC), his album push-backs have caused unease even amongst his most devout fans. Hence, he has yet to break the wall between pop and not. (Interestingly enough, Common's surprise appearance at that concert literally had everyone's jaw on the floor.) Mos Def has quietly disappeared from rap as a whole, mainly focused on hosting Def Poetry Jam and making surprise guest appearances in the Boondocks: The Animated Series and Dave Chappelle's Block Party. He will soon release his own album under a new record label, but there seems to be a large disconnect with Mos the actor and host versus Mos the rapper.
Pharoahe Monch hasn't been as quiet as Mos on the rap scene, but his latest recognizable contribution to popular hip-hop music was his writing credentials for Diddy's "The Future" and "Hold Up" on Press Play. And The Roots get signed to Def Jam, the biggest hip-hop label ever, and their latest release The Game Theory doesn't get 1/2 the burn it deserved, even after collaborating with Jay-Z on his Unplugged CD and ?uestlove's absolute visibility.
In other words, Common isn't common. Until artists like Immortal Technique, Jean Grey, or Little Brother place anywhere in a substantial pole position, the division of underground and mainstream remains. Common has built up his brand in the mold of a Norah Jones or even a Jill Scott, where people don't even need to know the title of the album to purchase the product, confident that it's just that good.