A former Source magazine "Unsigned Hype" winner, Common Sense
almost single-handedly put Chicago hip-hop on the map in the early '90s with his excellent debut, Can I Borrow a Dollar?
, which displayed a truly unique sound that, nevertheless, situated the rapper somewhere between the ground staked out by A Tribe Called Quest
and Gang Starr
. Can I Borrow a Dollar?
features the fabulous, oddly muted production of 2 Pc. Drk Productions (Immenslope
and Twilite Tone
). They opt for a spare, minimalist production that prominently features understated keyboard loops over simple drum tracks, occasionally augmented by saxophone or flute for an overall jazzy, laid-back feel. The production perfectly complements Common Sense
's hiccuping/singsongy vocal style and involved rhymes. His lyrics are packed with allusions and references to pop and street culture nearly as eclectic as those of the Beastie Boys
. Though sometimes lighthearted to the point of aimlessness and occasionally veering into harder-hitting (vaguely misogynistic) sentiments, Can I Borrow a Dollar?
acted, for the most part, as an antidote to the exaggeratedly hardcore rhymes of a lot of early-'90s hip-hop. Stand-out tracks such as "Charms Alarm," "Take It EZ," and the only outside production, the Beatnuts
' characteristically bell-driven "Heidi Hoe," are calls to arms to all hangers-on and fakers in the hip-hop community. This is one of the most underrated hip-hop debuts of the '90s.