Common: I Used to Love H.E.R.
Around the summer of 2004, a good friend of mine introduced me to Common. The first song I listened to was “I Used to Love H.E.R.” and I must have listened to that song for a whole week straight. I was just surprised by it. I didn’t realize songs could be put together so well.
There are very few songs, in general, that work on as many levels as “I Used to Love H.E.R. (Hearing Every Rhyme)” does. Released in 1994, during a turbulent and transformative period for hip-hop, “I Used to Love H.E.R.” offers a brief history of the genre and its importance to Common by using the metaphor of a beautiful woman.
Common’s lyrics follow his experiences with this “woman” as she changes from “old-school” and “underground” to “Afro-centric” to a “gangster who hangs with gangster bitches.”
He tells the story of how he came to be involved with hip-hop and how its transitions were important for the evolution of the genre. Common tells the story of how, over the years, hip-hop kind of lost itself, how so many people believed they could “do her” but really couldn’t, and how he wants to reclaim and renew “her”.
More than that, though, Common tells a fairly rare story in hip-hop: the story of an MC who arose out of just his love for music, the story of an MC who didn’t necessarily need to rap, but “did her” because it meant so much to him and he had faith in “her”.
It’s hard to mention this song without mentioning the fact that it sparked a feud between him, Ice Cube, and other members of Ice Cube’s group, Westside Connection. They believed that Common was mocking West Coast rap and claiming that—because of the negativity in his verse when he is talking about the sub-genre—he believed his music and the music of East Coast rappers was more important (even though Common is actually from Chicago).
Eventually, the feud was settled, but this song’s importance—in both hip-hop and poetry—has yet to be matched. It’s doubtful that Common meant to start a feud or even seem overly critical of any kind of hip-hop, because this song that hip-hop needs to be appreciated for everything that it is and for everything that it means, to both listeners and rappers.