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I Used To Love H.E.R.

I Used To Love H.E.R.

by Common

I Used To Love H.E.R. Introduction

In a Nutshell

Dapperly dressed and with a twinkle in his eye, Common makes it his business to ooze class. This socially conscious rapper from the not-so-hip-hop metropolis of Chicago has carefully cultivated his image, while at the same time maintaining that he's got substance to back it up. And—what do you know—his 1994 hip-hop classic "I Used to Love H.E.R." is largely about the relationship between image and substance, too.

Back when he rapped the song, Lonnie Rashid Lynn, Jr., was still known as Common Sense (a band of the same name forced him to drop the "Sense"), and he hadn't yet become the sort of guy that Men's Health magazine interviews for style tips. He had a message, though, and it was so loaded in the hip-hop world that it made Ice Cube lose his cool.

"H.E.R." is really hip-hop itself (the acronym stands for “Hearing Every Rhyme”), and Common traces the genre from its underground origins to its mainstream obsession with gangstas and bling. In comparing his beloved hip-hop to a woman, he gives us a fresh and engaging look at it, though not without stumbling through a couple of the clichés about how women appear in popular music. Common used hip-hop’s own superficial image against itself, and it turned into one of the greatest rap songs of all time.

About the Song

ArtistCommon Musician(s)Common (vocals), with sample from George Benson's "The Changing World"
AlbumResurrection
Year1994
Label
Writer(s)Common (Lonnie Rashid Lynn, Jr.)
Producer(s)No I.D.
Buy this song: Amazon iTunes Try Listen and Learn (BETA)

Shmoop Connections

Explore the ways this song connects with the world and with other topics on Shmoop
For better or worse (a fair amount of people would say worse), the road of hip-hop forked in the late 1980s and early 1990s. In one direction, you had groups like NWA, which featured Dr. Dre, Eazy-E, and Ice Cube rapping about the gangsta life. In the other, you had the so-called "conscious" or "political" rappers, in the vein of Public Enemy.

Common fit squarely in the second group, and in "I Used to Love H.E.R.," he expresses frustration with mainstream gangsta rap, accusing it of being superficial. This song is also a great example of how songwriting can utilize the time-tested techniques of poetry. In this case, we've got an extended metaphor, and those are definitely nothing new. Plenty of poets have used extended metaphors to describe a woman or some other important subject. Take Shakespeare's Sonnet 18, for example (that's the one that begins, "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?"). In that poem, Shakespeare talks about a person by talking about something entirely different. Common flips this around; in his song, a woman is a metaphor for something else. Maya Angelou did the same thing in her poem "Africa." As artistic-minded and lyrically conscious as Common is, we’re pretty sure he’d love that we’re comparing him to two such highly esteemed poets.

On the Charts

"I Used to Love H.E.R." reached #31 on the Billboard Rap Singles chart in 1994.

Resurrection sold poorly at first, barely peeking into the Top 200 at #179 upon its 1994 release, despite the fact that it is generally considered to be one of the best rap albums of the decade.

"I Used to Love H.E.R." has since been revered as one of the best hip-hop songs of all time. About.com ranked it as the Best Rap Song of All Time, but VH1 put the song at #69 in its list of the greatest hip-hop songs. Other critics and reviewers have called it the best pioneering song in conscious hip-hop.

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