Study Guide

I Used to Love H.E.R. Introduction

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 gangsters 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
Year1994
Writer(s)Common (Lonnie Rashid Lynn, Jr.)
Producer(s)No I.D.
Musician(s)Common (vocals), with sample from George Benson's "The Changing World"
AlbumResurrection

Music Video

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Influences on Common

Run-DMC
Afrika Bambaataa
Public Enemy
KRS-One
Rakim
No I.D.

Influenced by Common

Kanye West
Erykah Badu
Q-Tip (A Tribe Called Quest)
Mos Def

I Used to Love H.E.R. Resources

Books

Jeff Chang, Can't Stop Won't Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation (2006)
This book tells the story of hip-hop masterfully. You can't do without this award-winning book if you're interested in contemporary culture, hip-hip history, or Black history.

Brian Coleman, Check the Technique (2007)
Hip-hop junkies will love this compilation of behind-the-scenes interviews of author Brian Coleman's list of 36 classic hip-hop albums.

Albums

Can I Borrow a Dollar? (1992)
Common Sense's first album shows promise with great songs like "Take It EZ," but mostly, it sets the stage for his great second album, Resurrection.

Resurrection (1994)
Common (still Common Sense back then) found his voice in this second album, a jazzy, intelligent work with songs like "I Used to Love H.E.R." and "Thisisme."

COMMONication: The Smooth Jazz Sessions to the Music of Common (2006)
Vitamin Jazz's jazz combo tribute to Common includes a soulful version of "I Used to Love H.E.R."

Thisisme Then: The Best of Common (2007)
Common's best early work can be found on this compilation. Get up to speed with this classic hip-hop.

Images

"I Used to Love H.E.R." Single Art
Common's single was released when he was still sometimes known as Common Sense; the single cover reflects that.

Resurrection Cover
This is the cover of Common's second album, Resurrection.

Common
This is Common sitting for the cover of another single, "Finding Forever."

Young Common
What? Common with hair? Common had hair?

Movies & TV

American Gangster (2007)
Common supports in Ridley Scott's soon-to-be classic crime movie starring Russell Crowe and Denzel Washington.

Wanted (2008)
Common plays the Gunsmith in this 2008 action movie starring Angelina Jolie.

Terminator: Salvation (2009)
Common plays a prominent supporting role as the second-in-command character, Barnes, in this fourth Terminator movie.

Websites

Common's Official Site
Common has an excellent website with video, photos, a biography, and other information.

Video & Audio

Common, "I Used to Love H.E.R."
Here's a live performance of Common's hit single.

Mack 10, "Westside Slaughterhouse"
Ice Cube, rapping on Mack 10's track, responded to what he perceived as a diss on West Coast gangsta rap in "I Used to Love H.E.R." with this song.

Common, "The B---h in Yoo"
Common responded to Ice Cube's rap with a scathing rebuttal.

George Benson, "The Changing World"
"I Used to Love H.E.R." samples this George Benson song. Can you find the sampled clip?

Kaye West, "Homecoming"
Kanye West's hit song pays tribute to Common's song in the first verse, which uses to same metaphor of hip-hop as a woman that Kanye falls in love with.

Teriyaki Boyz, "I Still Love H.E.R."
Japanese rappers the Teriyaki Boyz and Kanye West play on Common's "I Used to Love H.E.R." in their own song.