It was painful to hear the voice of Common intoning jargon-y corporate blather--the actual words of Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella--in this year's Microsoft Super Bowl Commercials:
"The real question that needs to be asked as well as answered is, 'What is it that we can do that is unique, that is impactful?' We are going to empower every individual in every organization to do more and achieve more. It’s this process of continuous renewal, of showing courage in the face of reality. Showing that courage in the face of opportunity."
While our wives explained to our kids the amazing prosthetic limbs featured in the commercial, my neighbor Josh and I remained fixated on the "horrible writing," as he immediately exclaimed. I kept saying, "I think that's Common, I think that's Common!"
I certainly don't fault the Chicago rapper and actor for taking the job. I slept on Common when I first heard him guest on De La Soul's Stakes is High. My ears weren't ready yet for the lower-key production of De La's post-Prince Paul career, which is still going strong. But after Common's solo success, returning to his spots on Stakes is High and The Grind Date gave me a new appreciation for where De La was taking hip hop at the time, especially in terms of rhyming and flow. It's been fun to see him "bang dents all up in they wallets" as Trugoy from De La Soul said of his former protege.
But what a shock to hear the voice of such a deep flow working in a style designed by the privileged for self-congratulation and linguistic domination. Assigning one of America's most accomplished socially conscious Black wordsmiths to read crap like "what is it we can do that is impactful," or "courage in the face of opportunity" strikes me as a completely clueless and lame brand of corporate narcissism, or even cultural imperialism. I wonder who on the commercial's writing or production team had to hand Common the script for his lines in the commercial. Maybe that person was a writer him- or herself; maybe he or she was aware of what their voice-over artist is capable of with his mind, a pad and pen, and a national audience. If so, that couldn't have been a very good feeling.
To get this commercial out of my head, I'm going to have to listen to this a bunch of times:
Or maybe just a couple. It's a powerful antidote.