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Meaning of the song ‘Common Ground’ by ‘Jack Harlow’

Released: 2023

Stepping into Jack Harlow’s “Common Ground,” we’re greeted by a narrative that’s more sociology than simple rap. Harlow’s knack for observing society’s intricacies and relaying them back to us through sharp imagery takes the front seat here. His socially conscious storytelling underlines the juxtapositions and hypocrisies of suburban life in America, chiefly among those who adopt hip-hop culture without confronting or understanding its origins or social implications.

Diving into the first verse, Harlow comments on the imitation of Black culture in suburban locales. The term “ebonics” refers to African American Vernacular English – a linguistic style rooted in Black culture. He points out that “trap sonics,” the bass-heavy sounds distinctive of trap music, originally emerged from Southern black communities, are now prevalent in suburban areas. “No cap, put racks on it” is a line in hip-hop slang, where ‘no cap’ implies ‘no lie’, and ‘racks’ refers to large amounts of money. The mention of graduation ‘cap and gowns bought by the money in dad’s pockets’ suggests privilege, a contrast to the realities of many original creators of hip-hop.

Harlow dives deeper in the chorus: ‘Common ground ain’t that common.’ This lyric illuminates the disconnect between those living the experiences depicted in hip-hop narratives and those merely consuming the culture.

In the second verse, Harlow calls out cultural appropriation and the inauthentic take on hip-hop culture by privileged groups. References to ‘Larry Bird jerseys’ and students casually throwing around the “n word” at festivals highlight the superficial adoption of the culture. Harlow also criticizes those who cash in on hip-hop while remaining detached from its struggles: business interns and ‘rap journalists,’ are singled out as part of the system that profits and pontificates on a culture they don’t come from or truly understand.

“Second hand Bape Supreme and Gallery Department” refers to sought-after streetwear brands that have been popularized by hip-hop. Harlow suggests that the suburban youth’s approach to embracing this attire is another example of their surface-level engagement with the culture they’re helping to commodify.

In concluding, Harlow reiterates his main point: ‘Common ground ain’t that common.’ This refrain drives home his lament of the disconnect and appropriation within hip-hop culture, reminding us of the vast differences between the realities of the ‘hood’ and the insulated world of the suburbs.

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