Nobody’s Smiling, the 10th album from Chicago MC Common, gives fans a street-level view into the heart of the rapper’s hometown. Immediately vulnerable and poignant, James Fauntleroy’s opening lines of “The Neighborhood”—“Thousand lives ago/ When we were young and we didn’t know/ We were trading our crowns for our souls”—provide the haunting aural cue supporting the entire album. The LP was produced with longtime collaborator No I.D., and a minute in, the scene-setting “The Neighborhood” explodes to life with a cacophonous blast of driving bass, blaring brass, and strings while a sample of Curtis Mayfield’s “The Other Side of Town” flushes images of pot-holed streets drowning in an eternal drizzle. And guest Lil Herb focuses on the gritty soul of south side lifers with the heartfelt: “Small crib/ big fam/ Momma working/ granny raised us/ No food in refrigerator/ I was banging/ pulling capers.” The first single, “Speak My Piece,” evokes a Max Headroom-esque Notorious B.I.G. in its effects-heavy chorus (“I just speak my piece”) and robotic beat. On it, Common hints at the city’s hypocritical identity as he vents braggadocious: “I’m iller than most/ sick with it/ Feeling the dose/ in the butter-soft leather/ but I’m still with the toast.” Nobody’s Smiling embodies and embraces the pulse of Chicago and Common is wearing the stethoscope.