For many, “The 6th Sense” stands out as one of Common’s more memorable singles and videos, and that’s probably no coincidence. Common had been a longtime Premier and Gang Starr fan, and by 1999 the respect was mutual.
“DJ Premier is one of the greatest producers ever,” Common told Hot 97’s Peter Rosenberg in a subsequent interview. “He set a tone for East Coast Hip Hop that’s unprecedented. Everything from when I first heard “Manifest” to “Unbelievable”—and even before that with Jeru and Group Home…I would just get those Group Home albums and listen to the instrumentals along with the raps. I would just play the instrumentals and just be like, ‘Damn, how did this dude create that?’”
Visually, Nigerian-born director Andrew Dosunmu matched Premier’s raw production by placing Common and Bilal in the middle of a revolution that was too turbulent to be televised. Dosunmu had experience within the realm of Hip Hop having previously worked with Public Enemy and later with Guru for the Jazzmatazz single “Supa Love.”
One can rarely mention the late, great Guru without his Gangstarr brother in arms, DJ Premier. And, on some levels, it’s interesting that this Premiere/Common collaboration was almost abandoned twice. Premiere told Complex.com that he originally intended to give the beat for “The 6th Sense” to Rah Digga, but she wasn’t a fan. Rah ended up with “Lesson Of Today,” and Com got “The 6th Sense,” but not before Premiere put him through his paces.
“I was actually out of town when Rasheed told me he’s going to put this guy Bilal on it to sing,” Premiere explained. “And I was like, ‘No, no, don’t put a singer on there. Let me scratch.’ But he was like, ‘Well, can I at least lay it, cut the vocals, and send you what he did? Maybe you can then weave some scratches.’ He sent it to me, and I was like, Wow. I like the way [Bilal] sang so bugged out. He sounds almost like a wicked witch or something. And I was like, ‘Yo, I actually like it.’”
Nearly 11 years later, many fans still also like the collaboration. The single and its accompanying video provided an uncompromising moment of mainstream appeal for Common, by staying on Billboard magazine’s R&B/Hip Hop songs chart for 12 weeks.