“I Used to love H.E.R.” by Common relates a woman to hip-hop. Common appears to show both the woman’s and the music’s transition over time. Yet in reality, there is no woman, only hip-hop. Although in “I Used to love H.E.R.,” Common confesses his fading love for rap music, he is actually revealing the changes that rap went through, suggesting that both rappers and listeners need to return hip-hop to its original form.
In “I Used to love H.E.R.” Common confesses his fading adoration for rap music. Initially, he loves rap, “She had so much soul.” “Not about the money.” “We related, physically and mentally.” “When she was underground, original, pure untampered.” This was before hip-hop became a business. People rapped for the enjoyment, not for the money. At this point, Common says that the music came from their soul, rather than the industry. However at some point this changed. Rap became a business. “But once the man got to her, he altered the native.” “She’s universal.” “She was really the realest before she got into showbiz.” It is no longer an underground form of art, full of soul. Instead, it is a business, the man got to her (she lost her innocence). Therefore, although more people may be involved, rap lost its pureness, and originality. Common’s love is fading because of the reasons shown above, all reasons associated with rap’s changes throughout time.
Therefore, “I Used to love H.E.R.” is actually revealing more of the changes that rap went through then it is Common’s feelings. The woman is used metaphorically throughout the entire song to represent hip-hop, and similarly, Common’s emotions for rap show the genre’s transitions: pure, getting into R&B and Jazz, and then Universal. Initially, rap is pure (verse 1). “And she was fun then…underground.” Only certain people rapped back then. It used to be underground. Back then listening to rap was enjoyable. Common suggests that rap then began to change, but not necessarily in a bad way. He personifies the genre, saying that it became well rounded by joining with other forms of black music, “Now black music is black music and it’s all good.” At this point the genre was expanding, but not at the commands of the “man,” (the decision makers telling rappers what to rap about). Furthermore, the rappers were still free styling and “having fun.” However, after this point, hip-hop became universal. Common reveals that the form lost its purity, saying, “She’s just not the same letting all those groupies do her… Once the man got to her.” It was no longer performed just for enjoyment, or in underground circles. People now were trying to be the toughest and represent a form that they (or the "man") believed or wanted hip-hop to be, a false impression of the genre.
These changes in hip-hop attempt to persuade both listeners and rappers to return to the pure form of rap. By relating hip-hop to a woman losing her purity, people can identify more readily to this change's negativity. “I see niggaz slammin her and takin her to the sewer.” Taken literally, this line refers to a girl constantly sleeping with guys that she has no feelings for (possibly against her will due to the fact that they are slamming her and taking her to the sewer, a quiet and gruesome place). Obviously, Common is referring to rap music, but due to the constant metaphor between rap and the woman, we can draw a similar connection. Many rappers tamper with the purity of hip-hop, overusing it to make money. Therefore, this song is suggesting a return to the way hip-hop was when Common was ten. Common will “take her back hopin that the shit stop.” But in addition to Common changing, other rappers must stop taking orders from “the man,” and the listeners must stop buying into the tainted music that “the man” is trying to sell them.