Common is in the thick of it. Besides being thrown into the middle of our Hottest MCs in the Game debate — he ranks #9 — there's another topic up for discussion: Which of his albums is better, Be or the just-released Finding Forever? Both LPs have been heralded as classics by fans and critics, and while determining the quality of the releases is subjective, it goes without saying that FF is his highest-profile release ever.

"It's a new feeling for me, because I feel like more people are appreciating [my music] already," he said recently in New York. "Because of the success of Be and other things I've been doing and working on, more people are paying attention to what I'm doing. That's a good feeling."

Fans will be happy to know that, with Finding Forever, Common stayed in his lane. He didn't try to reach and do the ringtone, bubble-gum, substance-less type of music just for a few more sales. The album is mature and reflects the Com's essence.

(See why all eyes are on Common to see if he can repeat the success of 2005's Be with his latest release.)

"I don't feel a burden," he explained. "I feel it's adult. That's my sole purpose. I ain't afraid of it, I ain't trying to stray from it, I embrace it. I know with all the conscious music, there's going to be music where I battle MCs like I did on 'The Game,' getting at 'em. I'mma make songs [while] having fun. That's what I'm about. The biggest thing I gotta do is be myself, that's what MCing is about. That's one of the most important things with being a MC: be you."

The term "finding forever" is a declaration of the type of classic music he wants to make, but his album title took a more momentous turn when one of his best friends and collaborators, producer J Dilla, died in early 2006 (see "Jay Dee — Producer For Common, Busta And Tribe — Dies").

"When Jay Dee passed, the significance [of the title] became even stronger for me," he said. "At the time, he and I were roommates. I would be coming home, he would be making beats. When he passed, I would come home and he wouldn't be there, but I still would feel his spirit. I would hear his music everywhere, and it made me understand [that] we live forever by what you contribute to the world. That's what Finding Forever meant."

Another one of his best friends, Kanye West, executive produced the album and produced most of the music (see "Kanye West, Lily Allen Finding Something In Common").

"We was more comfortable," Com said about working with West this time. "This was one of the first times 'Ye would be like, 'Rewrite this, rewrite that.' If it took three times, I would do it."

For more on Common and the rest of today's hip-hop greats, check out our Hottest MCs in the Game feature.