Be

Studio Album by released in 2005

Be review

It seems like every hip-hop generation has an underrated classic. Run-D.M.C.‘s Raising Hell in the 80's. Nas’ Illmatic in the 90's. And just as the conscious hip-hop scene began to fall with mediocre lyrics and beats, here comes along Chicago MC Common to put it back in place with his best album to date, Be. Common's street conscious lyrcism mixed with Kanye West's soulful production make Be a contender for one of the greatest hip-hop albums for the new millennium. No fillers and garbage. Kanye West even stepped up his production making the beats more simple and mellow. The Corner, Go and The Food are perfect examples of this. Album number six is Common coming full circle, returning to a vibe that etched his name into the annals of history in 1993.

Be is highly concentrated, containing 11 songs and involving two producers and a small number of guests. It's a 180-degree turn from 2002’s Electric Circus, and in a bizarre way it's both a progression and a back-to-basics move. Kanye West and Jay Dee are the key to the album's steadiness, rooting the sound in '70s soul and soul-jazz. That's no shakeup, but the two producers deserve some form of award for stringing together a consistent sequence of productions that is never monotonous, dull, or all that flashy. Even lead single The Corner, heard well before Be's release, falls into the fabric of the album on first listen, as if that were where it belonged all along. Lyrically, Common comes back down to Earth — the narratives are sharp as ever, the gripes are more like observations than screeds, and the eccentricities need to be teased out rather than swatted away. Be isn't likely to be referred to by anyone as groundbreaking, but it's one of Common's best, and it's also one of the most tightly constructed albums of any form within recent memory.

Be on the whole is much smoother than its hard single The Corner. This will become more apparent when the silky second single Go hits the airwaves. Faithful and Love Is follow a similar vibe, and both feature Common at his best touching on something close to everyone’s heart. As has been the case his entire career, Common is at his best when he is getting introspective. Which is why the intro and title track is among the finest moments. Of course Com has never been a slouch when it comes to the art of storytelling and Testify is no exception. His twisting story of the Queenpin is highlighted by Kanye’s ever-excellent use of vocal samples.

It’s a great album and some of the easiest 42 minutes of listening you’ll ever do. Common has strived to find the sound of Chicago's inner city since the beginning of his career, so it only makes sense that he turned to the somewhat-suburban Kanye West for his latest album. West is the producer Common has been waiting for his entire career: he makes Common both catchier and edgier at the same time. Overflowing with passion, honesty, and optimism, Be gets to the root of human experience – all the while staying beautifully soulful and funky.