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Common ~ Be (Bonus Dvd) (Spec) (Dlx) (Sp
Though heralded as an instant hip-hop classic by some, Common's Be doesn't quite live up to the hype, though it is still has several strengths going for it. Compared to the esoteric themes and production of his last album, Electric Circus, Be is far more grounded in street-level beats and rhymes, especially on songs like "The Corner" and "Real People"--Common's odes to personality and places 'round the way. At only 11 songs, this is a very compact album, both a blessing and curse by keeping the pacing brisk but it also amplifies weaknesses like the syrupy crossover attempt, "Go," or overly sentimental "Love Is." Production by Kanye West and Jay Dee is uniformly strong and it lends a consistency that is essential for such a relatively short album. It is worth noting that Common and Kanye's chemistry is especially well matched. -- Oliver Wang
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"Go" was the album's second, and highest charting single. The song featured Kanye West and John Mayer, however all the verses are performed by Common. The video for the song included shots of Common surrounded by models. Common featured controversial spoken word recording artists, The Last Poets, on the album's first official single, "The Corner": "They took my song to a higher level. And that's what hip-hop was about to me. It would have a message. Just them being from the '70s and being used in hip-hop and their spirit brought something pure to it."
Thank you Common & Kanye.
Common hooked up with Kanye West who produced the majority of this album. Many tracks he does a good job on, like the two singles "The Corner" and "GO!". Common uses his introspective side of himself on most of this album, and it would show on the last song "It's Your World", and the title track "Be". My favorite track is the song "Love Is" which is backed by a teriffic beat. And you can hear Common regain his strength like on earlier albums on the song "Chi City".
Now what holds this back from being a 9 or a 10 out of 10 (or a 4.5 or 5 star album), are a few things. First, I believe 11 tracks is kinda short on an album for Common (his shortest album to date). Not necessarly a bad thing, but fans would want to hear more. Second "The Food" from the Dave Chapelle show. I was suprised the fact that it was on this album (I guess he wanted to give Dave some love on this album), although the origonal song was recorded months before the album was released. Also they shortened the song too. And to be honest, I wasn't feeling the song "They Say" with John Legend and Kanye in my opinion.
Overall Common dropped a dope album in 2005. I'm glad to see that he gets the love that he deserves, although I really didn't approve of the move too much (on the song "Doonit" from his "Like Water For Chocolate" album, he said he didn't care much for charts, but five years later he was aiming for them). This album is enjoyable by all, and if you don't have it, I recommend this to you. It's one enjoyable album mostly from start to finish.
Guest Appearances: B
Musical Vibes: A+
Favorite Tracks: The Corner, GO!, Love Is, Chi City, Real People, It's Your World/Pop's Reprise
Honorable Mention Tracks: Be, The Food
C. Infamous, Peace!
While other rappers are still caught up in all the gangsta rap posturing, all the "feuds" that mysteriously end after they've been milked for all the publicity and record sales they're worth, Common's concentrating on what really matters--making great music.
For over a decade, he's been doing so in obscurity, a talented performer overshadowed by all the bling-bling and flashy cash that have turned much of hip hop into self-parody. But all that's about to change, because he's teamed up with Kanye West to put together a great, tight, intelligent CD that grabs the listener's attention and doesn't let it go.
The first track will make you think there was some error at the CD pressing plant; it starts out with a thumping bass that leaves you expecting a 50s beat poet, not a 00s rapper. But the back-to-basics motif works, because, unlike all the midget gangsta rappers walking in Dr. Dre's giant footsteps, Common's trying to comment on, rather than participate in, all the craziness of ghetto life. Like Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, he's a keen observer of inner-city dysfunction, rapping about "niggas dying to make a living" on "The Corner" and spelling out a sad tale of the urban struggle on "The Food." That song's narrator talks about the tension between dangerous, easy cash and the unglamorous slow grind of respectable money, a conflict that's appeared everywhere from Martin Scorcese's "Goodfellas" to Biggie's albums, but Common's narrator knows the real source of the struggle is within. "I know I can make it right/if I just swallow my pride/but I can't run a way or put my gun away/You can't front on me," he raps, and the mention of swollen pride is like a breath of fresh air after so many stale raps where characters absolve themselves of responsibility for their actions.
Elsewhere, Common unloads on the materialism and selfishness of so many other rappers. "What you rapping for? For fame, to get rich? I'll slap you on the face and say, 'Rick James, b&*ch,'" he says on Chi-City, and if it's a jarring message when compared to much of the album, it's also well-deserved. He also disses their perpetual lamentations on "conditions of the city, the city, the city, the city," repeating the last word ad nauseum to efficiently convey the broken-record repetitiveness of so many lesser rappers.
There isn't much to criticize on this album. On "Faithful," an otherwise stellar track, Kanye West has put in his standard sped-up soul samples yet again. The first few times he used that technique, it sounded great, but after a while it starts reminding the listener of Alvin and the Chipmunks; men with guns should be stationed in the recording studio whenever Kanye's producing to keep him from making the chipmunk sounds ever again.
Still, this is a great album, a must-own, an album that's left me interested in picking up some more CDs from Common's back catalog. It's nice to see a rap CD that clocks in at a mere 42:37; unlike so many bloated and self-important hip hop CDs, this album actually leaves you wanting more, not wanting less, from this uncommonly good rapper.