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Album Review

Electric Circus cost and won Common some fans. It was very exploratory, especially so for a rap album released in 2002, containing developments — some of which soared, some of which sank — that few longtime followers could have foreseen. Listeners either felt Common was picking up fresh, new inspirations, or that he was just being distracted by a whole lot of ill-fitting nonsense. With Be, it seems the MC has realized that not every album that's sprawling and eclectic is as good as Electric Ladyland or Songs in the Key of Life. More notably, he might've been struck with the fact that a high percentage of excellent albums are around 40 minutes in length and are built on a unified sound. Be is highly concentrated, containing 11 songs and involving two producers and a small number of guests. It's a 180 degree turn from Electric Circus, and in a bizarre way it's both a progression and a back-to-basics move. Kanye West and Dilla are 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.

Customer Reviews

The best album of 2005

As a dedicated soul fan it almost feels sacrilegious to choose a hip hop album as the best of 2005. Yet nowhere in RnB, Soul or Rap has there been an album of such commitment, musicality and sheer intelligence this year. Common's talent means it's hard to place him within the same genre as the playground chants of 50 Cent and the other inarticulate dullards who claim to be the voice of somewhere. Common and Kanye West revive the spirit of the great period of soul protest with Marvin, Curtis, The O'Jays - combining sharp observation with driven, dancefloor excitement. This is excellent from start to finish and for this reviewer even eclipses West's own excellent 'Late Registration' project.

What a great album

Found this CD by chance while buying something else. If you like Kanye West and John Legend then you need this album. He is a little stronger than the aforementioned artists, but a very good album indeed. Glad I found it.

one of the best albums you could own!

This album is great from start to finish (full stop). A lot of other rnb/hiphop albums tend to have one or two strong songs then stuck in the middle of them a lot of average ones. NOT THIS ALBUM, each song mixes into the next This album is soulfull and meaningfull, the beats of "GO" "THE FOOD" and "CHI CITY" will keep the feet happy, whilst the brilliant "Love is" and "Its your world Pt 1&2" make the hairs stand up. A brilliant brilliant album, and a rapper who actually has something to say!


Born: 13 March 1972 in Chicago, IL

Genre: Hip-Hop/Rap

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Common (originally Common Sense) was a highly influential figure in rap's underground during the '90s, keeping the sophisticated lyrical technique and flowing syncopations of jazz-rap alive in an era when commercial gangsta rap was threatening to obliterate everything in its path. His outward looking, nimbly performed rhymes and political consciousness certainly didn't fit the fashions of the moment, but he was able to win a devoted cult audience. By the late '90s, a substantial underground movement...
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