13 Songs, 52 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

After a detour into rock-heavy experimentation on 2002’s Electric Circus, Common hooked up with producer-of-the-moment Kanye West for 2005’s Be, a commercial and critical resurgence. West again handles most of the production duties on this follow-up, which may be (slightly) less polished and fluid, but ultimately more ambitious, earthy, and rewarding. The spirit of the late producer J Dilla is reflected in the sonic inventiveness and often solemn mood. Using samples ranging from Ethiopian jazz (“The Game”) to Paul Simon (“Forever Begins”) to “Windmills of Your Mind” (“Start the Show”) to Gil Scott-Heron (“The People”) to Stevie Wonder and Syreeta (“U, Black Maybe”), West provides a wide range of suitably impressive settings — hard-hitting and serious, dreamy and reflective, quirky and playful, soulful and seductive — for Common’s sly, supple, thoughtful flow. Dilla himself produced the track for the silky-smooth, R&B-flavored “So Far to Go,” which features vocals from long-lost but much-beloved D’Angelo. Will.i.am from Black Eyed Peas takes over the production reins (and chorus vocals) for the tired “I Want You,” doing Common no favors in the process and reminding us how far the Peas have fallen. Things are much more impressive with producer Devo Springsteen at the helm, who contributes “Misunderstood,” a stunning track built around a plaintive Nina Simone sample and finding Common at his most introspective.

EDITORS’ NOTES

After a detour into rock-heavy experimentation on 2002’s Electric Circus, Common hooked up with producer-of-the-moment Kanye West for 2005’s Be, a commercial and critical resurgence. West again handles most of the production duties on this follow-up, which may be (slightly) less polished and fluid, but ultimately more ambitious, earthy, and rewarding. The spirit of the late producer J Dilla is reflected in the sonic inventiveness and often solemn mood. Using samples ranging from Ethiopian jazz (“The Game”) to Paul Simon (“Forever Begins”) to “Windmills of Your Mind” (“Start the Show”) to Gil Scott-Heron (“The People”) to Stevie Wonder and Syreeta (“U, Black Maybe”), West provides a wide range of suitably impressive settings — hard-hitting and serious, dreamy and reflective, quirky and playful, soulful and seductive — for Common’s sly, supple, thoughtful flow. Dilla himself produced the track for the silky-smooth, R&B-flavored “So Far to Go,” which features vocals from long-lost but much-beloved D’Angelo. Will.i.am from Black Eyed Peas takes over the production reins (and chorus vocals) for the tired “I Want You,” doing Common no favors in the process and reminding us how far the Peas have fallen. Things are much more impressive with producer Devo Springsteen at the helm, who contributes “Misunderstood,” a stunning track built around a plaintive Nina Simone sample and finding Common at his most introspective.

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