On his sixth studio album, the Chi-town native gets back on track after a certain Electric Circus misstep. Kicking off with an upbeat intro of the same name, Be resurrects the witty wordsmith that hip-hop heads longed for since 2000’s Like Water For Chocolate. Rather than being pigeon-holed as “that conscious rapper from the ‘90s,” however, Common takes the essence of his past and brings it to the present. Friends and G.O.O.D. label-mates Kanye West –– who produced all but two tracks –– and John Legend create a jazzy, soulful backdrop on which Common paints a rich, earth-toned picture of love, life, hardships and hope.
Highlights include the intro “Be”, “The Corner” (featuring The Last Poets), “They Say”, the live version of “The Food” (as performed on Chapelle’s Show) and the haunting tale that is “Testify”. The last track is particularly notable not just for Common’s praised story-telling ability, but for the mesmerizing beat, which is arguably one of Kanye’s best on the album. With a mellow but full-bodied bass line and characteristic sped-up vocal sample, some may call it typical Kanye production, and in many ways it is. But you don’t fix what ain’t broke, and beats like this are precisely why Kanye is where he is today.
The only track that garnered an aural double-take is “GO!”, the awkward-fitting sex song featuring John Mayer. Coming from an accomplished emcee who received accolades for sexing and saving that woman we call hip-hop on the classic personification track “I Used To Love H.E.R.”, it’s awkward to now hear him rapping about boinking a woman in the bathroom, amongst other things.
Regardless, Be, as a whole, is strong. Though it clocks in a little short at just over 42 minutes, the 11-track album is a solid effort, devoid of skits and fillers.