Monday, May 30, 2005

Common's Be Is One Great Album

How do you follow up a critically acclaimed but commercially ignored album? You follow it up with an album whose greatness nobody can ignore. Be, the new album by Common, is that rare album that will delight the music critic and the fan without alienating either.

Be avoids the pitfalls of a lot of hip-hop albums. After the great title track/intro, there are no interludes or skits of any kind. The album is refreshingly short. It has only 11 songs total and clocks in at under 43 minutes. There is no filler to be found here. The album has a cohesive sound because all the songs were produced by either Kanye West or Jay Dee. Guest appearances are pretty much kept to a minimum. Chicago legends (and hip-hop forefathers) The Last Poets appear on "The Corner." John Mayer sings the refrain of "Go!" on the track of the same name. Kanye West and John Legend add their talents to "They Say" and Common's father, Lonnie "Pops" Lynn, makes a triumphant return to his son's albums by contributing the poem that ends "It's Your World (Part 1 & 2)."

Lyrically, Common sounds re-energized. He deftly describes life in the inner city on "The Corner." On "Faithful," he imagines God as a woman. He reps for Chicago on "Chi-City" and "Testify" tells an engrossing story involving a woman testifying at her man's trial. "Go!" manages to be tastefully sexual and devoid of the misogynism that is present in so many hip-hop songs.

Musically, Kanye West and Jay Dee have provided a backdrop of beats taken from old-school R&B/Soul. Kanye produced the majority of the album (nine songs) and his contributions are some of the best stuff he's ever done. He augments the classic soul samples with his signature drum beats, scratches, and live instruments ("Be (Intro)" has acoustic bass). Jay Dee's contributions are nothing to sleep on either as evidenced on the album's closer "It's Your World (Part 1 & 2)." The beats are so good on Be that you almost wish that they'd release an instrumental version.

Be continues Common's unbelievable streak of good (or great) albums. It is without a doubt the best hip-hop album released so far in 2005 and arguably one of the best albums released overall this year. It lived up to the hype and the promise behind what many saw as a dream collaboration of Common with Kanye West. This is an album that should be (and probably will be) universally appreciated. Be is not just a's a masterpiece.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous11:15 PM

    I totally agree. I love the combination of great hip hop and even better poetry.Common's father's poem is really fantastic.edwin amsterdam