July 24, 2009

Reader Review: Common - Be (May 24, 2005)

(Skipping ahead again in Common's discography, today PeterStarkz dissects his Kanye-fied album Be. Leave some comments below, and be sure to visit the man's album reviews blog after you're done, one which you may have seen the name of multiple times within other comments sections: novablast.blogspot.com.)

The career of Common (or Lonnie Lynn) hasn’t been all that spectacular. He isn’t flashy like Jay-Z, he's not a loudmouth like his new boss, Kanye West, he's not militant or gangster like 2Pac, and he's certainly never gotten the recognition that he deserves. (The man has never gone platinum.) Common is a poet (not unlike Nas, when he isn't shaking his ass with Puff Daddy in music videos) (because Common dancing with Pharrell is any better?), and like most poets, he's just happy to be doing what he does for a living. In the year 2005, a year in which the state of Texas took over the rap game for six months, it was refreshing to hear some music that wasn’t about grillz, syrup, and some guy yelling his name (and his phone number) after every freaking verse (how did he go platinum?).

That's the reason that I like Common's sixth studio album Be. After the the disaster that was Electric Circus, an album in which Common got all AndrĂ© 3000 on us (I blame Erykah Badu, but then again, so does everyone else), the Chicago poet was put into a similar situation as New York emcee Nas after his Nastradamus album (I really hate that album), except without the beef with Jay-Z. Unlike Nastradamus, (which I truly believe was spawned by Satan himself), I felt that Electric Circus was alright, but not spectacular (hell, I’ll take that album over Universal Mind Control any day). Anyway, people didn’t like that Common was taking his music in a different direction (again, Erykah Badu's influence) and that his fashion sense was becoming increasingly suspect. (Anyone remember the video for “Come Close”?).

For many people, Be was a return to form for the Chicago emcee, as it received rave reviews from The Source (five mics, to be exact) (because that matters today), it became his best selling album, and it reintroduced Common into the mainstream (kind of). Common was said to have modeled this album after Illmatic (coincidence, anyone?) so that explains the short tracklisting.

Note: I did not just say that this album was on the same level as Illmatic, so fanboys, shut the hell up.

I was actually surprised when I found out that Kanye produced this track (and most of the album), as this song has a nice relaxing feeling to it; this is a departure from Kanye's usual chipmunk fare (sped-up soul samples, for those who don’t know). The line about God coming back through his daughter had my friend and I arguing over whether or not God would choose a woman to go possess. (Aaah, the impact of good weed on a conversation.) Anyway, Common gets straight to the point, and it sets a really good mood for the rest of the album.

This song is the closest that Common would come to creating a song for the “streets”. (Oh wait, I completely forgot about “The Bitch In Yoo".) Common rips both of the samples (from The Temptations and The Temprees) apart, and Kanye doesn’t fuck up the hook. Including The Last Poets in the song wasn't a bad idea, either.

Apart from the quirky title (why is there an exclamation point?), this is a cool song to listen to. And, it won’t get you into trouble if you listen to it with your mom (well aside from the "bathroom with your ass up" line, but I suppose even nice guys get horny). The video was creative, too.

This is kind of a continuation of “Go!”, as this track and the previous song complement each other very well (at least they do when I’m high, but that’s another story). This song is also produced by Kanye West, and I like the fact the he added a harmonica to the song, because without it, I don’t think this would have sounded as complete. The extended bit of singing at the end does wear thin, though.

When I first heard this song, I regretted it immediately, like that ugly girl from last night's party that you hooked up with in a beer-goggled haze, or Lil' Wayne in general. (Okay, maybe not that much.) However, after listening to this song again (and watching the video one Saturday afternoon), I began to appreciate it more. I still hate the beat, and I personally don’t think that it flows well with the rest of the album, but I appreciate it now.

The first song on Be that was produced by the late, great J Dilla. I feel that this song should have been sequenced right after “Faithful”, and “Testify” should have been included as a bonus track. Common's opening verse proves why he deserves mention not only as a rapper, but a gifted poet as well. This song is a personal favorite of mine.

This song is alright. If it had been left off of Be, I wouldn't care one way or another, because it just doesn’t have that special...something. The beat doesn’t do anything for me, and I don’t particularly like the hook. So like a fifth grade teacher with a student in need of a bathroom break, I’ll give this song a pass. (Clever.)

This is the song that made me buy the album. I remember watching Chappelle’s Show (damn, I miss that show) when Common performed this song, And my first thought was, "When does the album come out?" I like the fact that they used the performance from the show (and not the version recorded in the studio, which is readily available on the Interweb), as I've always felt that this performance sounds more alive.

I really like this song. It makes me feel like I’m one of those arrogant assholes who go to those coffee shops and listen to free verse poetry. I remember seeing Common perform this song on The Late Show with David Letterman, and I think that it sounds better live than it does on Be, but that’s just my preference.

This song isn’t the greatest, but it helps to even out the album. I don’t really like hearing John Legend perform hooks, but I’ll take this song over the shit he did with my parole officer, Ricky Ross. (I’m not a bad guy, honest. I’m just a guy who makes bad choices, like buying The Massacre.)

Well kiddies, here we are, the final track on the album, and I’m happy to report that J Dilla laces Common with what could be Be's best track. After Common gets done doing what he does best, some kids steal the mic away from him and start spewing out random careers they want to pursue. (Everything was gravy until I heard some kid (presumably 4 or 5) say that he wanted to grow up to be a duck. Yes ladies and gentleman, he said that he wanted to be a duck. I know they say kids have wild imaginations (hell, I thought I was a Power Ranger for a short period of time) but what the hell kind of job would you have if you were a duck? Besides working at Six Flags as Daffy Duck, being a duck is not an attainable dream.) Anywho, after the children relinquish the mic, Common's father proceeds to talk about life and what it means to "Be". While I liked the concept, I don’t think even he knew what the hell he was talking about.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Be marked the start of another chapter in Common's career, one in which he became more known for his role in Smokin' Aces than his music. It also marked the beginning of his musical relationship with Kanye West, who helped him prove that he still had the hunger in him to make good music.

BUY OR BURN? While this album may not be the "classic" that it’s been labeled, it's still a damn good album that is still enjoyable to this day. I'd recommend a purchase.

Best Tracks: "Go!”; “The Food”; “Love is...”; “It's Your World, Pt. 1 & 2”

- PeterStarkz

(Be sure to leave your questions, comments, and concerns below.)


  1. AnonymousJuly 24, 2009

    Wow... Really? I thought Testify was the best song lol.

    Interesting review, I also dont regard it as a classic but a good album which deserves some attention.

  2. two common reviews!? what did i ever do to you max? :(

  3. AnonymousJuly 24, 2009

    Really nice review. I agreed with all the statements, while not a classic it's still a damn good album. Be(the track) is still one of my personal favs along side Love Is... and The Food.

    I heard the studio version of The Food, it just doesn't sound the same without Kanye having a higher pitch on the chorus.

  4. AnonymousJuly 24, 2009

    seriously its good that theres alot of of reader reviews but were the fuck is max???

  5. This is a damn good album. Good review.

  6. AnonymousJuly 24, 2009

    Hey mate, your review of Relapse on your NovaBlog thing is stolen from Byron Crawford.

  7. Hey max, thanks for the review man, i really appreciate it. oh and regarding the matter of the relapse review. i just used that as a place holder until i actually got around to reviewing the album, my personal review will be up soon.

  8. thought the album was great. so great, i'm using some of the kanye-produced songs on a mixtape i'm recording (why not dilla? i ain't tryna be another Mr. Hamilton).

  9. terrible writing.

  10. incidentally, dilla was the main producer of the intro.

    but really, just terrible writing. learn sentence structure.

  11. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IXVSZsT97xw
    Common - Be (Original Version) (Prod. J Dilla)

  12. I hated this album at the time. It felt so flimsy and bland, in comparison to what Com had dropped earlier.

  13. I'll admit that I have to say this: I personally prefer Be over LWFC; Be just sounds more simpler, refined, cohesive, and is more accessible, even if it's short. Not a huge Com fan though.

  14. AnonymousJuly 06, 2015

    This review actually put me on to the album back in 2009. Reading it today, I feel that the reviewer seriously undermines how good it is. It's probably my favourite album of all time. Be (Intro) "sets a good mood for the album"? How about Be is the best fucking introtrack ever heard on a hip hop album?

    Be is Kanye West's best work ever. period.