Common returns with his highly anticipated 6th album, 'BE', which is executive produced by proven hit maker Kanye West. In keeping with Common's unpretentious approach to 'BE', the album's guest appearances are kept to a refreshing minimum: Besides frequent collaborator Bilal and John Legend, the only other co-stars are Consequence and, of course, Kanye West along with The Last Poets, whom enhance Common's lyrical portrait of inner city blues on the first single 'The Corner'. MCA. 2005.
Though heralded as an instant hip-hop classic by some, Common's Be
doesn't quite live up to the hype, though it is still has several strengths going for it. Compared to the esoteric themes and production of his last album, Electric Circus
is far more grounded in street-level beats and rhymes, especially on songs like "The Corner" and "Real People"--Common's odes to personality and places 'round the way. At only 11 songs, this is a very compact album, both a blessing and curse by keeping the pacing brisk but it also amplifies weaknesses like the syrupy crossover attempt, "Go," or overly sentimental "Love Is." Production by Kanye West and Jay Dee is uniformly strong and it lends a consistency that is essential for such a relatively short album. It is worth noting that Common and Kanye's chemistry is especially well matched. -- Oliver Wang