Five years ago Common made what you could call a comeback if you found Electric Circus too out there for your taste as well as not what you expected from Common. I’d take another Electric Circus over UMC (Universal Mind Control) any day. Anyway, Kanye West had said he was working with Common on his next album and the frenzy started. The idea of two of Chi towns finest connecting on a album seem like it was supposed to happen at some point anyway. And once we got a taste of what that duo would sound like via the performance on the Chappelle Show rocking “The Food”, it was an anticipated album almost over night.
Like I said some people really didn’t like Electric Circus, me I found some of the beats a bit too noisy really. But the flow was there and the ideas were not that far from what Common had tried before. With the public break up with Erykah Badu, she was who many blamed for such a switch in his sound for some reason, people wondered how the Chicago super MC would bounce back on the new album. To many people surprise other than the heavy old school sounding sample driven beats by Kanye, Com wasn’t saying anything that different than had in the past. Com is, I guess WAS, considered the conscience of Hip Hop with being the man who gave us “I Use To Love H.E.R’, “6th Sense”, “Retrospect For Life”, “Like They Use To Say” and “A Song For Asaata”. In the 2005 year in review issue of the Scratch in January of 2006 the magazine asked Just Blaze, Ron Browz, Mr. Collipark, Needlz and Cipha Sounds about the best albums in 05’. The verdict on Be wasn’t the best by any means. Needlz and Just were more focused on the beats and Cipha Sounds thought it would sound like a Kanye West album and since it didn’t he wasn’t feeling it and Mr. Collipark claimed he was on a whole different level in life. He was more in the “Shake bitch I wanna fuck bitch” zone then the creative sexual expression presented on “Go”. Still Be is one the best albums of 2005, like most of Commons album your view on his albums depends on where you are in your life.
Now the album starts with the title track “Be’, the one verse that sums up the album and maybe where Com was at himself. The track is credited to both Kanye and Dilla (Jay Dee) which I think Dilla did the beat but Ye may have came in added the keys you here in the underbelly of the track which does bring the song out even more really. I still to this will stop anything I’m doing when I’m playing the song to quote the lines “Waiting for the lord to raise/ I look into my daughters eyes./ And realize I’m learn through her./ The Messiah might even return through her./ If I’m a do it, I gotta change the world through her.” And as “Be” ends ‘The Corner” comes in and the vibe just gets ill as Com kills all three verses and to have The Last Poets coming in before the second and third verse and right before the song ends adds a feeling the struggle, self love and awareness one generation spoke about still needs to spoken on today. Now I mentioned how creative “Go” was, the video helped sell it to the general public more than anything else. It was a good move to make that song a single. I mean it wasn’t the typical ‘I’m fucking a chick” song that was all over the radio at that time or still today now really.
What always found odd is after “Go” you get “Faithful”? The first verse was Com speaking on God as his woman and it was cool but what really sold me on this song was hearing John Legend and Bilal totally takeover the end of this song. I wish those two dudes would do just one full track together, just one. Now this is just my personal opinion here but I also think them crooning to end the song was paying homage to that ill section at the end of “Long As It’s Funky” off the Like Water For Chocolate album, again that’s just me. The soulful vibe continues with testify and shows how ill of a story teller Com can be because he rarely goes in that direction. One the two solely credited Dilla tracks is “Love Is”. The verses aren’t that mind blowing but what is crazy how Dilla freaked the Marvin Gaye sample for the song. The sound is contrasting departure from the gritty low fi sounding samples found before and after this track, yet it still fits completely because of the sample. Now on ‘Chi City” or what I just call The Corner 2 because the two songs aren’t that different at all. One of the stranger tracks is “The Food”. Not because of the song itself but the fact they chose to use the TV performance instead of the studio version which has a nice short third verse for those who haven’t heard that version. For some reason I have to say I’m just not a fan of the next two tracks “Real People” and “They Say”. Don’t know why I feel like that but if there could be fillers on an eleven track album those two would the ones. I know on “They Say’ the fact Kanye has a verse is one reason, I still liked dude at that time but I just thought it was unnecessary to include a verse somewhere on the album. Plus Com wasn’t saying anything different than he did on “Chi City” stating how people viewed the album before this one. On “Real People”, which came off beautifully when preformed live on The Late Show with Dave Letterman, it was too much of a slow down to come behind “The Food”.
Now the song right next to “Be” as my favorite on this whole album is the second Dilla produced track “It’s Your World”. Between the song itself and what you get from Pops (Commons farther) and the bridging point between those two parts with children saying what they want to “be” is single handily the moment that separates Com and Dilla as well as Kanye from just Hip Hop artists but ARTISTS. It gives you such a throw back approach to old jazz artist and soul albums that would have long ass extensions on a song that just enhanced the vibe and the meaning of the song. Like how you love hearing those Isaac Hayes songs because how it would switch and still keep original essence of the song . I remember reading a blog I love to read album reviews from and the guy said he wondered if Pops knew what he was talking about. Me, I knew and I remember going back to just that part 5 times when I first heard this album in the car. For some reason that piece is better than all the stuff Pops has done on the previous albums. Again like I said Common music effects people different depending where they are in their lives and my view on Pops part tell you where I was and still may be.
Be is hands down a classic on one the best albums of the last decade of any genre that many people don’t have. One reason is Hip Hop has really changed and those who buy and listen to Hip Hop for the most part get what is fed to on a daily basis and rarely go out their find good music. I remember buying Be and Amos Lee the same day and bother were cheap as hell while 50 and Game albums were pushing 20 bucks. I bought both com and Amos Lee for just under that. Be is a must have for those wanting real Hip Hop or just well thought out soulful music to ride to, Be is food for the soul to grow to.