After fusing hip-hop, rock, and soul on 2002's THE ELECTRIC CIRCUS, Chicago rapper Common returned three years later with BE. Like its two-letter title, BE is much leaner, consisting of 11 pure hip-hop tracks marked by Common's enlightened, contemplative, easy-flowing lyrics. Although the album is more streamlined, it's not predictable or unoriginal, as the beats unfold with the same combination of rawness and melodic energy that made Kanye West's debut so uncommonly engaging. This is no coincidence--West is present throughout much of BE, producing all but two of the songs here. West even appears on one of the disc's highlights, "The Food," with some expert freestyle rhyming as captured live on CHAPPELLE'S SHOW.
Common's confident, yet constantly searching, demeanor and his poetic instinct for just the right words bonds him to the heritage of hip-hop, a point hit home by the presence of rap legends the Last Poets on "The Corner." Common is always slightly and endearingly unsure, and his self-deprecation seeps out on "Love Is..." and "Faithful." However, he has the inner power to garner attention, as evident on the smooth party jam "GO!" (featuring John Mayer). BE is Common at his unaffected, commanding best.
Rolling Stone (No. 975, p.70) - 4 stars out of 5 - "[H]is sixth and best disc....[Kanye] West is the producer Common has been waiting for all of his career: He makes Common both catchier and edgier at the same time..."
Spin (p.63) - Ranked #17 in Spin's "40 Best Albums Of 2005" - "Bathed in throwback soul and lively drums, Common suddenly sounded like the seer he'd always hoped he was."
Entertainment Weekly (No. 821/822, p.136) - "[T]he marriage of [Common's] conscious rhymes to [Kanye] West's gritty, boho-inflected production boasts more organic freshness than a Whole Foods Market..." - Grade: A-
Uncut (p.97) - 4 stars out of 5 - "[The record] offers a rich jukebox of gospel-tinged R&B flavours over which Common scatters his gems."
Mojo (Publisher) (p.112) - 4 stars out of 5 - "BE succeeds through its sense of focus and poignancy."
Paste (magazine) - "The soul and jazz-loop landscapes the producers set Common against highlight his classic, laidback flow..."