Friday, July 01, 2005
As I've said before, I am not a hardcore hip hop fan...I like some and can do without a lot of it. Common is one hip hop artist who does command my attention and appreciation. Common's last disc, Electric Circus, was a wildly eclectic affair audacious in its genre-hopping ambition. Not all of it worked but you had to admire the sheer creative breadth of it (well, I did anyway.)
Be, mostly produced by Kanye West, brings the focus back on tight mid-tempo beats and funky hooks (along with judiciously chosen samples) that keeps the attention on Common's smooth flow and his vibrant raps about love, faith, respect, and empowerment.
There are the seemingly mandatory guest spots (no hip hop album seems complete without them for whatever reason)...West on a couple of tracks (including a live track recorded on "Chappelle's Show" with an intro by Dave himself), John Legend, John Mayer (singing backgrounds on the feisty "Go!"), Bilal, and the legendary Last Poets (on the gritty "The Corner")...but Common never surrenders his rightful place in the spotlight (except for when he gives over the second part of the inspirational closer, "It's Your World", to a chorus of children telling dreams of what they want to be when they grow up and to his father reciting a poem about being all you possibly can be over a subdued beat and lovely piano accompaniment.)
Be is taut (clocking in at a shade over 42 minutes), soulful, uplifting, clear-eyed, and engaging...an intoxicating slice of hip hop wonderfulness.