Album: Common

Be, ISLAND
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The Independent Culture

On Be, Common pulls back from the psychedelic hip-hop soul of 2002's Electric Circus to offer a more mainstream hip-hop joint. Clearly, that extraordinary album was just too far out - as he says in "Chi-City", "Took it out of space and niggas thought they lost me/ I'm back like a chiropract with b-boy survival rap". And who better to man the lifeboat than Common's old pal Kanye West, whose fingerprints - and trademark speeded-up vocal samples - are all over Be. Not that Common is dumbing down his attitude: the title track seeks "conception, new breath and resurrection" through the spirits of "Malcolm, Coltrane, my man Yusef" (presumably jazzman Yusef Lateef), and the first single "The Corner" draws on the heritage of the original street-corner prophets The Last Poets. From there, it's a tour of how that culture has changed, through a series of vignettes - the courtroom drama of "Testify", the urban pressures of "The Food" - and musings upon things like the furtive nature of love in a macho culture and

On Be, Common pulls back from the psychedelic hip-hop soul of 2002's Electric Circus to offer a more mainstream hip-hop joint. Clearly, that extraordinary album was just too far out - as he says in "Chi-City", "Took it out of space and niggas thought they lost me/ I'm back like a chiropract with b-boy survival rap". And who better to man the lifeboat than Common's old pal Kanye West, whose fingerprints - and trademark speeded-up vocal samples - are all over Be. Not that Common is dumbing down his attitude: the title track seeks "conception, new breath and resurrection" through the spirits of "Malcolm, Coltrane, my man Yusef" (presumably jazzman Yusef Lateef), and the first single "The Corner" draws on the heritage of the original street-corner prophets The Last Poets. From there, it's a tour of how that culture has changed, through a series of vignettes - the courtroom drama of "Testify", the urban pressures of "The Food" - and musings upon things like the furtive nature of love in a macho culture and the black community's tall-poppy syndrome, clearly a personal beef. Things are brought full circle with "It's Your World", which returns to the same street-corner to find it occupied by hustlers and hookers: "I remember in high school she had a passion to sing," he reflects, sadly. "Now she see herself in a casket of dreams."

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