Be: Common’s triumphant second-wind in his career, which saw him regaining his focus in messages and ability to lyrically explore/connect ideas. Further assisted by the production efforts of a younger Kanye West and J Dilla, “Be” re-established Common as a premiere lyricist in the genre of Hip Hop after his string of “soulquarian”/90s albums had come to an end, and fans had felt way too disconnected to understand the ambitious vision of “Electric Circus” – his last studio album prior to this one.
“Be” was a textbook showcase of strong Hip Hop fundamentals – Beats, rhymes and empowerment. Audiences hear Common rap over tasteful soul samples throughout the album; vividly painting stories of Chicago’s ghettos and how it affected himself and the black-youth. Promoting listeners to find new inspirations instead of alcohol-dependency and circumstance-complacency through lyrical motifs which praise his daughter, music, sobriety, role models, god and family. I think Common even addresses how the then-prevalent “Bling-era” of rap had negatively affected black culture on a few songs too.
However, the lyrical content of “Be” never feels too cliché or boring and actually encourages a lot of repeat-listens; Common seems to have meticulously laced each song with layers of double-entendres and wordplay. Of course, there’s the style of Kanye’s early soul-sampling and J Dilla’s production talent too, but I think the strength of those two factors should be credited to Common’s ability to marry vulnerability and self-reflection harmoniously in his flows and lyrics – thus creating one of Hip Hop’s most honest and empowering albums, and further setting a new standard of “conscious-rap”.
Listen to the full album below: