On 25th May 2005, legendary Chicago rapper, Common dropped his sixth studio album entitled Be. The project dropped almost three years after the polarising Electric Circus; an album that saw Common at his most experimental. This experimentation did gain the rapper some positive reviews from critics but performed very poorly commercially; signifying this was not his most popular sound.
On the back of Electric Circus, Common linked up with a native up-and-coming rapper/producer by the name of Kanye West and discovered a near-perfect collaborator for his following project. This relationship would ultimately lead to the veteran rapper producing, arguably, the best album of his career in Be which dropped on Kanye's new record label, G.O.O.D. Music.
Kanye would produce the majority of the project apart from two tracks, "Love is" and "It's Your World", which featured instrumentals from the late, great J Dilla, who was a frequent collaborator of Common. The soul-sampling instrumentals provided by both Dilla and Kanye gave the perfect backdrop for Common's poeticism, and made for a beautifully cohesive album.
The first track released from the project was "The Corner" which featured a stripped-down beat and powerful commentary on the struggles of black people in America. This choice of topic was intensified by strong poetic pieces from The Last Poets and was a great introduction to what this album entailed. Listen below:
However, the biggest single from the album was undoubtedly "GO!"; a smooth song that sees Common fanaticizing over a particular love interest. The track features a basic but catchy hook from Kanye and scratches from world-renowned DJ A-Trak Listen to the track below:
The track "Testify" showed off Common's storytelling ability as he creates a vivid depiction of an ongoing court case that is perfectly supported by the repeating sample of "Please let me testify" in the instrumental. The video featured stars such as Taraji P. Henson, Wood Harris, Steve Harris, and Bill Duke; to create more of a mini-movie than a music video.
The album also featured a live performance of the track "The Food" on the Chappelle Show; providing an interesting change of pace. This features a hook from the 'Old Kanye' and makes for a great example of the chemistry between the two Chicago MCs.
The features on Be are limited and you will mainly hear uncredited Kanye vocals on some hooks. However, "They Say" featured a whole verse from Mr. West and a beautifully sung chorus from John Legend; making this track another highlight.
It is easy to list each track as a highlight on this project, so my best suggestion is to just listen to the project as a whole to understand why this is held in such high regard. The Album received very high acclaim when it was released and even received the highest rating from XXL Magazine.
I try not to overuse the word classic, but this album is honestly essential listening and if you have not yet heard the project, I urge you to jump on whatever streaming service you use and listen now.