(2005)

After the disastrous flop that was Electric Circus, Common got down with Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. Music imprint and released the superb “don’t-call-it-a-comeback” album Be. The taut 11-track set, which was nominated for four Grammy Awards, featured two serenely beautiful Dilla productions. Following five uptempo songs, the gentle “Love Is...”—constructed from a sample of Marvin Gaye’s “God Is Love”—falls exactly at the album’s midway point. When Common raps, “Seen the hardest nigga soften with his homie in a coffin,” it’s impossible to overlook the subtext. The album closes with “It’s Your World (Part 1 & 2),” built on a soulful slice of “Share What You Got Keep What You Need,” the final track off the Modulations’ 1975 album, It’s Rough Out Here. Common raps the first part, followed by an interlude in which children’s voices can be heard saying what they want to be when they grow up. The second part is a spoken-word piece laid down by Common’s father, Pops. “Be,” he says. “Be here. Be there. Be that. Be this. Be grateful for life. Be grateful to life. Be gleeful every day…. Be that last one of 144,000. Be the resident of the 12th house. Be”—he pauses before whispering the last word over James Poyser’s poignant piano—“eternal.”

 

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