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Common
BE
(Geffen)

Itís easy to hail Commonís sixth album as a return to form after 2002ís divisive Electric Circus. Fans and critics pelted the Chicago MC with more tomatoes than he deserved for that albumís spacy jams and carousel drones. Beís sound, by contrast, is at once familiar from Commonís earlier work: í70s-tinted smoothies of jazzy bass, honey-dipped strings, soulful horn bursts, and gliding keys. Still, the grooves are a little more processed than they once were, the dusty samples clipped and sped up a little more neatly. The funky edges have been smoothed by Roc-A-Fella superstar Kanye West, who produced all but two of Beís 11 tracks. Before conquering MTV, West came up through the Chicago scene Common once dominated ó his music is a sleek evolution of Commonís classic neo-soul, among other things ó and that adds more than a little irony to their collaboration here. Fortunately, he keeps his outsized personality largely off stage, offering taut beats that showcase Commonís effortless talent for realer-than-real, socially conscious poetry. The first single, "The Corner," bumps like a boombox-toting prophet, and Common spins off his own Law & Order franchise with the slinky courtroom reversals of "Testify." Thirteen years into an influential career, Be shows thereís a lot left in Common.

BY SIMON W. VOZICK-LEVINSON


Issue Date: June 10 - 16, 2005
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